Gotham Chopra recognizes star quality when he sees it. He is partnering with New England Patriots quarterback Tom Brady, constructing a first-of-its-kind television documentary series called, "The Religion of Sports" running on exclusively DirecTV’s Audience Network. Collaborating also with retired New York Giants defensive end, Michael Strahan, Brady and Chopra will tackle how the influence of sports has transcended culture and morphed into a religion of its own.
Chopra and the Super Bowl XLII rivals focuses on the entanglement of sports in people’s lives. It’s a riveting subject for Chopra as a Boston sports fan. He believed that specific sports have a profound impact on culture. Sports like baseball, NASCAR, football and the rise of the UFC all have carved a specific footprint on culture and society. It’s more than entertainment; sports has become a continual spiritual movement. Think of it as an addictive drug to the masses. With an estimated 162 million people involved with sport activities in America--25 percent are involved as an active participant—people are clearly dedicated. Although, maybe dedication isn’t the right word. Sports are personally transformative. And for many, as with Chopra, it was salvation. Personal transformation is what Gotham Chopra, son of famous father Deepak, is focused on. Father Deepak studied medicine in India before immigrating to the United States in 1970 as a licensed physician. Thanks to his dad, Gotham, was exposed to spiritualists, religious people and learned more about being transformative. But it was sports that beckoned him into a deeper religion. “My assimilation to America was through sports,” said Gotham Chopra, who is a first generation American from Boston, Mass. “I loved the Celtics, the Bruins, the Red Sox and the Patriots. I went to lots of games and became part of something bigger than myself. Everything I learned from my family and experienced in sports was the thesis for this idea [documentary].”Working in films and documentaries only fueled his passion. Gotham has worked with Victor Cruz [Giants wide receiver], on the documentary "I Am Giant” and worked on another documentary with basketball great Kobe Bryant called “The Muse.” “Kobe is an institution in itself,” Chopra shared. “And that’s when I really put some structure on the idea [sports being viewed as a religion]. To be clear, this is not a documentary on religion," assured Chopra. The project is not about the intersection of sports and religion with evangelical athletes or prayer circles or anything like that. It is the idea of sports as a religion. “For athletes they know what it is like to be at the epicenter, like being at the center of a faith. I think that these elite athletes like Kobe and Tom Brady have a unique perspective of what it is like being at the epicenter of that.”
The devotion the players show to the game is similar to the devotion many experience within their chosen religion. “They have a discipline that is nothing short of, in my opinion, spiritual devotion. The ritual they practice, their entire lives, their commitment to their craft—there is something very spiritual about that I have admired," said Chopra. We are all spiritual people and we all can connect at some level. It can be through religion, culture, music, fashion and sports. Spiritual traditions like the pilgrimages we go on, the certain dogma we follow and the faith needed in organized religion can be related to in sports. To a sports nut, faith is the foundation they thrive on. People follow their teams on the road – in fact, as the saying goes, they follow them religiously. “In sports you just show up and watch a miracle unfold. I think sports really connect a lot of fans [at] a very primordial level. When you become a fan you become invested in something larger than yourself. You relinquish control," he shared. You know those fans that pray, wear the same jersey and do all sorts of rituals during a game? They have to know that their power is non-existent. We buy into it anyway hoping it will make the universe shine on our team!
The reality is spirituality in sports does exist for many. The rituals like praying connect people intimately with their players like Brady. Recognizing the spirituality in sports, it all came together for Chopra when he met Brady through friends during the off season when he owned a home in Los Angeles, Boston Magazine reported. “I used to joke that Tom was like Edward Scissorhands, living up in this great house, and really didn’t leave often. So we had mutual friends and somebody knew that I was a huge Patriots fan. I just sort of met him that way and we started talking,” Chopra explained. Having Brady on the project was like a miracle. The athlete never has been involved in a project like this before and has never produced a film. As Chopra began to get to know him and shared the idea, Brady was excited and interested in working on documentary. Brady knew first -hand the dedication it takes to be a loyal fan, as he professed a love for his childhood team, the San Francisco 49ers. Sports and football is Brady's religion and including his perspective was priceless for the documentary. “I can think of no better vehicle than "Religion of Sports" to share some of what I’ve learned and dig a little deeper into that feeling, the sort of spiritual experience that sports creates for players fans alike,” said Brady, according to the Hollywood Reporter.
There are certainly pros and cons for sports lovers, but likely more positives than not.It transcends race, crosses social and economical divides. There is a feeling of belonging and connecting to others with a shared passion. Although many are living through their star athletes to feed a need, perhaps it is not bad as long as we don’t deify them. According to Chopra, what’s great about sports is "whether you’re a fan or an athlete, if you participate, generally--miracles happen.” "The Religion of Sports” he noted, takes a village. “I didn’t direct all 6 episodes but I got to bring incredibly talented filmmakers and got to be part of their journey. I just get to create the environment for them to be able to go off and do something incredibly satisfying and that’s incredibility satisfying.” The documentary will also cover off-the-grid sports like the rodeo, as well as soccer – or football as it’s know worldwide, stock-car racing and mixed martial arts.