Which is the superior sport, soccer or basketball? It is basketball. Does this question matter? Yes it does. Is it even possible to differentiate the moral qualities of the two sports? Yes it is. More importantly, do we have the courage to do so? Yes we do and we will.
A casual analysis would note several similarities. Each sport has a predetermined number of participants per side, the length of each contest is governed by a clock, and each gives the player opportunity to perfect his thespian skills as he writhes in pain attempting to deceive the official into calling a foul (though soccer players are especially duplicitous in this regard). The more fascinating differences involve which sport is the nobler, which is to say, the more spiritual. In this respect, basketball is clearly the superior endeavor for the human soul.
Soccer, ironically called “The Beautiful Game” by some, is of the earth. Players are obliged to cast their gazes downward at the staccato, lurching movements of each other’s inelegant feet. Basketball aspires for the Eternal as participants reach for heaven, fluidly propelling their bodies and souls ever upward. The basketball players’ arms are open and outstretched, ready to offer gifts to the Creator in the form of shots released, while receiving heaven’s bounty in the form of rebounds. Soccer players’ arms hang impotently at their sides, reacting to the action, but not affecting it. One wonders if the writer of Ecclesiastes had soccer players’ arms in mind when he declared, “…all is meaningless, a grasping at the wind.” Is it any wonder that soccer appeals to communist countries while basketball originated in the Land of the Free and the Home of Magic and Bird?
Furthermore, soccer is a stingy sport, yielding two or three goals in a typical game. Basketball is generous and inclusive – everyone shoots, everyone can score and, ipso facto, attain prosperity unto holiness. Or is it holiness unto prosperity?
Aristocratic soccer bestows one player special privileges: a “keeper” who uses his hands to prevent otherwise worthy shots from entering the goal. This is inglorious. In egalitarian basketball, “goal tending” is properly recognized as a crime that is legislated against and swiftly penalized.
The physical action of basketball is closer, geographically and theologically, to the heart and mind of its practitioners. The only time the action in soccer approaches the heart and mind is when the ball strikes the player with great violence in the head or chest. Photos of soccer players “heading” the ball clearly show facial expressions rife with existential angst. Oh wretched peril! Conversely, when a basketball comes in contact with a player’s foot, play is immediately stopped and Grace restored.
When this world passes away and paradise reigns again on the earth, I doubt you’ll see a single soccer ball in the New Jerusalem. Until that day, we must proceed from one evolutionary step to the next. As you learn to walk erect, you switch to basketball.