Thank God we won Su­per Bowl?

Post-Tribune - - Post-Tribune Local - JERRY DAVICH [email protected]

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.

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