According to a study by the Public Religion Research Institute, "football fans are more likely than other sports fans to report praying to God (33% vs. 21%). They also are more apt to believe their team has been cursed (31% vs. 18%), and to perform rituals before or during games (25% vs. 18%)."
It's ridiculous to think that the religious actions of the fans would affect the outcome of a football game. Everyone knows that it's the religious acts of the players that count. Among all football players, God particularly favors (in ascending order of favor, lowest to highest) those who:
- Change their mouthpieces to color-match the liturgical seasons
- Instead of 'talking smack' to the opposing players, say "Well, aren't you special!"
- Actually say the full prayer, while the ball is in the air on a Hail Mary pass
- Carry a small vial of holy oil tucked into their sock, so that when another player gets injured on the field, they can quickly anoint them for healing
- Allow the blitz, seeing it as merely "forgiving those who trespass against us"
- Shake hands with the player on either side of them in the huddle, quickly whispering "Peace be with you"
- Politely ask the opposing players to fall down, rather than tackle them, knowing that Jesus frowns upon "causing another to stumble" (Mark 9:42)
- '"Take a knee" in the locker room or on the sideline facing east — the direction of the sunrise and therefore the resurrection and therefore the presence of Christ and therefore the proper direction for the act of genuflection
- Tithe (give 10% of) their multimillion-dollar salary to their local Episcopal church
- Volunteer to teach Sunday School in the off-season
Moneyballers, do your homework! I guarantee that the team which has the most players who do these things regularly will win the Super Bowl.
The Rev. Amy Pringle
St. George's Episcopal Church
La Cañada Flintridge
The gut reaction I have to the question is, "Of course not!" However — there is a quote from a Shakespeare play that says something like this: "There is more to the universe than what is contained in your philosophy, Horatio." And there is more to the God that at least three religions (Islam, Judaism, and Christianity) believe in than we poor mortal beings can ever hope to fathom, at least in this life. So who knows? Maybe God does have a favorite this Sunday. I personally don't think so, but again, who knows?
There is also another dimension to consider, and that is the personal faith of each player. Maybe one team will win on a fluke (deflected pass, fumble or some other unforeseen thing, such as a gust of wind at a critical time), and to the losing side, that player will appear to be just plain lucky. However, the player who may experience such good fortune may believe that God put him in that spot at that time for that very purpose of winning the football game! And how can any one of us say that he's wrong?
The language of faith is a fascinating thing: What seems like sheer luck to one person may seem to be the power of God to another. So once again my answer to the question is No! But the God of all that is just may have other plans.
The Rev. Skip Lindeman
La Cañada Congregational Church
La Cañada Flintridge
The Denver Post says the Broncos have the edge in terms of players who have experienced Super Bowl week. However some online computer simulation has predicted that that the Seahawks have a good reason to expect victory.
Both the Old and the New Testament remind God's faithful that the poor are always a constant presence in society. In fact, Deuteronomy 15:11 goes on to exhort the more fortunate to always be openhanded toward the poor and the needy. That is why over a quarter million youth and young adults around the country use the glitz and glamour of the Super Bowl to conduct their own "Souper Bowl of Caring" where money is raised to feed the poor. Last year they collected nearly $10 million.
With regard to the Super Bowl game itself, where both teams will be walking out onto the admittedly bitterly cold field extremely well rested, extremely well-fed, being constantly cared for by the best doctors in the world, being covered by the best insurance plans that money can buy, being paid to stay in the best physical condition possible, almost all being assured of another season making an outrageous sum of money just for playing their favorite game, jetting all over the world at their whim, free to date and love whomever they choose, having access to movie stars and music moguls, driving expensive vehicles, making enough money to establish substantial college funds for their children, having exquisite spacious private living conditions, never having to be bothered to personally have to sit down and pay bills, clean house, iron shirts or fold socks, almost all being assured of more than adequate retirement plans, I'm pretty sure that God doesn't care who wins the Super Bowl.
The Rev. Dr. William Thomas Jr.
Little White Chapel
God has a say, ultimately, in everything. Psalm 103:19 says "The Lord has established His throne in the heavens; and His sovereignty rules over all." In Isaiah 46:10 God says "My purpose will be established, and I will accomplish all My good pleasure." And regardless of whether or not we view a particular outcome as a success (that is, my team wins) "we know that God causes all things to work together for good to those who love God, to those who are called according to His purpose" (Romans 8:28).
Scripture also teaches us that God rewards diligence. So a team must practice in addition to saying their prayers. Proverbs 12:27 says "A slothful man does not roast his prey, but the precious possession of a man is diligence." There is always reward in doing the best we possibly can. Ecclesiastes 9:11 also warns us, however, that in this world "the race is not to the swift, and the battle is not to the warriors, and neither is bread to the wise, nor wealth to the discerning, nor favor to men of ability; for time and chance overtake them all." Sometimes the better team doesn't win.
The score at the end of the game is only one of many results from the game. Whatever the results may be (Go Seahawks!) we can be confident that God will always be good to us when we look to him.
Pastor Jon Barta
Valley Baptist Church
Football is America's sport. Oh, baseball too, nostalgically, and probably because both genders can play some variation thereof, but football is both America's favorite fan sport, and favorite participatory sport — more than any other in both high school and college. Of course it is uniquely American; we alone seem to buck the world's partiality for soccer, and what other sport besides football annually culminates in an American holiday that rivals Thanksgiving?
Since football holds such national appeal, it's no wonder that more prayer is offered, as we are generally a praying nation. I attended Billy Graham's Crusade a few years back in the now-defunct Texas Stadium, and some Lone-Star locals pointed to the roof and told me that the hole was there for God to watch his favorite team. Did they mean that in jest? I'd bet they were among those who prayed for him to supernaturally cheat for their side. Of course that would be silly, as would be the idea that wearing team jerseys or unwashed socks could garner the Lord's happy favor. God would be virtually compelled to do the exact opposite for such pagan asininery. And why should a team be cursed, unless it gathers after practices to offer sacrifice to Satan? C'mon!
All things being equal, let those that most glorify their creator prevail. Let those who trust in lucky rabbit's feet be soundly defeated. God would have us pray for a safe game, that players thank him for their athletic capacities, and that America thinks more of our national anthem's fourth stanza while singing the first: (i.e., "Praise the Power that hath made and preserved us a nation. Then conquer we must, when our cause it is just, And this be our motto: "In God is our trust."). Then, pass the wings.
The Rev. Bryan Griem
Montrose Community Church
I grew up playing on sports teams at Christian schools, and we always prayed before games. Almost all of us on the team wondered if we were really allowed to pray that we would win, or if we should just stick to praying for the safety of all the players and that we would all play our best. Secretly, we all prayed that we would win, even if we didn't pray those prayers out loud.
But did God really care about who won our games, or indeed, who wins this Super Bowl? It's tempting to think so, especially this year when both marquee quarterbacks, Russell Wilson and Peyton Manning, are outspoken Christians. Wilson tweets a Bible verse daily on his Twitter feed. (Of course, it would be easier to know who God was rooting for if only one of the superstars was a Christian!)
It's easy to think that if God were smart, he would capitalize on the opportunity of this big stage. But God does things differently. He came as a poor Jewish carpenter, gathered only 12 disciples, and was crucified shamefully. His spokesmen have rarely been people of repute, wealth, or polished oratory. God's means of changing the world is through ordinary Christians worshiping in ordinary, gospel-focused churches. But he promises that his foolishness is wiser than men's wisdom, and his weakness is stronger than men's strength. His small stage on Sunday morning is more significant and effective than the biggest stage man can produce on Sunday afternoon. So enjoy watching the Super Bowl this Sunday afternoon, but remember, the truly world-changing events of the day will be taking place in local churches all around the world, with no media coverage.
Pastor Jeff Tell
New Life Burbank
No, obviously I don't think that a supernatural force influences the big game. But if there was, her sense of humor just might come up with this year's contest between teams from the states of Washington and Colorado in what we could call the "Recreational Pot Bowl."
I struggle to appreciate football. My excuse is my formative years spent in a school district that didn't have the money for the equipment or a field, nor enough players to make up a team, whereas basketball only needs a ball, five boys, and a big space that doubled as an auditorium and kept us out of the snow.
Now when I watch NFL football, I see a few seconds of big guys furiously ramming into each other, interspersed with long stretches of them wandering around patting each other's rumps.
Then of course I only bother with coverage of the sport that I agree with, like the opinion piece I saw a while back declaring that concussions are unavoidable given the nature of the NFL and that when professional U.S. football as we know it has disappeared, people will marvel that it was ever allowed.
Be that as it may, the Super Bowl hoopla is certainly no worst that any number of ways we (and I'm including myself here) fritter away our time, money and energy. Just don't say that any god is on either side, on the gridiron or on the battlefield.
I think God reserves the right to intervene in human affairs, including athletic events, when doing so will advance the agenda of his kingdom. However, these instances are the exception, not typical events. For the most part, I believe God gives individuals the talents to be professional, and those who train the hardest and do the best win.
When might God influence an outcome? Several examples come to mind. One is the biblical story of David and Goliath, who met in mortal combat to determine the outcome of a war between the Philistines and the Israelites. Although David was a teenager going against a seasoned warrior, he was an expert with the sling, which was a formidable ancient weapon. His stone found its mark, hitting Goliath squarely between the eyes and immediately killing him.
In the 1924 Olympics depicted in the film "Chariots of Fire," the Scottish runner Eric Liddell refuses to run a 100-meter heat on Sunday because it is his Sabbath. His refusal makes headlines around the world. He trains for the 400-meter event instead. Just before that race, a member of the American team hands him a quote from 1 Samuel 2:30: "He who honors me, him will I honor." Liddell goes on to take the gold.
Hitler intended to use the Berlin Olympics in 1936 to display the superiority of the Aryan race. Later he would use this philosophy to wipe out six million Jews. Jesse Owens, an African American contestant, was the star of those Olympics, winning four gold medals. I think God made his own comment on the myth of racial superiority.
Will God determine the outcome of the Super Bowl this Sunday? I doubt it. I think he will sit back and enjoy the game just like the rest of us.
Pastor Ché Ahn