The Gift of Sports

Indigenous Ceremonial Dimensions of the Games We Love (First Edition)
Philip P. Arnold
©2012, 124 pages

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The Gift of Sports

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    He who at every moment is all he is capable of being.
    -Dag Hammarskjold, 1954 Markings
    Translated by Leif Sjoberg and W.H. Auden, 1964

    The origins of nearly all sports can be found in religious ceremonies. The Olympic Games and Sumo wrestling are clear examples of how civilizations, both ancient and modern, connect athletic performance and achievement to a higher spiritual plane - to an indescribable yet clearly recognized "something more."

    The Gift of Sports will give readers an understanding of and appreciation for the religious dimensions of sports. The selections in the text demonstrate that the appeal and popularity of sports is based on viewing them, not just as business or entertainment, but as ceremony.

    Topics covered in the book include:

    • Religion as a gift exchange between different beings
    • The sacred nature of sporting events and venues
    • Sports as a vital force in youth and community development
    • Fan devotion
    • Mascots
    • Sports and Money
    • "The Creator’s Game" of Lacrosse
    • Racism and Sexism in sports

    The Gift of Sports offers a unique perspective on two familiar topics by showing that in many respects, they are one and the same.

    Philip P. Arnold is Associate Professor of Religion at Syracuse University in New York, which is located in Onondaga Nation Territory—the heartland of the Haudenosaunee (Iroquois). He has written on Aztec and Haudenosaunee traditions and advocates for Indigenous peoples and their traditions through the Indigenous Values Initiative ( As a sports fan he enjoys watching games of all kinds, particularly those involving family and friends.
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    "Phil Arnold's The Gift of Sports is a gift in itself—to the students who will read it and learn of the deeper religious meanings and structures of play, games and organized struggle; to the other scholars and teachers who will benefit from this level headed interpretation of the religious dimensions of human play; to the public who will learn of how deeply sports are tied up with race, sex and the sacred. We should pay Arnold back by reading and teaching this book."
    David Carrasco
    Harvard Divinity School

    "The Gift of Sports is a thoroughly researched and well written book on the Indigenous sport of Lacrosse… A people who have very little written history the story of Lacrosse is brought to light by the Indigenous peoples custom of storytelling with deep affection and reverence for the Creator."
    Roy D. Simmons Jr.
    Coach Emeritus
    University of Syracuse