Spiritual Formation + Community


The Fidelity Sports Manifesto

In the second year of my life, the Kansas City Royals won their and only first World Series championship. In every year since, there has been nothing but disappointment. The Royals have missed the playoffs 28 years in a row; the Chiefs haven’t made a single Super Bowl appearance; and my beloved alma mater, the University of Missouri, has tasted some success only to fall short of anything significant—like a Final Four appearance, BCS Championship Game trip, or deep College World Series run.

But what should have killed the sports fan within me has only made my sports soul stronger.

What significant sports epiphany comes from a fan whose teams are constantly winning? What new approach to sports journalism could be found in a market full of high-profile stars and coaches? Nah, what we need is a fresh approach to the world of sport.

What we need is a dose of Fidelity. “What is fidelity?” you ask. Fidelity is a philosophy of life, a way of being, and an interpretive grid for evaluating and enjoying true greatness in all realms of history and culture.

The rooted, land-based reflections of Wendell Berry.
The wisdom and wit of John Wooden.
The slow, quiet fundamentals of Tim Duncan.
The totally arbitrary reflections of this rambling amateur.

In his seminal essay, “It All Turns On Affection,” Kentuckian and poet Wendell Berry describes the two types of people in the world. “Boomers” are those that want to climb the ladder, beat the odds, and make a name for themselves. They can’t settle down and they don’t stay in any one place longer than they need to. Boomers pillage and run. “Stickers,” on the other hand, believe in a sense of faithfulness to people and place. They know their land, they learn a trade, and they serve the common good of their neighbors. Stickers cultivate and care.

The sports world is full of Boomers: 18-year olds jumping to the pro’s, free agents holding out for the biggest market, coaches looking for the most prestigious program. But sports are also full of Stickers, less well known, but typically more beloved because of their subversive faithfulness: Cal Ripken Jr. playing 2000+ consecutive games on the left side of Baltimore’s infield; Larry Bird making all of his teammates better players and all of his fans forget about their worries for two hours every evening; Jack Nicklaus walking up the 18th fairway, waving and smiling to bleachers full supporters who, apart from The Bear himself, may have otherwise never shown an interest in the game.

There are plenty of sports sites and articles for the Boomers among us. There will always be “breaking” news and shocking transactions, and these sites will report them well. But it doesn’t take much depth to satisfy a Boomer.

Fidelity Sports is for the Stickers among us.

JS Linneman
Louisville, Kentucky, 2014

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