The other night, I was watching a political town meeting on one of the all-news channels. One of the candidates stated proudly that he was a soccer player, and my ears immediately perked up. I was a soccer player, too. I thought to myself that perhaps I should support this candidate, with our mutual enjoyment of all things relating to the pentagon-patched ball. With the diversity of the field, it would be nice if I shared a common interest with one of them. But, before I followed him on social media, I did a little research about his sports-related profession.
It is true that, as a child, this candidate was enrolled in an organized league and regularly participated in formal games, and it is said that he was quite the striker when he was ten. He went to all the practices – some might say religiously – and was proficient at all the drills. However, during High School and college, those formal games and organized leagues were abandoned for more informal forms of the game. He still participated in pick-up games and occasionally kicked the ball around, but it was always on his schedule and the rules were loosely observed. But he was still, by definition, a soccer player.
After college, this candidate would take his soccer ball to a local park when he schedule allowed and began changing the rules of play (subtly at first but later more egregiously), so that before long, when he did play with his soccer ball, he allowed the use of hands and he tallied seven points for each goal. In essence, he was playing a hybrid of football and soccer, if ‘foot-ccer’ was played on a boundless field. The purist among us might argue that he was no longer playing soccer, but he was still, truth be told, kicking around a soccer ball.
At present, the candidate has not touched a soccer ball in many years, and some wonder if he even owns one any longer. His schedule no longer permits him to go to the park, and even if it did, the ways that other soccer players play the game at the parks that he once frequented is displeasing to his sense of the game. But he lives in a region of the country where people view soccer players more favorably than players of other sports, so he continues to profess that he still participates in the game. But he is no longer, by definition, a soccer player.
Do not merely listen to the word, and so deceive yourselves. Do what it says. James 1:22
I appreciate that some people play soccer and other people do not. I appreciate that some people once played soccer but play the game no longer. But I have trouble with the conception of our culture that playing soccer is anything that the player thinks that means, regardless of the rules or the history of the game. If you are happy just kicking a ball around in the backyard, please do not call yourself a soccer player.