Applying a Legal Matrix to the World of Sports

The intensity of fans’ love for sports is no modern phenomenon. In ancient Rome, fierce rivalries existed between fans of the Red, Green, Blue, and White factions in chariot racing. Even emperors had their favorites. A foul in a race by a member of one faction could spark a riot in the stands. Winning charioteers would have their busts displayed in public places and were paid salaries far beyond that of the average citizen. Juvenal complained in his Satires that a chariot driver might earn 100 times more than a lawyer! The best drivers even achieved free agency and could choose which faction to race for. The natural excitement in sports is hard to duplicate in any other form of entertainment. The fast pace of most sporting events sets pulses racing, shifts in leads accelerate the tension, and the knowledge that the event has a finite time or distance limit heightens the drama. One measure of how sport dominates our lives is the frequency of sports metaphors in our conversations, particularly those sayings that are shorthand for standards of excellence and esteemed virtues. We talk of “stepping up to the plate” when we speak of showing courage and strength of purpose in the face of adversity. We “raise the bar” when we want to strive for further excellence. Even the apostle Paul used sports metaphors to describe a life virtuously lived in the Christian faith: “I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith.”