RELIGION AND SPORTS
CAN BE A STRANGE MIX
At the risk of offending a huge segment of the population,
I'm going to go out on a limb and say that God didn't really care who won
the National Championship football game between Alabama and Georgia that
was played last week.
I'm making this bold statement because, once again, there are
millions of people, including the quarterback who was the star of the
game, who thought that God was rooting for Alabama. I don't think that was
Along with 30 million other people, I watched this very
entertaining game last Monday night. Down 13-0 at halftime and needing a
spark, Alabama coach Nick Saban inserted a 19 year old Freshman backup
quarterback, Tua Tagovailoa, to start the second half. He hadn't played
all year, and now he was entering the National Championship game on the
biggest stage imaginable.
If I were him, I would have fainted as I walked onto the
field. Instead, this kid calmly took charge and threw three touchdown
passes, including a spectacular game winner, and Alabama pulled off a
Amid the bedlam after the final play, the young quarterback
was immediately interviewed on the field by the television reporter. After
Tagovailoa explained what happened on the game winning touchdown play, I
found myself chanting, "Don't Say It, Don't Say It."
But I knew it was coming. Sure enough, Tagovailoa couldn't
resist after the second question about how Alabama pulled it out.
"First and Foremost, I'd like to thank my Lord and Savior Jesus
Christ," he calmly replied. "All glory goes to God."
"NOOOOOOO!" I shouted at the television, which I do
every time an athlete thanks God for the victory. "GOD DIDN'T WANT
GEORGIA TO LOSE! HE LOVES GEORGIA, TOO!"
I know God loves Georgia, because they won the Semifinal
matchup the week before against Oklahoma in the Rose Bowl, and the Georgia
quarterback, Jake Fromm, thanked God in his postgame interview as well.
So God wanted Jake to beat Oklahoma, but lose to Alabama? I don't think
so. I'm hoping God has better things to do than decide the outcomes of
Nevertheless, it doesn't stop athletes from expressing their
complete confidence that God was on their side in that particular game, or
even in a particular moment. The only problem is that for every winner in
sports, there is a loser. And that's why it bothers me when athletes thank
God for their success on the field of competition.
I understand and appreciate faith. Tua Tagovailoa relied on
his faith to remain relatively calm in the most pressure-packed setting
imaginable. Good for him. Whatever works.
I just don't want to hear about it. Religion should generally
be a private matter, to be shared when appropriate. And I don't think the
athletic field---where your fellow human being is visibly distraught after
being pummeled into submission---is the appropriate time or place.
Instead, here's what I'd like to hear in a postgame
interview. I'm going to assume I just sank the game winning shot to win
the NBA championship.
INTERVIEWER: How did you do it? What's your secret?
ME: Yes. All glory goes to my mother, who passed on
her speed, hand-eye coordination and mental fortitude directly to me. My
sisters got nothing.
INTERVIEWER: What about your father?
ME: He was a doofus when it came to sports. Maybe
there was a dormant athletic gene in there somewhere. Rumor is his
grandfather had some ability, but I'm still going with my mother.
No mention of God, no insinuation that God likes me better
than the poor defender who will live with his failure for the rest of his
life. Just a statement that I got lucky in the gene pool, and then lucky
again when things went my way in the game.
That's what happened with Tua Tagovailoa, the Freshman
quarterback. He got lucky. Innate athletic ability combined with things
falling into place. For Jake Fromm and the Georgia Bulldogs, it was innate
athletic ability combined with things not falling into place. Just one of
True believers like Tagovailoa and Fromm take great comfort
in knowing God is with them during the heat of competition. Perfectly
understandable. Just don't publicly thank God for the win. I truly believe
God didn't want the opposition to lose.