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 the case.
   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 stunning comeback.
   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 football games.
   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: Genetics.
   INTERVIEWER: Genetics?
   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 those days.
   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.

 

 

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