Today I saw in the supermarket a Carlton Football Club Advent Calendar. Is it so much worse than a calendar covered with Santas? In one sense no, but while Santa (Saint Nicholas) has a historical connection with a feast celebrating Christ’s birth, football has nothing to do with it.
Except for the fact that football truly does have a religious function in so many Australian lives.
It’s a trite thing to say – how many times have you heard it from the pulpit? And yet I feel it has become more true in recent years, and truer in more breathtaking ways.
I’ve seen death notices in The West Australian which have a Dockers or Eagles logo above them, taking the place of a cross. A person’s football fanaticism will sometimes be noted as a key feature of their lives. Obviously people find comfort in this, and identity; that’s not all wrong – but it bewilders me. Even if people have no religion, is this what fills the vacuum?
I can’t help feeling it is a sign of an emptiness at the heart of our society, a world which has been stripped of transcendent meaning, a world all surface and entertainment. I show my own scars here, growing up in a town where sport was everything, and in a Christian culture which very much bought into the importance of sport. But I do feel disturbed about that Advent calendar. What does it mean? What is the kid thinking about as he opens the football themed window each morning until Christmas to woof down a chocolate?