Here in Utah, during the week of the Utah-BYU football game, also known as the “Holy War”, fans on each side and get downright fanatical. Being the church school, many mormons pretty much bear testimony that BYU is “the Lord’s school”, and that God wants BYU to win. Fans of Utah get quite upset about this, and complain about BYU fan’s haughty attitude.
It’s always refreshing to me when I discover similar attitudes in other religions. This article on MSNBC: Does God care who wins the Super Bowl? even references the Holy War… Here are some quotes from the article I found particularly interesting.
Does God care that Kurt Warner, the quarterback of the Arizona Cardinals, is more likely to be spotted carrying his bible than his playbook? Does God care that Ben Roethlisberger, Warner’s counterpart in Super Bowl XLIII this Sunday, used to adorn his armbands with the letters “PFJ”, an acronym for “Playing For Jesus” ….?
Last month, Oklahoma quarterback Sam Bradford became only the second sophomore to win the Heisman Trophy. Less than 10 seconds after taking the podium, Bradford, speaking before a national television audience, declared, “First, I need to thank God. He’s given me so many blessings. … Without him I’d be nowhere. We’d all be nowhere.”
What if a player thanked another deity?
what if some Cardinal or Steeler were to be named Most Valuable Player come Sunday and lead off his interview in front of the entire world, by saying, “I’d just like to thank L. Ron Hubbard and the church of Scientology?” Or, “I’d just like to express gratitude to my dark lord Beelzebub?”
Would such a sentiment be blasphemous? To whom? To proponents of Christianity, perhaps, but certainly not to proponents of the First Amendment.
Before Jesus there was the Old Testament, and before sport there was war. Did not the Israelite youth David slay the Philistine giant Goliath invoking God’s name?
Was David sport’s first trash-talker? It ain’t braggin’ if you can back it up.
This Sunday, hundreds of millions of people worldwide will tune in, with great interest and fervor, to watch a game with an outcome that has no direct bearing on their lives (unless they took Arizona plus the points). People will hug, they will cry, they will cheer, they will wreak unconscionable havoc on automobiles, based solely on the outcome of this game.
And religion is the opiate of the masses? Or is sport the new religion?
Two seasons ago, Brigham Young trailed archrival Utah — in a game denizens refer to as the “Holy War” — by a score of 10-9 with just over a minute remaining. At stake was the Mountain West Conference title. Facing fourth-and-18, Cougars quarterback Max Hall connected with wideout Austin Collie for a 49-yard completion.
BYU won 17-10, and afterward, Collie, a devout Mormon, told a radio reporter, “When you’re doing what’s right on and off the field, I think the Lord steps in and plays a part. Magic happens.”
Collie was widely excoriated in print for his comment, but did not back down. “I believe the Lord has truly blessed me,” Collie said. “It’s the reason why I’m playing football, and if you don’t believe that, the next time you receive an award, then don’t say you want to thank God first for your success. That is the same exact thing. For people to make an issue out of saying that the Lord helps me out is ludicrous.”
This past season Collie led the nation in receiving yards per game.
There’s a common thread that links Warner and Roethlisberger and Bradford and McCoy and Tebow and even Collie. Besides their football success, that is. All of them play glamour positions, playing relatively non-violent roles in a highly violent game.
What if Pittsburgh Steelers safety Ryan Clark, who laid out Baltimore Ravens running back Willis McGahee with a vicious fourth quarter hit in the AFC Championship Game, had pointed heavenward after delivering that blow? McGahee lay motionless on the field, but then again, Clark had caused a Super Bowl-clinching fumble.
If Clark had publicly thanked God for that moment, would that have been in any poorer taste than McCoy pointing skyward after tossing a touchdown pass?
I really think God has more important things to worry about than the winner of a football game. Comments?