Sunday, January 11, 2015

Does god have favorites when it comes to football?

So a good friend of mine posts this meme this morning – not just any friend mind you, but a pastor and a really – a good Christian man. 

Now I know he is only getting on board with team spirit, and of course, there are similar memes for the local team, the Broncos – stuff like god and the color of sunsets and such, but I was oddly disquieted by the whole idea as I headed off to fellowship.  And once there, surrounded by a sea of orange – I began to ponder – what exactly does god think about all this.  There were only two people I saw in something else – both Dallas cowboys fans so clearly god was unimpressed by their low attendance in church as they lost.  However I suppose in Texas there were churches full of white and bluish colors if like us they don’t have formal dress codes. 

And then there’s the whole praying thing on the fields, extra prayers after touchdowns and such – and I’m not offended by that – people should have the freedom to honor who they want – but what are they praying for in such a public way – I don’t ever remember praying before a hockey or cricket match in Australia – either as a player or a spectator.  Does the team with the best prayers get a leg up somehow?  I doubt it would intimidate me if I was an opponent of less or no faith.  You want intimidating – the All Blacks famous Haka – now that’s intimidating.

However what really troubled me as I pondered the sea of orange in the church assembly this morning was how do we disconnect the ever present reality of a significant part of what football “culture” is and what they believe?  How do you reconcile a business (call it a sport if you must) that tacitly endorses (is two faced about at best) rape, general violence against women and children, misogynistic behavior in general, violence in general (both on and off the field), the bullying, and then of course you have the general failings we all struggle with more commonly – greed, arrogance and so on. 

Now I’m not saying ALL people involved in football have these failings.  Nor am I saying NFL football is the only sport or that US major league sports are the only ones that have these problems.  Clearly there are some really standup guys in the staff and playing the game throughout the sport and often singled out for their good example at the professional level.  But there is no shortage of evidence than many of these problems start at high school level, and with a wink and a nod, just become more entrenched for those who are so inclined as they move through the levels.  And move through the levels they will.  Very rarely will the college system and especially the NFL uniformly pass on a player with great on-field potential because of his poor off-field behavior.  And in the rare instances where a team washes their hands of a problem player, more often than not, if he is good enough, someone else will pick him up.

How do we separate the knowledge of the reality through the week and what we sing and pray about on Sunday morning and then revel in on Sunday afternoon?  I really don’t know – I have no answers.  I know I mostly pay attention and are happy to see the Broncos do well because it affects the whole mood of the town I live in – but other than that if I’m being really honest – I couldn’t care less.  As I’ve said before – I don’t even rate NFL football as a sport.  I think of it more as war games dressed up as a sport at best – which might explain a lot of the behavioral issues.  But I had to wonder – and have no idea how this works out in the minds of those so affected…  if I were a woman who had been the victim of rape or something similar at the hands of a football player or players, or if I were gay and the victim of collective harassment and bullying to the point of violence and assault – how would I feel walking into church to a sea of football jerseys…

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