Thank God we won Super Bowl?
When Seattle Seahawks quarterback Russell Wilson broke down, cried and thanked God for helping him win the NFC Championship game two weeks ago, I applauded his gut-level reaction.
Right then and there I had an epiphany. I immediately became a Russell Wilson fan. Not because of what he said, “God is too good all the time, man. Every time.” I’ve heard that for decades from sports athletes who credit divine intervention after a big win.
No, I was converted by how Wilson said those words. With such profound passion for his beliefs. His belief in Him. His belief in himself. His belief in winning that devil of a game against the Green Bay Packers who, obviously, are not on God’s good side.
This, according to one in four Americans who believe God plays a genuine role in the outcome of sporting events. Especially in our country’s gridiron granddaddy of gluttony, which is not only about football, but also about America’s fascination with itself and what we deem important in our lives.
In this case, God deciding who wins today’s Super Bowl, which pits the Lordloving Seahawks against the seemingly satanic New England Patriots. On paper — biblical parchment anyway — the Seahawks are sure to win against the likes of Patriots head coach Bill Belichick and quarterback Tom Brady. They’ve never had underinflated egos and I don’t recall either of them ever thanking God for all their victories on the field.
Still, I’m amazed at how many fans truly believe that God, Jesus and the Holy Spirit are determining if their team wins or loses. Wilson confirmed his postgame statement earlier this week by telling reporters, “I think God cares about football … cares about everything he created.” Nice catch at the end there, I thought.
Millions of Americans agree, according to a new survey by the Public Religion Research Institute and Religion News Service.
The majority of sports fans (56 percent) believe God “rewards” athletes who have faith in Him, with good health and success, the survey states. Who are these fans? Well, roughly two-thirds are Catholics and minority Protestants, who are more likely than any other religious group to share such beliefs.
My question to this group of armchair preachers is always the same: If God is helping to determine victory for one team, what is this saying to the other, losing team? That they’re not praying enough? Not believing enough? Not Russell Wilson-like enough?
If the Seahawks win today — and I’m praying they do, if anything for my new sports hero — I guarantee more NFL fans will start believing the Lord had a hand in it. God forbid the Patriots win. No, seriously.
Winning in earnest?
Do you remember the time Ernie Banks recited the same belligerent line to dozens of reporters because he didn’t enjoy talking with media?
Could you imagine Mr. Cub doing such a thing, even after his beloved 1969 team tragically tanked and missed the playoffs that fateful year? Neither could I. I couldn’t help but think of Banks while watching Seattle Seahawks star running back Marshawn Lynch ignore question after question on media day leading up to today’s Super Bowl. The repeated line that Lynch told reporters, “I’m just here so I don’t get fined,” is one we’ve since heard dozens of times. I apologize for dragging it out again.
But Lynch was there — basking in the national sports limelight — thanks in part to professional black athletes like Banks, who died last week of a broken heart. Sorry, I mean, a heart attack. Banks was not only the quintessential baseball player. He was the quintessential professional athlete. And the quintessential man. He was class, through and through. Lynch is crass, through and through.
Is it Lynch’s young age of 28? No, Banks was young, too, while in his “beast mode” (Lynch’s nickname) to hit 512 homers over 19 years as a Chicago Cub. Banks also had to be in beast mode to become the first black player on the Cubs. Despite his congenial “let’s play two today” attitude in his older days, he faced racism and discrimination in the early days during the 1950s.
Banks made $85,000 in the last year of his final contract in 1971. It was the highest salary in his career.
Lynch’s current four-year, $30 million contract pays him about $7 million a year, give or take a few hundred thousand dollars.
When Lynch made an obscene gesture in the NFC Championship game, he was fined more than Banks made when he was appointed to the Chicago Transit Authority board of directors in 1969, about $15,000.
In fact, Lynch has been fined before for violating the league’s media policy. His fine? More than Banks made in his final year of kbaseball.
None of this matters, though, when it comes to the Super Bowl. All that matters is winning the country’s biggest game. Most fans will conveniently look the other way as long as their team brings home the Lombardi Trophy. Just ask Patriots fans.
Speaking of that coveted trophy, Hall of Fame head coach Vince Lombardi once declared without a hint of apology: “Winning isn’t everything. It’s the only thing.” It still is in America. “Just win, baby,” as former Oakland Raiders’ owner Al Davis always told his teams of thugs and punks. Lynch, who’s a Raider at heart, knows this all too well. So does Belichick, who’s been fined before for cheating, and shady Brady, who proved he will do anything to win.
All the properly inflated footballs in the world couldn’t pump enough integrity back into their future Hall of Fame careers. But if they win the big one again? That’s all that matters, and we know it.
Why? Because God only loves winners, obviously.
New England Patriots head coach Bill Belichic.