Sunday, January 30, 2005

Sports on Sunday

I am so easily amused. The concluding chapter in Love and Hate in Jamestown is concerned with John Smith's unsuccessful attempts to return to the New World and all that he wrote and foresaw about how things would progress there. While we don't recall much about the man these days, the founding fathers' generation regarded him as a distinctively American hero: "resourceful, of humble origins and high achievement, inclined toward action rather than reflection, peaceable when possible, warlike when necessary." His common sense, his "ardent and active genius," were praised in both biographies of Smith himself, and histories and biographies of others. He offered to come over on the Mayflower, but the Separatists opted to take Smith's books and maps and engage Miles Standish as their military leader instead.

But the reason I am easily amused. King James, of course, disliked religious nonconformity in general and the Puritans in particular. David Prices writes: "What the Puritans sought went beyond freedom of conscience in the modern sense; a number of their disagreements with Anglicanism reached into the civic sphere of English life, including their opposition to theater and to the custom of playing sports on Sundays."

Sports on Sundays in the 1600s? Who knew? Man, the more things change. . .

"In 1618, King James overruled local Puritan magistrates who attempted to ban Sabbath day sports. 'When shall the common people have leave to exercise,' he demanded, 'if not upon Sundays and holidays, seeing they must apply their labour, and win their living, in all working days?' "

Oh. People played sports in the 1600s instead of watching it on TV. Man, things have changed dramatically since then.

So. Who do you think the Puritans would have rooted for in the Super Bowl?

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