The Novice’s Guide to Sports

According to the Merriam Webster Dictionary, the definition of sports is to “amuse oneself.” Not only does playing a sport entertain us, but watching a sport excites us and can uplift an entire community. America’s three big team sports are football, baseball, and basketball. Each of them has ardent fan bases who love their sport and are passionate about their favorite teams. People unfamiliar with a certain sport may have trouble getting into it because they do not understand the basics. Learning the fundamentals of each sport will aid in broadening people’s horizons and opening them up to an exciting, new avenue of entertainment.

Football season is quickly approaching and the National Football League (NFL) season will be in full swing starting on September 5. The game is an outdoor sport that is typically played during autumn on the high school, college and professional levels. The game involves two teams, each with eleven players on the field. The team with the ball is called the “offense” and the other is the “defense.” The objective of the game is to score more points than the other team before time expires by repeatedly moving the ball downfield and into the opponent’s endzone via running with the football or throwing it to a teammate. The endzone is behind an opponent’s goal-line, which is situated at the ends of the field. Touchdowns are worth six points and are earned when a team runs with the ball over the opponent’s goal-line or when a teammate catches the ball inside the opponent’s endzone. Kicking a football through the opponent’s goal posts, which are located just behind the endzone, nets the kicking team three points and is known as a field goal. Safeties earn a team two points and occur when an opponent gets tackled inside their own endzone. Once a team scores a touchdown, they are given two options to add extra points to their score. The commonly used option, the “extra-point,” is a one-point field goal from a very short distance. The seldom used option, the “two-point conversion,” enables the scoring team to move the football into the endzone again from two yards out to gain two points. The two-point conversion is worth more points than the extra point attempt because it is harder to execute. The game’s roots can be traced to rugby and soccer.

Fun Fact:  A football is commonly referred to as the “pigskin,” because inflated pig bladders, along with other natural ingredients, were used to create the earliest footballs. Synthetic materials, like rubber and plastic, are the main materials used to create today’s footballs.

The “Boys of Summer” are here and Major League Baseball’s (MLB) season will not end until its championship, the World Series, concludes in October. The sport is played between two teams (each with nine players on the field) which make up the hitting team and the pitching team. The object of the game is to use a wooden bat to hit a ball thrown towards the batter, known as a pitch, in order to score runs. The team with more runs wins. Once the ball is hit into the field of play, the hitter is allowed to run along four bases, each one being 90 feet apart from the next one, placed on a diamond-shaped path. Once a hitter runs all four bases, the batting team then scores a run. While the batting team’s aim is to score runs, the fielding team wants to prevent that by getting hitters out in a variety of different ways. Once a batter has hit the ball inside the field of play, they are able to stay at any unoccupied base and can advance further along the basepath thanks to a teammate’s hit or they can decide to steal the next base. Once the fielding team has gotten three hitters out, the teams switch roles. An inning will pass when both teams get a chance to hit and record three outs each. Professional baseball has nine innings each game. The sport originated in England during the 1700s, but was brought over here from immigrants and became America’s flagship sport by the 1850s. The game has become widely popular all across the world, from Latin America to the far east.

Fun Fact:  The Japanese baseball leagues, Central and Pacific, have been known to employ the most talented and qualified baseball players outside of the . They even have a farm system, a minor league or series of minor leagues used to develop players with raw talent and prepare them for major league competition. However, the Japanese farm system is much smaller than the American system.

The National Basketball Association (NBA) just concluded their season in June when they crowned the winner of the NBA Finals as the league’s champion. Basketball is a contact sport where players must throw a ball into a hoop in order to score points. The team that scores the most points wins when the game is finished, but on the professional level, extra time is added (overtime) if there is a tie at the end of the game.  A field goal, worth two points, occurs when a player makes a basket anywhere on the court inside of the  giant three-point arch surrounding the area near the basket. A three-point field goal is any shot made outside of that arch. The game is typically played between two teams of five players, but many recreational versions of the sport hold contests between teams of two or three players, while one-on-one basketball usually involves just half of the court. A NBA hoop is ten feet off the ground. Dribbling, bouncing the ball while walking or running, or throwing the ball to a teammate (passing) are the only two ways to move with the ball down the court.  Carrying the ball, holding the ball and then dribbling again (double dribble) and moving without dribbling the ball (traveling) are all against the rules and end up costing the ball-handling team possession of the ball. Fouls can be termed as disruptive forms of physical contact and they usually result in a free throw when an offensive player is fouled. Technical fouls are a step beyond and are often called on possibly intentional hits and other forms of unprofessional conduct like excessive arguing with the referees or fighting between players. These fouls give a member of the fouled team a free throw along with possession of the ball.

Fun Fact: Three-point field goals did not exist in professional basketball until the American Basketball League (ABL) permanently added them as a rule in 1961.
Endless hours of training and practice are necessary to enter any of these sports professionally. Christians need to be as dedicated to the Lord and sharing His Word as a baseball player is at perfecting his swing. Believers have much more to gain in the end than a football player who wins the Super Bowl. “All athletes are disciplined in their training. They do it to win a prize that will fade away, but we do it for an eternal prize” (1 Corinthians 9:25). No matter how successful a person may become in the world’s eyes, it is all meaningless without Jesus because only through Him can humans achieve ultimate victory when their time to see Him comes. “Similarly, anyone who competes as an athlete does not receive the victor’s crown except by competing according to the rules” (2 Timothy 2:5 NIV).

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