I grew up in small town Ohio. Football in the seventies was not an industry. Basketball was still more important. I played in the marching band, cheered on my high school team, though it wasn’t particularly successful. Basketball mattered more, so much in fact, that the traditional rivalry with the closest town had to be suspended in 1968 because passions ran so high. We didn’t pray before games; I don’t think anyone believed that God cared whether Archbold or Pettisville won the game, no matter how much it mattered to us.
I’ve probably posted about this before, because over the years I have become less and less interested in sports contests. Yes, in part it was because I found myself teaching at colleges that had athletic programs. And at those institutions, the values always seemed skewed. For example, one year, members of the volleyball team couldn’t make it to the first class of the term because of an away game (I’ve actually been surprised by my wife’s experience teaching at UW Madison with starting players from the football team in her class).
But the whole Tebow thing takes it to another level. No, God does not care who wins a football game. As the prophet Amos makes clear:
I hate, I despise your festivals,
and I take no delight in your solemn assemblies.
Even though you offer me your burnt-offerings and grain-offerings,
I will not accept them;
and the offerings of well-being of your fatted animals
I will not look upon.
Take away from me the noise of your songs;
I will not listen to the melody of your harps.
But let justice roll down like waters,
and righteousness like an ever-flowing stream.
Let’s face it. An NFL game, or a college bowl game, is as close to a festival as we get in the USA.
It’s pathetic that identification as a Christian seems now to be connected with a mediocre quarterback who makes ostentatious display of his piety:
‘And whenever you pray, do not be like the hypocrites; for they love to stand and pray in the synagogues and at the street corners, so that they may be seen by others. Truly I tell you, they have received their reward. But whenever you pray, go into your room and shut the door and pray to your Father who is in secret; and your Father who sees in secret will reward you.