The Stanley Cup is our culture’s Golden Calf

Stanley Cup in Chicago 2013
(photo courtesy of vader773)

Do we worship the Stanley Cup? Hear me out on this, because this is an issue I’m torn on. I’m excited about the Stanley Cup being in Chicago. It’s fun! But…

The Stanley Cup visited my workplace three years ago. I opted to not visit it.

Last week during the Finals a coworker was talking about his photo with the Cup. I got a little jealous and upset. “Why didn’t anyone tell me that the Cup visited our workplace?” I forgot why I intentionally took a pass on the Stanley Cup three years ago.

Now that the Cup is back in Chicago again, I’m excited. As the Cup is back, so is my memory for why I skipped touching the Cup three years ago.

The morning Chicago news is following the exact whereabouts of the Stanley Cup. The Cup now landing in Chicago! Firetrucks made a water arch for the plane! The Cup is now in Harry Caray’s! The Cup is now in a Subway! The Cup is now at some bar at 17th and Wabash!

Everyone in Chicago flocks to this unknown bar for a chance to see the Cup. Players kiss the cup. Babies are put in the Cup. Beer is put in the Cup. Wild parties happen around the Cup. Everyone reveres the Cup. Someone assigned to be with the Cup at all times.

It’s all fun, right? I dunno. It sounds like a golden calf to me. Exodus 32:6 says about the golden calf, “And they rose up early the next day and offered burnt offerings and brought peace offerings. And the people sat down to eat and drink and rose up to play.”

People waking up at 5am to go to a bar to see the Stanley Cup. Sounds like the Israelites in Exodus getting up early the next day to pay homage to the Stanley Cup.

But the Stanley Cup watch is all fun, right? C’mon Matt, this is fun. Lighten up.

I’m sure the people in Exodus thought it was fun to dance around the golden calf. To bow down to it. To kiss it. To put their babies on it. To make special trips to see it. To dedicate one’s life to winning the Cup.

They have made for themselves a golden calf and have worshiped it and sacrificed to it and said, ‘These are your gods, O Israel, who brought you up out of the land of Egypt!’” (Exodus 32:8)

When Joshua heard the noise of the people as they shouted, he said to Moses, “There is a noise of war in the camp.” But he said, “It is not the sound of shouting for victory, or the sound of the cry of defeat, but the sound of singing that I hear.” And as soon as he came near the camp and saw the calf and the dancing, Moses’ anger burned hot, and he threw the tablets out of his hands and broke them at the foot of the mountain. (Exodus 32:17-19)

We should be very careful that we aren’t worshipping some piece of metal. When the Stanley Cup visits my workplace at the Tribune Tower again, I will not be ooo’ing and aaah’ing over it. I won’t even visit it. When it comes to worshipping something, I’d rather play it safe and not bow down to the Golden Calf.

It sounds like I’m pretty against having fun around the Stanley Cup. The part where I get torn is that I don’t want to be some sort of killjoy. Or worse yet, I don’t want to be someone who makes these moral statements to elevate himself. We’ve all heard people say, “don’t do this, don’t do that. This is bad for you.” Often these people saying this like to say this, because it elevates themselves. It makes them feel better or more important.

I am so against putting up an almighty front, because I am not almighty. I would like to live a life where I am grounded with everyone else. For me to say, “oh the Stanley Cup is like the golden calf” makes me sound arrogant and judgmental.

The Stanley Cup fun is just fun. Hockey is simply a sport. It’s fun to celebrate achievement. It’s fun to follow the Cup around. After all, it’s just a piece of metal, right? The fame around the Cup is what makes it so important, not the Cup itself.

When you meet someone famous, you realize that this person is just a regular person like the rest of us. Perhaps meeting the Cup would help to give me perspective.

But all the praising of the Cup doesn’t quite sit right with me. I hesitate when we make such high claims to an object. People could say the same about iPhones. I pay lots of attention to my iPhone. Perhaps that’s a golden calf too. Would I get upset if someone told me that? Maybe. But it would be worth considering.

I need to frame this Stanley Cup in some other ways to get a better perspective on this. What other object would people get excited about if it came to your town? I get excited about famous paintings coming to town. But I don’t kiss or touch the painting. Well, I guess if I could, I would touch it. Actually, let’s not kid around, sometimes I do touch the paintings. Are paintings my golden calf?

I would REALLY appreciate anybody else’s thoughts on this matter. Please leave a comment.

3 thoughts on “The Stanley Cup is our culture’s Golden Calf

  1. Hey Matt, like you I passed on the opportunity last time in part because of just weirdness around people’s obsession with this inanimate object. This time, I still didn’t feel a need to reach out and touch it like a magical goblet, but I was a little more excited about it.

    Of all the sports trophies, it’s the one you don’t get to keep. You pass it on to the next winning team. So in a way it’s a symbol of being connected to a community and being a part of history in a tangible way. See it now, you might never see it again! For that reason, I think the golden calf is a bit too much, personally speaking. No one is worshipping it as a representation of a god. No one is even excited about it because it’s made of gold or silver, or its shape per se. It’s not a gateway to absolute power, wealth or anything. Maybe to excellence.

    But even Paul appealed to people’s desire to win, such as in the Greek Olympics, in his metaphors to the race of faith. I think we are knit to strive for excellence and achievement. A gold medal, like the up, is a symbol of excellence, which I think people like to feel a part of.. My two cents..

  2. I posted the following question to worldvieweverlasting.com:

    Following the Chicago Blackhawk’s victory in the NHL Final each player took turns hoisting the Stanley Cup with some players kissing the trophy. Is this just recognition of a good team effort or are there parallels to the Golden Calf? Is it sinful for fans to participate in the much-publicized tour of the Stanley Cup? People go bananas when they see that thing. It doesn’t seem right. Where’s Christ in all this?

    Let’s see if they select to answer my question.

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