Friday, February 3, 2012

Athletes and the Dumb Things They Say about God

More Dumb Things People—Athletes—
Say about God

“This is so wrong,” I said
after reading the recent Super Bowl claim on God.

“Divine intervention,” said David Tyree, of New York Giants and Super Bowl XLII fame. That’s why he caught the game-changing football that led the Giants to their ring-yielding victory in 2008, gnashing the hopes of the New England Patriots for yet another ring of their own. Tyree will be in Indianapolis this Sunday, no doubt hoping (praying) for another “divine intervention” to squash number 12’s (a.k.a. Tom Brady) desire for another win—another ring.
Tyree is not alone. None other than the glorious Giselle has imparted her own plea for an intervention of positive vibes and prayer for 12—her husband—and his teammates.
Divine intervention is no stranger to sports jargon. Athletes praise God when they win; when they lose, it’s because God has “other plans.”
I’ve heard this misguided jargon for years, but I’m still not numb to it. “Are you kidding me?” was my reaction when I read the “divine intervention” story. I am pretty certain that each seventh day, God rests, as He commanded us to do, never mind that whole Super Bowl Sunday thing. On that day of rest, I think God surveys the universe and sees that some of it, indeed, is good. I also think He’s aware that the rest of it is not so good—a work in need of a lot of progress.
Another thing I’m certain of is that this Sunday, God is not going to be micromanaging the Super Bowl. God’s hand is not going to manifest a nudge of the football in one direction or another so that team X catches it. God will not be sending a whisper of air to a less-than-Vinatieri kick so it sails though the goal posts.
I don’t think God is taking sides in the Giants versus Patriots contest. I’m certain God will avoid Madonna’s half-time show: He’ll be far too busy sending angels to frantic moms as they try to navigate the Madonna years with their daughters.
Super Bowl XLVI—that’s 46, I just worked out those Roman numerals—will have a winner. Super Bowl XLVI will also have a loser (even though it’s beyond me how any team that makes it to the Super Bowl can be called a loser in any context).
If any winning Giant thinks his ring is a gift from God, what would a Patriot think about God when his ring finger is as light as it ever was come Monday morning?
If any winning Patriot claims God was on his side, what would a Giant think when he sips bitter wine rather than champagne late Sunday evening—that God abandoned him?
Sports are and always have been a win-lose prospect, and that’s the way of the game—any athletic contest. Sports have countless positive aspects, and I don’t doubt that many an athlete has been led—by God—away from a life on the streets to a life beneath the bright lights. But that doesn’t mean that God ignores those still standing beneath streetlights in less-than-savory areas.
Divine intervention? I believe in it with all my heart. Too many events transpire without any explanation—a tumor disappears, a child is whisked out of harm’s way, a serendipitous moment occurs—in those times, I don’t use coincidence to describe what has happened: I use Godincidence.
My belief in divine intervention stops when a sports contest begins. God simply has too much to do to trifle with football, baseball, and soccer.
So where does God figure in the sports world? He figures in the kids who make it away from those streetlights. He figures in the discipline, the health, and stamina that athletes of all persuasions pursue. He figures in the joy we mere observers get when our team gets the ring or the medal. He figures in the pleasure of the company of friends as we share victory and in the commiseration of those same friends when we stumble away stung by defeat.
God figures when a star athlete runs a summer sports camp for disadvantaged kids in blighted areas. God figures when another athlete spends ring money on a youth center. God figures in those details, but not so much in the details of the final score.
It’s that other final score that God is most concerned with . . . how do we score in the details of our lives, what kind of game are we playing, and exactly what do we stand to lose—or win?

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Sunday, I will not be "praying" that my favorite team wins...
but I will be rooting for the New England Patriots.

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