Miracles in sport: Finding the ‘ears to hear’ and the ‘eyes to see’

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Within the context of sports, the term ‘miracle’ is regularly associated with game-winning shots, holes-in-one, completed Hail Marys and other improbable outcomes. These conceptions of miracles largely focus on the success of specific sport actions at specific times when such success is deemed highly improbable. While prominent in the popular sports literature, most scholars agree that this perspective on miracles is very simple and highly unsophisticated. Events portrayed as simply ‘beating the odds’ would represent pale versions of miracles at best. Some conceptions of miracles, however, include characteristics that reach beyond improbable outcomes. From more sophisticated perspectives, miracles are often viewed as divine action guiding the ordinary course of human experience. To be considered ‘miraculous’, improbable outcomes in sport would need to be perceived as interactions between the supernatural (God or other divine entity) and the natural (physical world). In addition, miraculous occurrences would have to be a part of a divine master-plan. Scholars argue that without such connections, miracles would yield no direction or meaning to the evolving world. The differences between these two perceptions raises several questions: Why do some view these extraordinary athletic performances from spiritually sophisticated perspectives while others have not the ‘ears to hear’ or the ‘eyes to see’ the divine possibilities in these experiences? Why are common uses and perceptions of miracles in sport simplistic and thin? What is a sophisticated view of miracles? What human abilities and processes are needed for one to achieve a sophisticated perspective? And, finally, what is the purpose of the true or sophisticated miracle in sport? In this paper, I will examine the notion of themiracle in sport. At its core, this paper describes how an athlete intellectually and spirituallymoves fromthe unsophisticated to the sophisticated conceptionof a miracle. Through the writings of James, Lewis, Polanyi and others, I will show how human intellectual operations allow one to have ‘ears to hear’ and ‘eyes to see’ the spiritually miraculous in sport. I will begin by presenting an unsophisticated version of miracles in sport. After critically examining several types of miracles, I will present a more sophisticated definition. I will then explore the human processes necessary to view miraculous experiences in sport as interactions between the natural and the supernatural rather than interpreting these experiences simply as improbable outcomes. Finally, I will show how miracles present opportunities for spiritual conversion and have a use and place in the divine’s master plan.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)75-93
Number of pages19
JournalSport, Ethics and Philosophy
Issue number1
StatePublished - Apr 2009

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Physical Therapy, Sports Therapy and Rehabilitation
  • Philosophy


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