Chronicles of the Cosmic Couple

OMG: The Separation of God and Sports

Blatant and obnoxious displays of religious faith are everywhere in the American world of sports. Officials need to call a timeout and start assessing serious penalties for this public piety.

ray lewis 1 - glory

It was that post-Super Bowl god-rant by Ray Lewis that pushed me over the edge.

Answering interviewer Jim Nantz’s question, “How do you describe it, Ray, going out as the champion?”, the retiring linebacker announced over the stadium’s massive speakers, and to the largest audience in TV history, “It’s simple: When God is for you, who can be against you?”

Just prior to the Super Bowl, Lewis had been strutting around in a sweatshirt emblazoned with the words “Psalm 91.” This psalm offers protection from worldly dangers.  “He provides cover when we seek Him,” it says.

ray lewis 2God. He’s bigger than ever in the wide world of American sports.  And many of us who are not obsessed with the idea of a fantasy God who dictates the outcome of sports contests are demanding a seismic cultural change.

I am advocating nothing less than the separation of God and sports.  Enough is enough.  I am sick and tired of jocks pimping their deity at professional sports events.

The practice is now so common that it’s become acceptable, normalized, not even commented upon.

I’ll never forget basketball ace Jason Terry’s post-game interview after he heroically won a game for the Dallas Mavericks. Interviewer:  “Jason, how did you find the energy to sink that 3-pointer at the buzzer?”  Terry: “It was my lord and savior Jesus Christ.” And the interviewer goes right on with the inane questions as if Mr. Terry hadn’t just said something truly jaw-dropping on national TV.

And then along came Tim Tebow.  When he joined the Denver Broncos during the 2011 season as a rising star quarterback, he quickly introduced the world to the fine art of tebowing.  Which is, as defined by the hilarious website, “to get down on a knee and start praying, even if everyone else around you is doing something completely different.”

Tebow 1 crowd resizedYep, Tebow, who couldn’t throw a decent pass to save his life, somehow began winning games with his wobbly passes.  After every touchdown, he got down on a knee and saluted the Lord. The once lowly Broncos won six straight games that season behind Tebow and made it to the divisional finals  — a miracle in itself —before being whacked by the New England Patriots.

Tebow’s prayers had been answered.  Even his teammates and many fans believed that God was on the side of the Broncos. (FYI:  A recent poll reveals that 27 percent of Americans believe that God actually plays a role in determining which team wins a sporting event.)

But Tebow’s blatant flaunting of his faith didn’t please everyone. In a January 2012 article in the Huffington Post, “Tim Tebow: Separation of Church and Sport,” journalist-broadcaster Diane Nyad reported:

When at the University of Florida, Tebow was well-known for painting different numbers of Biblical scriptures into his eye black. You would see the number “3:16” under his eyes, for instance, in reference to that chapter and verse of the Bible. In the end, the NCAA outlawed players displaying such public signs of personal faith.

Nevertheless, Tebow stepped up his public proselytizing when he reached the big time, the National Football League, continues Ms. Nyad in HuffPost:tebow 2 kneeling

When Tebow sits with the quarterback coach on the bench, when he approaches the guys in the huddle, when he runs to a wide receiver after a big play, he does say the right “football stuff.” […] But before any syllable he utters, every single time, it is first “God is good.” “God is great.” “My God is an awesome God.” “It’s God’s will.” As he roams the sideline, mouthing, you think he’s talking to the defense on the field, urging them on. No, he’s singing, “God is my savior. God is almighty.”

Tebow was traded to the New York Jets for the 2012 season, presumably to make room for superstar QB Peyton Manning.  But also, I suspect, because of his obsession for praising the Lord in public.  He was the backup quarterback for the 2012 season, and barely saw any playing time.  Next season, now an object of ridicule, he could be out of a job.

I repeat: Enough is enough.

What I propose is that the biggest sports leagues in America impose penalties for ostentatious religious display.  Let’s start with pro football, our national sport. The NFL should follow the policy of the NCAA and ban all ostentatious displays of personal faith. Tebowing after a touchdown? Nullification of the TD and loss of down; crossing yourself before kicking the extra point? 15 yards.  Basketball: Thanking your god for making that 3-pointer at the buzzer? 1-game suspension and a large dollar fine. Tennis: Crossing yourself while writhing around on the court after a victory? Forfeiture of the match and a scornful attitude by the interviewers.

If the NFL can impose a 15-yard penalty for excessive celebration after a TD, and the NBA can impose a technical foul for taunting and other minor infractions, the big professional sports leagues should respect the rights of us non-believers and come down hard on these religious fanatics.

[I don’t know about baseball.  I never watch it if I can help it.  I do know that spitting should be outlawed and severely penalized.  This is another disgusting, antisocial practice  by players and coaches that is so commonplace that nobody seems to notice anymore — or at least to comment on it.  PTOOOEY!!]

Look, you devout Christians, I don’t care who or what you worship.  Keep the faith…but keep it to yourself, out of my face, out of my sports, out of my life. Stop pimping your fantasy God in public.

I realize that this is Christian America. I know that a high percentage of our citizens identify themselves as Christ lovers. And I have read your First Amendment, wherein no one shall impede your right to practice your religion.

Fine, but don’t bug the rest of us with your shameless public piety.  Jesus H. Kee-rist!

ray lewis 3 - si cover

One comment on “OMG: The Separation of God and Sports

  1. Spring Bright
    December 23, 2013

    Athlete “show-off praying” seems less like piety and goodness than self promotion. Surely no one’s god needs this kind of “religious hot-dogging” display.
    Maybe christian and muslim players hope their constant “chatting up” of god makes up for breaking the commandment to keep the sabbath holy during week-end games, but to billions of hindus, buddhists and other pious followers of myriad religious paths, they must seem unforgivably, in-your-face insulting.

    But god’s a grown-up, male or female, white or black, and probably is rooting for another player somewhere else, maybe at a soccer match in South Africa.

    If these hunks preparing to smash their fellow sportsmen into brainless, broken mush think Jesus would approve, they’re sadly out of touch with his teachings.

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This entry was posted on October 19, 2012 by in Rants & Raves and tagged , , , , , , , , .
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