The abundance of religious-oriented themes that spring out of halls of fame suggest that these several microcultures have become a new secular religion of the United States; with the singular halls of fame as their temples of praise. People often refer to various sports and hobbies as a religion in order to emphasize their singular importance to them. Many have written as to how it seems to conjure "powerful, pervasive and long-lasting moods and motivations in people" (Springwood, 62). Gerald Redmond, historian who's focused much of his research on sporting heritage, feels that much of the terminology used in these twentieth centuries "modern churches" reflects this new religion.
Athletes become "immortal heroes" as they are "enshrined" in a sports hall of fame, when "devoted admirers" gaze at their "revered figures" or read plaques "graven in marble," before departing "often very moved" (or even "teary-eyed") from the many "hushed rooms, filled with nostalgia" (46).
Though not necessarily encapsulating the theological aspects of what may constitute a religion, such as an all-encompassing, fixed system of religious beliefs, microcultures do possess some methods of religious practice. The focus on a "pilgrimage" to the shrine of a hall of fame to many is the functional equivalent of a religious custom. This pilgrimage to the sacred shrine of a microculture recognizes the need for identity fulfillment. Davis' concept of nostalgia creating a "safe harbor" following a period of "actual or impending change" comes to light in the spiritual journey. The pilgrimage's close ties to spiritual health and psychological well-being perpetuate the notion that nostalgia provides an emotional "band-aid" during difficult times of change (Rankin).
The nostalgic emotions that course through people's veins at some halls of fame further buttress them as secular shrines to their adherents. Much of the emotion coming from these pilgrimages is the nostalgia that derives from its relation to family. One man recalls a trip he took to Cooperstown as the only vacation he had ever taken with his family, "the trip of a lifetime… and, as turned out, one of the richest moments of (his) life" (in Springwood, 65). Without the nostalgic spirituality that the hall of fame provides a particular microculture, the pilgrimage becomes little more than a vacation, the believer a tourist and the shrine nothing more than a building.
Cooperstown has always been referred to as baseball's Mecca. Because of its strong association with the hajj (or "visit to the revered place"), the most significant manifestation of Islamic faith, calling the Baseball Hall of Fame a "Mecca" contextualizes it in its importance to the culture of baseball. While baseball may not be a true religion in the anthropological sense, equating a visit there to religion underscores the just how important the game is to its followers (Springfield, 63). Phil Cousineau, an expert on pilgrimages, considered a visit to Cooperstown on an emotional par with his travels to other authentically religious sites of devotion.
That visit to my pantheon of heroes was as powerful as later journeys to Delphi, Ephesus or Jerusalem. It was a waking dream to walk on the hallowed ground, where, according to legend, my favorite game was first played. I was awestruck at the chance to see the great relics of baseball: Babe Ruth's bat, Ty Cobb's spikes and Shoeless Joe Jackson's glove (47).