Pharyngula

Superbowl!

Aren’t you excited? The Superbowl is tomorrow!

OK, I know, most of you probably don’t care. I know I don’t; tomorrow is a lab prep day for me, and I’ll be setting up fly stocks all afternoon. I don’t even know who is playing, and I don’t really care. Some of you might, and that’s all right — my father was a big football fan, although he couldn’t abide the Superbowl since, for all the hype, they were usually poor games — so if you choose to relax with friends and beer and watch the show, it is fine by me.

Here’s something I do find interesting, though. One of the petty annoyances of American sports is their ridiculous religiosity. There are always these showboating athletes who piously announce that their greatest triumphs are due to divine intervention (strangely, when they fumble, they don’t afterwards shake their fists at the heavens and curse their gods). It’s absurd that they believe their omnipotent deity is at all concerned about whether one team wins or another loses, but it’s common background noise at these events.

For the first time, though, I’m encountering media articles that are critical of these god-wallopers.

Does God care who wins? There are few things regarding religion that approach consensus, but it’s fair to say that most of us concur with FoxSports.com columnist Mark Kriegel, who recently wrote, “I refuse to believe that God –anyone’s God — has a rooting interest in the outcome of something as secular and perverse as a (football) game.”

And here’s an editorial where the writer just wishes they’d knock off the public god talk.

Forget the arrogance of that assumption for a moment — God is with only me. There’s something else. I assume some Pittsburgh Steelers are God-fearing men. They can’t all be heathens. So whom does God root for in the Super Bowl, the Cardinals or the Steelers?

And with wars going on all over the world and starvation and an economic collapse, with so much to attend to, does God have leisure to root at all?

Do we believe in a shallow, superficial God? God the Sports Fan?

None of these critics are saying this because they’re atheists who disbelieve this nonsense, don’t get me wrong; they all seem to be saying that these superficial attributions all trivialize faith. But they are at least doing us the favor of pointing out that these are secular games, and they’re a bit embarrassed at the silly piety. It’s a step forward, at least. Next step, point and laugh.

Comments

  1. #1 Monado
    January 31, 2009

    Larry Niven had a wonderful idea in his “What Good is a Glass Dagger?” when he explained that churches, courts, and arenas were magically dead areas because all the manna had been used up by praying for desired outcomes.

  2. #2 Doug S.
    January 31, 2009

    God has nothing to do with it. Success at professional sports is clearly the result of a Deal With The Devil. ;)

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Damn_Yankees

  3. #3 Kyoseki
    January 31, 2009

    If they’re truly pious they shouldn’t be working on Sundays should they?

  4. #4 Cephus
    January 31, 2009

    I couldn’t care less about any professional sport, I can’t tell you the last time I watched a single game, much less something like the Superbowl or World Series, but it’s been more than 20 years, I know. If I want to watch a bunch of overpaid primadonnas run around making fools of themselves, I’ll watch CSPAN.

  5. #5 Owlmirror
    January 31, 2009

    Someone’s got to point to it:

    God-Man on the Gridiron!!!!!
    http://archive.salon.com/comics/boll/2000/09/28/boll/index.html

    (Maybe that should be “Gridirony”…Heh)

  6. #6 mikeg
    January 31, 2009

    although i don’t give a rat’s ass about the superbowl i would like to see a touchdown move giving glory to the FSM… somebody get creative please… let us pray

  7. #7 Rrr
    January 31, 2009

    No thanks, I’m full already.

    Oh sorry, thought you said soupbowl. We’re out of crackers anyway.

  8. #8 inkadu
    January 31, 2009

    I heard a story on NPR about a particularly religious football player. While it wasn’t explicitly critical of the godbot, it did pretty explicitly pointing to how unusual his religiosity was. For instance, he often invited people to parties, but people didn’t show up. One player said he wasn’t sure he was “good enough” to be in this guy’s kitchen.

    It was the most heartening story I’ve heard in mainstream news ever. I don’t think we’re dealing with active support for atheism, but we are finally getting criticism of the overzealous — a criticism that had only applied to atheists (regardless of actual zealousness).

  9. #9 MHC
    January 31, 2009

    As an atheist and recovering Catholic I’d like to play a quick devil’s advocate here:

    I was involved with Opus Dei, and one of their main ideas is the “sanctity of everyday work.” So if your job is to sweep floors, if you do it with some sort of reverence and as an honor to God, then you’ll be rewarded somewhat.

    Of course this has nothing to do with any athlete I know of, they’re just in it for the fame and think God reaches down and makes them win. I just mention it because it popped into my head as a religious idea from my past that was related to the discussion.

    As an aside, it’s a funny feeling to recall ideas you used to believe when you no longer believe them, but remembering what it was like to believe them in the first place…

  10. #10 Rey Fox
    January 31, 2009

    Ray Lewis was flogging the god pretty hard after his playoff win. He ought to be thanking God that he was acquitted of that murder charge.

  11. #11 Richard Harris
    January 31, 2009

    That Yahweh fellah seemed to enjoy contact sports, judging by all the smiting he got up to.

  12. #12 teammarty
    January 31, 2009

    Sports arena have also become places where you are expected to pray publicly. That was part of the thing with 9-11, you can stand with the nation but it doesn’t count unless you pray with us. Now, “Take Me Out To The Ball Game” has become “god Bless America” or else (just try not standing during a the 7th inning stretch or even better, singing the Atheist Anthem instead”

    As for the Game, I’ll watch the 2nd half after the Michigan Atheist brunch and work (Hopefully the SB will make it busy and I’ll make some $$), but I won’t have any real rooting interest until the Lions (or the Lie-Downs as they’re called ’round here parts) make it to the Super Bowl.

  13. #13 David Wiener
    January 31, 2009

    I think that rooting for teams, etc., is part of the same tribalism that keeps religion going, which is why one finds so much devotion to god in those circles. I’m not saying that Atheists cannot be fans – I’m sure plenty of us are.

    Personally, I have little interest in watching others play a game… tho I do like the UFC.

  14. #14 Africangenesis
    January 31, 2009

    Why wouldn’t the “God is with me” effect, be as strong as the placebo effect? It seems to be highly correlated with the winners. You seldom see the losers claim “God was with me”, unless they were carried out on a backboard, yet retained the ability to walk.

  15. #15 'Tis Himself
    January 31, 2009

    Springsteen will be doing the half-time show. I might even watch that.

  16. #16 helvetica
    January 31, 2009

    If Yahweh really cared, the Saints or the Padres would always be winning.

  17. #17 Matt
    January 31, 2009

    Kurt Warner (sp?) is the worst of them all. He’s brings his bible everywhere and in news conferences uses every single oppurtunity to credit “God” for all the good stuff. What a sanctimonious, arrogant, presumptuous, tool. Would a humanist quarterback get away with equivalent antics?

  18. #18 Steve8282
    January 31, 2009

    The UFC is certainly more entertaining and cerebral than most team sports but is is rife with God Bots. I don’t think you can train in the Millitch (sp?) and Mat Hughes may be the most self righteous fucktard the world has ever seen. There is nothing I Enjoy more than watching Georges ST. Pierre-make he Scream like a child. Where was the big G when he needed him then.

    Can not wait for tonights mathces.

  19. #19 Aquaria
    January 31, 2009

    One of the more amusing things to notice when my mother would get a hair up her butt about keeping up appearances and take us to church was that the services always ended early enough to get home in time for an early Dallas Cowboys game.

    Which made me wish that they played in July, since that was back in the days before this particular church got air-conditioning.

  20. #20 Matt
    January 31, 2009

    With regards to Kurt Warner, The Onion has this humorous little piece.

    http://www.theonion.com/content/news_briefs/kurt_warner_requests_hbo_be

  21. #21 Joel
    January 31, 2009

    What is a Superbowl?

  22. #22 Greg Laden
    January 31, 2009

    All I need to know is that Odin did not want the Vikings in the superbowl this year.

  23. #23 Joel
    January 31, 2009

    With regards to Kurt Warner, The Onion has this humorous little piece.

    Oh, that explains the sudden facination with Kurt Warner, all of a sudden, here in Iowa. I couldn’t figure it out.

  24. #24 mikespeir
    January 31, 2009

    There are always these showboating athletes who piously announce that their greatest triumphs are due to divine intervention….

    You know, I used to believe all that Christianity stuff, but I don’t remember ever being much of an athlete. Why didn’t it work for me?

  25. #25 Pteryxx
    January 31, 2009

    I must point out that you’re making an unwarranted assumption: that God is partisan. This is a fundamental misunderstanding of the principles of Sports. Practicing Sportarians like myself (and sportscasters, reporters, handicappers, and bookies) venerate the traditional background of fairness and impartiality under which sports must be played. The playing field should be level, the rules apply equally to both sides, and the figure of Authority is a constant, watchful presence who dispenses unbiased judgement on camera during every moment of a game. Fans may blather and scream, stars may boast and taunt, but their noise does not affect the rules of the game, only the psyches of their teammates or opponents. The game itself is above such things. The most esteemed ritual of American Sportarians, the Super Bowl, will begin with that icon of fairness and nod to mathematical probability, the coin toss. When the clock runs out for a final time, the outcome of the game will be recorded indisputably for the ages, and no amount of belief in a team’s past, present or future superiority will ever change it.

    Find that in a religion if you can.

  26. #26 Bill from Dover
    January 31, 2009

    I always wondered what God was thinking when a pitcher had a cross swinging from his neck at the same time a batter was crossing himself.

  27. #27 Cujo359
    January 31, 2009

    I’ve always wondered at the ego required to believe that a being that could create the world or the universe would be interested in what an individual athlete did in a game. It’s good to see that believers see through this one, too.

  28. #28 Eamon Knight
    January 31, 2009

    MFC @#9 wrote: :….one of their main ideas is the “sanctity of everyday work.” So if your job is to sweep floors, if you do it with some sort of reverence and as an honor to God, then you’ll be rewarded somewhat.

    That was also my take on it, back in the day (even though I was fundy Protestant, not extremist Catholic). So praying that God would help you play your best, and therefore show the fans a good game (‘cuz that’s what you’re paid for, duh!) made sense (to the extent that prayer makes sense at all, but let’s leave that aside for now). But praying specifically that your team wins? That doesn’t make sense, even within the Christian context! But pro atheletes are not generally selected for brain power….

  29. #29 Jello
    January 31, 2009

    I’d say more of a step to the side then forward but at least they aren’t going backward.

  30. #30 Alverant
    January 31, 2009

    I got this image of the stereotype christian God grunting and staggering towards his cosmic easy chair tomorrow lugging 3 arm loads of munchies and beer, plopping down, getting all the snacks organized and settling down in front of a 500 inch LCD Very High Definition TV to watch the game. Whenever his team makes a touchdown he jumps up, takes off his shirt to show the TV and the other deities how he painted the team logo on his chest.

  31. #31 dvizard
    January 31, 2009

    [S]o if you choose to relax with friends and beer and watch the show, it is fine by me.

    Cool! Our great leader PZ officially allows us to watch the Superbowl!

  32. #32 Sherry
    January 31, 2009

    Pat Tillman played for the Arizona Cardinals.
    Although I will not watch the game, I would like to see the Cardinals win because they were Pat’s team.

  33. #33 Roger Scott
    January 31, 2009

    Matthew Hayden, a great Australian cricketer, used to cross himself and look up to the sky after every century he scored – and there were a lot of them. He retired a few weeks ago. This was just before the selectors dropped him, due to a run of poor form. I did not hear him thank god for this sign that it was time to go.
    Sports people who think god is on their side are showing an amazing arrogance. The omnipotent god in which they believe did not choose to stop the Holocaust, the Black Death, thought creating malaria was a good idea but takes a personal interest in their sporting success.

  34. #34 Matt Heath
    January 31, 2009

    “If Yahweh really cared, the Saints or the Padres would always be winning.”
    There are Cardinals in this final, right?

  35. #35 Sastra
    January 31, 2009

    But they are at least doing us the favor of pointing out that these are secular games, and they’re a bit embarrassed at the silly piety.

    Yes, it’s a small step towards “breaking the spell” which says that you can’t criticize anyone’s religious belief, not even a bit.

    What we’ve got I think is two views fighting with each other on the ground of sentiment and compassion. The first is the belief that expressions of gratitude towards God actions in one’s life is an exemplary form of humility. One should always give credit to God, and see God as personally involved with you. It’s a parent-child relationship.

    The second view is the belief that humility involves looking at the big picture, and don’t just think of your own life. You’ll then recognize the arrogant implications behind believing that God singled you out in order to give you a faith-strengthening “gift” — and ignored others.

    Thinking of the universe as a love affair strictly between you and God is childish. Usually, people try to pretend they admire a “child-like faith.” It’s nice when they can see problems.

  36. #36 Greta Christina
    January 31, 2009

    On the other hand, we have this (warning — the link has sound, so those whose ears are unusually sensitive to the stupid may want to turn the volume down on their computers):

    The Super Bowl Gospel Celebration.

    No, I’m not kidding. It is, quote, “the first and only gospel concert officially sanctioned by the NFL for Super Bowl weekend.”

    It reminds of of the National Porn Sunday Elephant. The Super Bowl Gospel Celebration. A collection of adjectives and nouns that are grammatically correct, and yet that makes no sense, that have nothing to do with one another, and that seem to have been selected almost entirely at random.

    It’s on ESPN early Sunday morning. We’re Tivoing it. I can’t wait.

  37. #37 David Marjanovi?, OM
    January 31, 2009

    One of the petty annoyances of American sports is their ridiculous religiosity.

    Another is the out-of-context patriotism. National anthems are supposed to be sung at international games, where each team represents a country, or what have I missed?

  38. #38 Zeno
    January 31, 2009

    While the Superbowl is underway, we who care not will make free of the abandoned outside world. The roads will be clear and the restaurants will be uncrowded (I speak not of those creepy establishments known as “sports bars”). I don’t much like shopping, but Superbowl Sunday is a great time to get it done. And you get to have movie theaters almost entirely to yourself, your only companions being other asportual individuals.

  39. #39 Jim
    January 31, 2009

    I love the quote “Do we believe in a shallow, superficial God?” because the answer is so clearly yes, obviously! The sports aspect is only one way it shows, one of many.

  40. #40 senecasam
    January 31, 2009

    FWIW, if anyone is interested, here’s a column from a writer for the Anderson (SC) Independent Mail addressing the same issue.

    http://tinyurl.com/bxqn8w

  41. #41 Sastra
    January 31, 2009

    Despite living in Packer-Land, I have never watched a football game. Not any. The very few times I’ve been set in front of one of them I either watched the crowd, or mentally rearranged the knick-knacks on the shelf next to the television. I don’t understand what is going on and, more significantly, I don’t care.

    Once or twice I got interested in figure-skating finals at the Olympics, but other than that sports is pretty much a great big empty area to me. I do think that people forgive that defect more easily when you don’t act as if that’s some kind of a virtue — and when you’re fine with making the snacks.

  42. #42 LeeLeeOne
    January 31, 2009

    Blech to “super” anything. I am reiterating (and agreeing with) my clients’ comments.

  43. #43 Wowbagger
    January 31, 2009

    I kind of have to go for the Cardinals, since the first Australian to ever play in the Superbowl, Ben Graham, is their punter.

    However, if there was a god I can’t imagine his actions re: the weather in Australia over the last week would indicate he loved it – well, the South-East of it anyway. It’s been far closer in temperature to his supposed opposite number’s abode…

  44. #44 helvetica
    January 31, 2009

    In the spirit of biology, I am going to be watching the Superb Owl. I hear there’s going to be a great half-time mouse catching.

  45. #45 Science Avenger
    January 31, 2009

    I’ve been saying this for years. I spent a impromptu hour once on talk radio because of a letter I wrote deriding football players pointing to the sky when they score. It’s amazing to me that people haven’t seen this as absurd. It’s almost as good as the UFC guys thanking their gods for their ability to pummel their fellow man. I’m with you Steve8282, I used to like the Milletich group until I found out they were kickin ass for Jesus.

    I second Pteryxx’s sentiments. Sports give us a chance to appreciate objective competition and accomplishment to our fullest, with little regard to aesthetic opinions, and football is the best of the bunch IMO. It is basically contact chess. Don’t let the yahoo fans who live vicariously through athletes bias you against what is really a great game. Bore me not with soccer talk. I’d rather watch grass grow. It’s not the world’s most popular sport because its the best, it’s because it’s the cheapest.

    Need a reason to watch? The Cardinals have suffered for the second longest current championshipless drought in sports: 61 years. I’ve always comforted my relations the New Orleans Saints fans that for the length of the Saints’ existence, the Cardinals have actually been worse. That may end Sunday against the Steelers, who will lead the NFL in Super Bowl victories if they win. There could be no more David vs Goliath matchup.

  46. #46 Robert
    January 31, 2009

    Sports people who think god is on their side are showing an amazing arrogance.

    Um – committed atheist here and all, but this goes a little too far. Many theists actually practice humility (in an odd way), and think that God deserves thanks for all good things. You say “Grace” over dinner, you thank God when you avoid a car accident, and you give him credit when you win a sporting match. It’s not (always) about the arrogance of thinking “God is on my side” so much as thanking God for the good things in your life.

    Still – I think that’s nuts. I don’t thank God for my dinner; I earned the money to pay for it, and either my wife or I cooked it. If I achieve something, it’s because of a combination of luck and my own skill, and I try to be honest to myself about the proportion thereof.

    Anyway – after-match interviews always follow the same template, particular for football. The players are given media training and taught to repeat the same old clichés.
    There’s also so much random chance in sport that it’s not surprising there’s a desire to influence it. Yes, games over a period are statistical, but any one game can fluctuate. A bad gust of breeze pushes a Hail Mary pass aside. An unnoticed flash-frozen puddle causes a player to sprain an ankle. An idiot spectator decides to flash a green laser into the quarterback’s eyes. It gets to the point where some players, at least, pray just in case it might work.

  47. #47 Moses
    January 31, 2009

    God only cares if you’re bashing in the heads of babies and raping the virgins. Football is just way too pastoral.

  48. #48 Mooselet
    January 31, 2009

    If you keep in mind that in Australia the word “root” is slang for sexual intercourse, then phrases like “God is rooting for us” become a lot more fun!

  49. #49 RM
    January 31, 2009

    I wonder if god used to go to the christian and lion matches?

  50. #50 Aseem
    January 31, 2009

    Please Pharyngulize this poll. Should ‘In God We Trust’ be taken off the currency? http://www.msnbc.msn.com/id/10103521

  51. #51 Bill Brown
    January 31, 2009

    There are penalties for excessive celebrations after a score but apparently going to your knees to thank god is OK.During one of the playoff games a player was penalized for making a snow angel after a touchdown. So– god OK,snow angel not OK.

  52. #52 Rey Fox
    January 31, 2009

    “National anthems are supposed to be sung at international games, where each team represents a country, or what have I missed?”

    What? You mean that minute (or more, depending on who’s singing) before every game is just a big waste of time?! Why didn’t anyone tell me?

    “”If Yahweh really cared, the Saints or the Padres would always be winning.”
    There are Cardinals in this final, right?”

    Yes, but they own the second-longest championship drought in major American pro sports. For the long run of this franchise, God has most certainly not been on their side*.

    * Or anyone else’s, but just let me have that turn of phrase.

  53. #53 Sherry
    January 31, 2009

    I wonder how Warner feels about all the honors the Cardinals continue to give to their fallen team mate — especially the Pat Tillman Freedom Plaza at the Cardinals stadium.

    Not many of those god-loving war-mongering wealthy athletes exhibit the depth of their convictions the way Tillman did.

  54. #54 Phaedrus
    January 31, 2009

    While dumb athletes often get this wrong, smart athletes will tell you that they thank God for their ability. If everything comes from God, their skill, their strength/speed, their game sense, their health, then of course you thank God for any success.
    Beyond that there is a feeling (sometimes called “being in the zone”) where you can do no wrong. Everything a player does is right, every pass hits it’s mark, every shot goes in the basket. Having been, very rarely, in the zone I can tell you that, if I had a religious bone in my body, I would call it the hand of God.
    What you’re doing here is taking the worst examples of piousness and creating a straw man. I hate when Creationists do that.

  55. #55 DaveH
    January 31, 2009

    It’s funny, football is the only thing that has ever made me behave in a religious manner. Just today, I saw Pars 0 – Doonhamers 2; I put my head in my hands and groaned “Oh, God!”

    It’s been pointed out before, but football (soccer if you must, but any sport, really) is a good substitute for religiosity, if you feel the need: endless hope, constantly disappointed; pointless ritual; arbitrary rules; community singing; no reason to choose one “faith” over any other, except the circumstances of your birthplace and family expectations; an excuse for hatred of “the out-group” or the “apostate”.

    The main difference is that I know Charlie Dickson actually existed, and actually did all the things that he’s remembered for. Also, I know it’s deeply silly and pointless.

  56. #56 jackdaw
    January 31, 2009

    #12

    Just curious but what is the Atheist Anthem?

  57. #57 S.Scott
    January 31, 2009

    I love football and I don’t care who knows it!!

    It’s a game and games are fun. And the superbowl is a good reason to get together with your friends to laugh, cheer, and stuff yourself sick! – Works for me.

    Yes it’s idiotic to attribute a win or loss to god – but oh well… Such is life.

  58. #58 Wowbagger
    January 31, 2009

    Mooselet wrote:

    If you keep in mind that in Australia the word “root” is slang for sexual intercourse, then phrases like “God is rooting for us” become a lot more fun!

    Indeed we do. As a result, we always find the use of the term ‘root’, ‘roots’, ‘rooting’ and ‘rooter’ to be inherently hilarious, especially considering the number of plumbing businesses in the US and Canada which use it in their names – e.g. a friend studying in the US sent me a photo of a van with ‘Super-cheap Rooter’ on the side; I went into hysterics.

    Canada’s clothing store ‘Roots’ is also funny; an Australian comedian came back with a photo he’d had taken of himself underneath the sign for the childrenswear section: ‘Roots Kids’…

  59. #59 Tim H
    January 31, 2009

    Football plays a very important part in society. It keeps large groups of people mildly entertained in between the marching band’s pre-game, halftime, and post-game performances. The Super Bowl is a weird case of evolution where the trivial part remains (and has been elaborated)while the important part has been dispensed with.

  60. #60 DaveH
    January 31, 2009

    Just to answer Phaedrus #54, there… I seem to recall that SJ Gould (probably in Full House, can’t remember and not going to walk all the way over to the bookcase after Dunfermline lost and I’ve been drowning my sorrows) pointed out that being “in the zone” is a run of successful outcomes (eight baskets in a row in basketball, etc) is entirely commensurate with the frequency of such events one would expect given the level of skill of the player (season average of successfully scored baskets out of attempts). I agree that it doesn’t feel like that when it’s happening, though.

  61. #61 Cuttlefish, OM
    January 31, 2009

    Oh, the workouts are nothin?
    And the wind sprints are less
    We don?t even practice
    We think that it?s best
    Cos practice means nothing
    I?m forced to confide?
    But we?ll win big on Sunday
    With God on our side

    Oh the networks will show it
    They?ll show it so well
    How the righteous team won
    And the evil team fell
    Oh the righteous team won
    But it?s not cos we tried
    We?ll win big on Sunday
    With God on our side

    Oh, when I cross the goal line
    I?ll raise my arm high
    With one upraised finger
    I?ll point to the sky
    I?m sending a message
    That can?t be denied
    I just scored a touchdown
    With God on my side

    When it?s fourth down and inches
    We?ll go for it all
    It?s a quarterback keeper
    But where is the ball
    They?ll bring out the chain gang
    And the refs will decide
    First and ten to the team
    With God on their side

    And the fans in the stadium
    Will cheer on their teams
    And eat without stopping
    Or that?s how it seems
    And most of it?s salty
    And all of it?s fried
    They?ll eat it on Sunday
    With God on their side

    Oh, it won?t even matter
    What?s the final score
    The points aren?t important
    That?s not what it?s for
    This game?s about Jesus
    We can all say with pride
    We won big on Sunday
    With God on our side

    We gather each Sunday
    We won?t miss a week
    It?s more than just victory
    It?s salvation we seek
    It?s more than religion
    It?s the reason Christ died
    So we could play football
    With God on our side

    http://digitalcuttlefish.blogspot.com/2009/01/super-bowl-sunday-with-god-on-our-side.html

  62. #62 Phaedrus
    January 31, 2009

    to DaveH #60

    you’re missing the point. Making lots of baskets isn’t isn’t being “in the zone” – there’s a feeling, and ease, when you know you can’t miss… and you don’t. You can make 10 out of 10 ugly shots and not be in the zone.

    I’m sure there are all kinds of physical variables that coordinate to generate this feeling, but when you get it, you know. Kind of like runner’s high, I suppose, though I’ve run my ass off for years and never felt anything but tired.

  63. #63 black wolf
    January 31, 2009

    #50 Aseem,
    you realize you’re talking about roundabout 4.5-5 Million votes there, right? Methinks even the Great Pharyngular isn’t that great.

  64. #64 Claudio
    January 31, 2009

    God is supposed to be a being of supreme intelligence. That’s why he only pays attention to real football (AKA soccer)

  65. #65 Kimpatsu
    January 31, 2009

    The Onion movie even included a skit in which an athlete blames god for his team losing. Ha ha ha…

  66. #66 Jeeves
    January 31, 2009

    I’ll tune in to the Superbowl tomorrow, sure, but the real event of the day (as everyone knows) is the Puppy Bowl.

  67. #67 Ragutis
    January 31, 2009

    Buffalo, N.Y. must be full of atheists and pagans or something.

  68. #68 'Tis Himself
    January 31, 2009

    Claudio #64

    That’s why he only pays attention to real football (AKA soccer)

    Perhaps you could explain something I’ve always wondered about soccer. Why do they run up and down the field for an hour or so before they go to the penalty kick part?

  69. #69 Scott from Oregon
    January 31, 2009

    Athletes learn early in “interview class” that you attribute all your natural talent and hard work to God so you don’t get labeled an elitist, egotistical athlete.

    As an athlete, I watch in awe at the level some of these athletes have attained in their sports.

    Imagine if they told the truth. That they have much natural talent that the rest of you don’t have, and they worked their butts off to develope it so they can make the big bucks and get laid a lot while the rest of y’all either bad mouth them or wish you were them?

    When the camera and microphone are on, you get humble and pious or you get booed badly next mistake you make…

  70. #70 Claudio
    January 31, 2009

    ‘Tis Himself #68

    Soccer includes many complicated things (that happen during that hour or so), and kicking penalties is the simplest one.

    That’s why a special game with kicking only was created so lower civilizations can have fun too.

  71. #71 Screechy Monkey
    January 31, 2009

    These God-bothering athletes present one of the few situations where us atheists can just sit back and watch Christians “debate” each other.

    Christian #1: “It’s arrogant to believe that God cares about the outcome of football games”
    Christian #2: “Ah, but he cares about everyone and everything”
    #1: “True, but there are many bigger problems in the world”
    #2: “Yes, but he’s omnipotent, so it’s not like doing one thing distracts him from others.”
    #1: “Oops, forgot about that. Ok, but why should God care about a silly game?”
    #2: “He works in mysterious ways.”
    [stunned silence as Christian #1 finally appreciates how frustrating atheists find such "arguments"]

  72. #72 Rey Fox
    January 31, 2009

    “Just curious but what is the Atheist Anthem?”

    I believe it’s “Milkshake” by Kelis.

  73. #73 Patricia, OM
    January 31, 2009

    Oregon has a few atheists and pagans too… during the super bowl I’ll be knitting a Thor sock. snrk!

  74. #74 Claude
    January 31, 2009

    Yes there is a god. Arizona/St. Louis/Chicago Cardinals are in the Superbowl. Come on, What more proof do you athiest need? I heard the devil requested more coal for the fire also.
    Enjoy all…..

  75. #75 Denis Loubet
    January 31, 2009

    The thing I find odd is that no one seems to realize that if prayers really do prompt a supernatural being to fix a sports game, THAT’S CHEATING!

    Doesn’t the idea of an omnipresent god mean both teams have an extra man on the field? That’s Cheating!

    The people who pray that their team wins, and believe it’ll actually work, are pro-cheating.

    Cheating, another Christian value!

  76. #76 Monado
    January 31, 2009

    Thank you, Cuttlefish!

    My family was totally asportual (thanks for the term!) except for the Olympics. But I learned that it wasn’t a sign of intellectual superiority to be ignorant of the rules, tactics, and culture (jargon, history, myths, heroes, etc.) of a sport or pastime. The more you know about a sport, the more you can appreciate it even if it’s not your cup of tea.

    Hockey is a game of skills and tactics. An uneducated eye sees a chaotic swirl. A semi-educated eye sees that someone is staying on the point to be ready if the puck comes his way. A truly skilled eye can tell from the way a player raises his head whether he’s vulnerable to being checked. Still, a player can be traded one day to a new team and be playing the next.

    But gridiron football is a game of planning and strategy. Managers tend to like football because they appreciate its complexity. My appreciation has moved a bit up from “they’re lining up now, they’re running around now, they’re falling down now.” I have learned that “play action” means trying to fool the other team as to who has the ball. It’s no miracle when someone pounds down the field, opens his arms without looking back, and has the ball drop into his hands from somewhere behind him. It’s all rehearsed to the step and fraction of a second. A player who misses the first month of training camp is at a disadvantage because it takes at least two months to learn which code stands for which of perhaps 500 different plays. You can’t just drop into a team in mid-season.

    Gridiron football has been suggested as the secular religion of the U.S. as I suppose soccer would be in many other countries. :)

  77. #77 grolby
    January 31, 2009

    Like probably everyone else, the God-praising athletes get on my nerves big time, and have since middle school or earlier – it always annoyed. In fact, religiosity under any circumstances where success is clearly the result of human efforts is annoying. Yeah, that does include pretty much everything. I’m reminded of a time in high school, when we were watching a short movie put together by Habitat for Humanity to promote their efforts (and I do think that they do great work). At one point, the voice over said, paraphrased, “Habit for Humanity is successful because of the love and compassion of Jesus Christ for all His children.” This played over a scene of a bunch of people working their asses off carrying lumber around, hammering shit, etc. I couldn’t contain my laughter.

    Anyway, I think that we’re too quick to set up a false conflict between sports and intellect – it’s really just another element of the whole mind/body division that we tend to make. The fact is, sports lovers can be fairly cerebral, and those who don’t like sports aren’t necessarily smart people. Some people like sports, some don’t. I’m okay with that. I don’t have much of a connection to the whole team loyalty thing, though I am pleased when the Red Sox or the Patriots have a good season, but I do love a good game of football. It’s got deep strategy, drama, intensity – in short, it’s great entertainment. Still, even football must take a back seat to the Queen of Sports, cycling. There is nothing in the world so beautiful and engaging as a hard Spring Classic bicycle race.

  78. #78 Gibbon
    January 31, 2009

    I seriously doubt that god is going to paying any attention to the Super Bowl.

    Because he’s still going to be talking about the Australian Open final. Why would he/she bother with a four hour long commercial when Roger Federer and Rafael Nadal are battling it out on the other side of the globe? :D

  79. #79 Valis
    January 31, 2009

    Ok, rugby is pretty much a religion here (South Africa, and pretty much the whole Southern Hemisphere). But we don’t have any prayers or religious ceremonies before any big games. Some individual athletes might thank god after scoring, but the majority are totally secular. Interesting, in a very superstitious country, where we have two witch doctors as Members of Parliament.

  80. #80 Wowbagger, Grumpy Minimalist
    January 31, 2009

    Gibbon,

    After that record-breaking semi-final it’s going to take divine intervention to ensure that the final itself isn’t going to be an anticlimax. I just hope Rafa is fully recovered and at his best.

  81. #81 Ranson
    January 31, 2009

    RE: How people are feeling about all the Pat Tillman rememberances.

    Paying attention to a lot of the articles written about that lately, very few people really seem to be aware that he was an atheist. In the last set of comments I looked at, no one pointed it out, but well over half the commentors blessed Tillman and his family.

    I bet it bugs the shit out of Kurt Warner, though.

    Double yoi, go Stillers.

  82. #82 Beelzebub
    January 31, 2009

    God fights on the side with the best artillery.
    -Napoleon Bonaparte

  83. #83 Joe L.
    January 31, 2009

    Here’s what Mr. Deity has to say about it
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=XF–G1zmyTw

  84. #84 Patricia, OM
    January 31, 2009

    Nope, the Queen of Sports is whippet racing. With ass jumping coming in second.

  85. #85 My name it is nothing . . .
    January 31, 2009

    Echoing Monado above — Thank you, Cuttlefish! — but:

    Claudio @ 70 FTW!

    Am I alone in that whenever I hear sports fanatics praying for divine aid, I’m reminded of this prayer?

    Warning: Beware of The Illustrated War Prayer if you have eaten recently or would rather not be reminded of the consequences of warfare.

  86. #86 mrcreosote
    January 31, 2009

    This was also raised on a blog over at Psychology Today, which asked ‘Is God Fickle in His Allegiance to Specific Sports Teams?’

    http://tinyurl.com/8mgpxp

    ‘…
    (3) If we now assume that God is a certified fan of the San Antonio Spurs, He will invariably end up “abandoning” them during some future game wherein a player from a competing team will make the last second winning shot against the Spurs. The player in question will likely thank God for having allowed him to make the shot. Oh Lord, no one likes a bandwagon fan. Pick a team at the start of the season and stick with them through thick and thin.’

  87. #87 JPS, FCD
    January 31, 2009

    Grolby @ 77, you hit a nerve. I live in Kentucky. I think I’ve been blackballed by my local Habitat for Humanity for flagrant and inveterate impiety.

    Nonetheless, I plan to spend my spring break working on a Habitat project in South Carolina with other nontraditional students from my university.

  88. #88 Mendelation
    January 31, 2009

    Anybody notice the copyright notification at the bottom of the editorial by Lowell Cohn on pressdemocrat.com and the request not to copy any of the material? Seems like PZ should respect the copyright.

    I was at the championship game two weeks ago when the Cardinals won. Warner was on the stadium PA system during his postgame interview and a lot of the crowd cheered when he brought up his God. I cheered when he threw three touchdowns to Larry Fitzgerald.

  89. #89 NewEnglandBob
    January 31, 2009

    …that these superficial attributions all trivialize faith

    One cannot trivialize something that is already trivial!

  90. #90 Gibbon
    January 31, 2009

    Valis, I imagine cricket would be the current religion of South Africa given your recent series wins over Australia in both ODIs and tests. But you do have a point about rugby. It’s pretty much the defacto state religion here in NZ. And we have the ritualistic tradition of the Haka to go with it.

    Wowbagger, Roger Federer is divine intervention. I’m absolutely hoping that Nadal isn’t recovered enough from the semi with Verdasco so that Federer can equal Sampras’ record of 14 Grand Slam titles.

  91. #91 'Tis Himself
    January 31, 2009

    Mendalation #88

    Anybody notice the copyright notification at the bottom of the editorial by Lowell Cohn on pressdemocrat.com and the request not to copy any of the material? Seems like PZ should respect the copyright.

    Short quotes of copyrighted material are allowed under the copyright laws as long as attribution is given. An internet link to the original is considered attribution.

  92. #92 marc buhler
    January 31, 2009

    As an American now with decades of living ‘down under’ behind me, it is amusing to see how the phrase “I refuse to believe that God –anyone’s God — has a rooting interest in the outcome of something as secular and perverse as a (football) game.” plays out here.

    (Hint: root = sexual act.)

  93. #93 Porco Dio
    January 31, 2009

    if the pundits are going this far they are bound to start wondering if god really cares about anything or if there even is a god… the foolish are bound to become smart sooner or later…

  94. #94 qc
    January 31, 2009

    The Rev. BigDumbChimp hasn’t been here yet, so I’ll remind everyone of his related post from last year:

    http://bigdumbchimp.blogspot.com/2008/07/sportcasters-shhould-stick-to-sports.html

    Summary: Rick Reilly is an idiot.

  95. #95 apthorp
    January 31, 2009

    The comment about interview school is a great explanation of practical utility. For those who buy it though, the a key question to distinguish ‘real’ Christians from the ‘just for show’ variety is the question of a personal savior.

    The point is that god is really there just for you. The batter and pitcher are indeed both expecting personal intervention. Whatever that means. This has a positive effect of encouraging hope in otherwise hopeless situations but seriously complicates any broader analysis of social, much less physical (let me survive this fall from the 300′ cliff) situations. And of course utterly useless at explaining anything which leads to the need for god given rules and invocation magic to get the personal relationship.

    It is, however a very old idea in forming western notions of the individual. It had impact on the earliest church counsels, provided resonance with greek ideas in the renaissance, and was crucial in Luther’s denial of priestly mediation. More recently, Joseph Campbell tells the story of a Cardinal who challenged the notion that his work has anything to do with religion by asking if he believed in a personal savior. Campbell reports he just smiled in response.

    It’s particularly dangerous when combined with the even older idea of god given dominion over, well, everything and the dominating power of modern technology and prosperity.

    But its and old meme that appears to have some survival value.

  96. #96 TrevUK
    January 31, 2009

    A little off topic, but I’m in the mood for a rant. Why are the Superbowl champions always referred to as the “World” champions? Doesn’t the N in NFL (and NBA for that matter) stand for National? It’s not an international competition. And don’t even get me started on the “World” Series. Said rant completed, I do love your version of football, and I’ll be glued to the TV tomorrow. Go Cardinals!! And Manchester United!!

    Back to the topic – I remember almost throwing up when Zack Johnson won the US Masters a couple of years ago, and said that Jesus was with him. Doesn’t that breach PGA rules? Is he allowed to give advice on the putting line? Yardage? Wind speed?

  97. #97 Sven DiMilo
    January 31, 2009

    HERE WE GO STILLERS: HERE WE GO!!!!!!!!

  98. #98 The Ridger
    January 31, 2009

    Devil’s advocate for a minute, but all the people (including that editorial writer) who say “With all the war etc does God have time to care about a football game?” are missing an important point. God is GOD. Of course he has time to care about a football game – he has time to do everything. He can attend to everyone’s prayers and all – that’s the point about the sparrows falling.

    Back to my usual set of beliefs: a god that answers Kurt Warner’s prayers about the Super Bowl while allowing a thousand children to die of agonizing diseases and injuries is a god with a pretty screwed up set of priorities. But it’s not an impossible god.

  99. #99 Rev. BigDumbChimp
    January 31, 2009

    We had a sports writer write a similar post in our local paper a few months back.

    I wrote in to the editor in support of the article and I got a few pieces of mail (with no return address or name of course) who were cursing the author and made points like

    “We prayed for Ken when he had Prostrate cancer. Hope God doesn’t take back his healing. He is a Jealous God!.”

    Ah yes the Christian love.

    Feel it.

  100. #100 Sven DiMilo
    January 31, 2009

    Who needs a fictional deity when you’ve got Big Ben, Hines Ward, and that defense? It’s all about da ‘burgh, baby.

  101. #101 Scott from Oregon
    January 31, 2009

    “”A little off topic, but I’m in the mood for a rant. Why are the Superbowl champions always referred to as the “World” champions? Doesn’t the N in NFL (and NBA for that matter) stand for National? It’s not an international competition. And don’t even get me started on the “World” Series. Said rant completed, I do love your version of football, and I’ll be glued to the TV tomorrow. Go Cardinals!! And Manchester United!!”"

    Apparently, the “world” in World Series came from the name of a newspaper, “The (something) World”, that first started the event. I say apparently, because I got that second hand.

    As for football, they aren’t called world champions, though you’d never find a team outside the US that could beat them.

  102. #102 Rev. BigDumbChimp
    January 31, 2009

    Scott I guess you could make an argument about being the world champions of that league.

    But you have a point.

    I’d love to see Japanese baseball teams compete with MLB, if only for fun.

  103. #103 anonymous for my own safety
    January 31, 2009

    Though I’m in the US, I had no idea there was a football match tomorrow – but I do know it is the final round of the Corus chess tournament in Wijk aan Zee. There are six players tied for top place – it should be very exciting! Plus, there’s no religious nonsense.

  104. #104 Hackneyed Sack
    February 1, 2009

    I’m continually and darkly amused that the church officials don’t publicly frown on athletes praying to win due to the unsightliness of the logic.

    1. God answers all believers’ prayers.
    2. Players on opposite sides pray for a win.
    3. Only one team wins.
    4. Ergo God must not really answer prayers.

    Asking God for the “inner strength to win” and such only adds a second link to the causal chain, it doesn’t do away with the essential problem of supernatural intervention in competing affairs.

    Of course, the whole thing is a vivid and public demonstration that the believers don’t let logic and reason affect their fantasies. Hence the source of dark amusement.

  105. #105 k9_kaos
    February 1, 2009

    God‘s accomplishments:
    1) Appearing in a grilled-cheese sandwich
    2) The election of George W. Bush in 2000
    3) The New York Giants victory in 2008

  106. #106 Rev. BigDumbChimp
    February 1, 2009

    You forgot wiping out all life on earth except for those on a particular boat.

  107. #107 Bonvoy Hodges
    February 1, 2009

    “Prayer works best if you have
    larger players.”
    –Vince Lombardi

  108. #108 Rick James
    February 1, 2009

    your blog is incredible trite

    “hey, everyone, look at how much i don’t subscribe to popular opinion.”

  109. #109 Hugh M.
    February 1, 2009

    Ha! All that padding, if they really trusted wossname they wouldn’t be needin’ all the frilly bits. Any ‘nana-bender knows that real men play rugby.

  110. #110 Kevin Beck
    February 1, 2009

    Four and a half years ago, the topic of athletes and God was responsible for my discovering that a Minnesota-based nerd hosted a blog he called Pharyngula. Prompted by someone named “Corsair,” PZ linked to a post I had written son a now-defunct blog titled “God cranks into high gear in Athens”:
    ————————————————–
    The Good Lord may appear ambivalent at best when it comes to resolving bloody conflicts around the globe, but His role in abetting the winners of sporting contests continues to expand at an impressive rate, with a slew of athletes thanking Him for their success in the 2004 Games. The nature of these expressions of gratitude for His influence in the medal tallies runs the gamut from token shout-outs from sprinters and distance runners to mindless yammering from pugilists and wrestling aficionados:

    * “This medal today was a gift from God.” — Morocco’s Hicham El Guerrouj, world record holder in the mile and 1500m, after finally striking Olympic gold in his third Games

    * “I feel like saying, ‘Dear God, thank you!’” — Japan’s Mizuki Noguchi after winning the women’s marathon

    * “I believe in God and I believe God saw all my efforts and helped me.” — Belarussian 100m gold medalist Yuliya Nesterenko

    * “God gave me this ability. My speed is definitely a gift from Him, and I run for His glory. Whatever I do, He allows me to do it.” — 18-year-old 200m silver medalist Alyson Felix, quoted in an article in the July/August issue of Today’s Christian

    * “I just feel like God has bestowed on me a talent and a gift, and it?s gotten me this far. Why try to add that extra oomph when God didn?t intend it?” — American 100m silver medalist Lauryn Williams, responding to a reporter who asked her why she doesn’t use steroids

    * “I wanted the medal so much, I thank God.” — women’s 20,000m racewalk winner Athanassia Tsoumeleka of Greece

    * “Thanks God, He blessed me.” — Fani Halkia of Greece, gold medal winner in the women’s 400m intermediate hurdles

    * “I just prayed and left it in God’s hands.” — U.S. 100m hurdles gold medalist Joanna Hayes, referring to the two-hour wait following her triumph and preceding her officially being declared the winner; the delay stemmed from a protest filed by impeded competitor Irina Shevchenko

    * “It was a great race and a lovely year for me. I thank God, for everything that he gave me.” — Australian cyclist Anna Meares after striking gold in the 500m time trial

    * “I thank God for the gift he gave me.” — Russian cyclist Olga Slyusareva after winning the gold medal in the women’s points race

    * “Jim Gruenwald wrestles not only the best in the world but the best in the spiritual world. … [He] wrestles for the USA and for Jesus Christ.” — sports chaplain Tony Silengo, a friend of the extremely devout 60-kg. Greco-Roman wrestler Gruenwald, who was defeated by Romanian Eusebiu Iancu Diaconu in his second match of the Games

    * “I’m fearless because I’ve got God on my side. It won’t be easy, but I believe in the end God will see me through, victorious…[Russian Evgeny] Makarenko is really strong but I just kept asking God to help me win…I felt like a twentieth century David up against Goliath today, but God has given me the strength to beat Makarenko and now I want to win the gold medal.” — light heavyweight boxer Andre Ward of the U.S. before and after the quarterfinal bout in which he bested the heavily favored Makarenko

    * “I thank God for giving us the strength not to be quitters.” — U.S. boxing coach Basheer Abdullah, suggesting anew that God endorses bloodsport

    * “I thank God who helped live what I am living.” — gymnast Dimosthenis Tampakos of Greece after winning the gold medal on the rings

    * “We were all really motivated to beat [Ethiopian-turned-Turk Elvan Abeylegesse, the 5,000m world record holder] because she said she would beat us before the race. It was a very tough race, but with God’s help, I was able to win.” — Ethiopian 5,000m gold medalist Meserat Defar, who crossed herself as she finished the race, proving that the Man Upstairs eagerly participates in hollow grudge matches

    * “At the beginning of the year I had a lot of health problems, my shoulder was out of joint, but I thank God I was able to come back and win this medal.” — Dmitri Sautin of Russia after winning the bronze medal in three-meter springboard diving

    * “I am going to try and imagine the pain that Christ went through on his way up to Calvary when I am climbing the hill from mile 13 to mile 20. I wish that I could watch the movie ?The Passion of The Christ? one more time, but my Bible will be helpful as I prepare for this task ahead.” — U.S. Olympic Marathoner Dan Browne

    * “I don’t think I’d be able to do this if not for my faith in Christ.” — U.S. Olympic Marathoner Alan Culpepper

    * “I have goals, but God has a plan. Whatever plan He has, whether I finish in first place, third or 12th…I do everything I can to satisfy God. We?re always a winner in His book — regardless of how we do.” — U.S. Olympic Marathoner Mebrahtom Keflezighi

    * “I prayed to God that we could help him, that I would play the best softball I can play.” — pitcher Lisa Fernandez of the gold-medal-winning U.S. softball team, commenting on coach Mike Candrea, whose wife recently died of a brain aneurysm

    Granted, tossing Fernandez’ heartfelt statement about her coach’s late wife in with the likes of Silengo’s blathering is probably off-base at best and mean-spirited at worst. Nonetheless, a skeptic must wonder what sort of God would knock a deeply loved person off the planet by cursing her with a fatal circulatory defect, then attempt to compensate her grieving husband by handing him an Olympic softball coaching victory weeks later. Any being who has priorities this badly out of whack yet continues earning merit points from people close to the situation obviously has one hell of a PR department.

    Also, given the nature of the Athens marathon course and the likelihood of 95-degree heat, it’s not surprising to hear America’s entrants attempting to marshal every possible positive force in advance of lining up on Sunday.

    Of course, being grateful in victory is one thing, but thanking God after a subpar outcome is another. Still, although it’s rare to hear people who finish out of the medals thank God merely for the opportunity to take part in the most exclusive athletic gathering in the solar system, it’s not unheard of. 400m silver medalist Otis Harris of the U.S. is an exception to the only-winners-look-to-the-heavens rule, sort of: “I wanted the gold, but it’s a blessing from God and a real privilege just to be in this race…I just feel so blessed that God allowed me to do this.” Color me cynical, but would Harris have felt the same had he pulled a hamstring in the homestretch?

    Then there was this tidbit from Iraqi soccer coach Adnan Hamad after his team’s semifinal loss to Paraguay: “It was the will of God. We had lots of chances, but it did not happen for us.”

    Also, not every athlete’s nod to God makes it into the papers. For example, thanks shot His way by athletes who unaccountably pass doping tests never come to light, but you can bet such thanks are being fervently if silently offered. And speaking of drug tests, you have to admire Leonidis Sampanis for his staunch insistence on the role of the supernatural in both his recent glory and his even more recent gutting. Shortly after calling his bronze medal in weightlifting “a gift from God,” the five-time world champion tested positive for a banned substance, at which point he said, “I swear to God, my children, my two little angels, that I never took anything.” (At the time of this writing, rumors of a positive sample from Nesterenko were swirling around the Internet.)

    Some athletes are in fact consistent, invoking the Big Guy in low times as well as high. After longtime U.S. superstar Gail Devers crashed out of the 100m hurdles in what was likely her final Olympic race, she had this to say: “I’m nowhere near being a failure because what God has blessed me with is endurance and mental strength.”

    Fair enough; for obvious reasons, I put a lot more stock in the faith of someone who doesn’t waver with objective outcomes. But for Christ’s sweet sake, can’t people accept the fact that our maker is far too busy curing AIDS and cancer, maintaining world order, and punishing blasphemers to give a good Goddamn about a bunch of people trying to outrun, outlift, outpedal, outpunch and outgrapple one another?

    According to most Christians, prayer is not intended to effect outcomes, but maybe this doesn’t apply to Hindus. In Kerala state, India, masses have been offered repeatedly so that supporters can gather to pray for long jumper Anju Bobby George’s victory. Someone should tell the Keralans that keeping this stuff in-house may be sufficient: Before sweeping the 400m, Americans Jeremy Wariner, Harris, and Derrick Brew knelt in prayer together near the starting line. (I’m sure plenty of losers pray like crazy mere moments before choking, collapsing, or otherwise cratering in the worst way, but this kind of drolly inspiring stuff always goes unreported.)

    Finally, we occasionally hear Godspeak from athletes who openly classify themselves as nonbelievers yet feel compelled to hedge their spiritual bets in the spirit of Pascal’s Wager. From British long jumper Jade Johnson after she narrowly qualified for the final: “The only thing I can say is ‘thank God’ – and I am not religious.”

    I have to think that if there were really a God who cared about any of this, synchronized swimming would have been abolished from the Games in its infancy and there would be well over a thousand women playing beach volleyball around the clock in Athens.

  111. #111 Peter Ashby
    February 1, 2009

    Kind of like runner’s high, I suppose, though I’ve run my ass off for years and never felt anything but tired

    It’s not a wizz bang hey wow! man! moment you know. I get it around 40min of running which is about standard. It’s like a third wind, gradually the running will get a little easier, you’ll forget about that niggle in your calf and the developing blister on your heel you can hardly feel. It’s what gets you from 40min to 100min and home still feeling like you could keep going if you had to. It’s that feeling of elation and wellbeing you get after that hour and a half despite also feeling tired. It’s why when you take your sock off that big ass blister on your heel that will make you swear and curse tomorrow was only a minor irritation.

    The effect is bigger the more you induce it, so you have to run long quite often. But mostly people notice it when they’re injured, that irritable scratchiness at not being able to run but wanting to is a withdrawal symptom.

    Anyway dragging this back to football, who needs the superbowl? Super 14 rugby starts again on Feb13! Welcome to the House of Pain . . .

  112. #112 Jabster
    February 1, 2009

    @Scott #101

    ‘Apparently, the “world” in World Series came from the name of a newspaper, “The (something) World”, that first started the event. I say apparently, because I got that second hand.’

    Your instincts are right it doesn’t come from there at all.

  113. #113 Tony Sidaway
    February 1, 2009

    Superbowl, Superbowl, rings a bell. Let me think.

    Oh hang on, I remember now!

    That’s the random celebration where millions of families pack into their living rooms and simulate shock at the sight of a pastie-covered female nipple?

    I guess you have to do something to keep entertained between now and Easter, but goodness, that has always sounded rather lame.

  114. #114 Richard Harris
    February 1, 2009

    Grolby @ # 77 Still, even football must take a back seat to the Queen of Sports, cycling. There is nothing in the world so beautiful and engaging as a hard Spring Classic bicycle race.

    Yeahhhh! Right on.

    Cycling has a reputation for drugs use. I’ve never seen any sign of drugs use at my level of the sport, nor have I ever seen anyone invoking theistic support – but my experience is restricted to the UK & Canada. I now compete (if it can be called that) as a super veteran, just at club level.

    But I wonder; if it’s necessary to have WADA to deal with drugs cheats, what about dealing with god cheats? Sure, we don’t give any credence to the idea of any putative gods assisting athletes, but the godbotherers, depending upon theological arguments, might believe so. So there is the distinct possibility of a psychosomatic benefit not available to atheists & agnostics. This clearly is not fair.

    The practice of some athletes in petitioning their god for unfair help should be banned. And the believers should be the ones to enforce such a ban. All we have to do is point this unfairness out to them.

  115. #115 blf
    February 1, 2009

    [D]ragging this back to [proper] football, who needs the superbowl? Super 14 rugby starts again on Feb13! Welcome to the House of Pain ?

    More importantly ;-) The Six Nations starts next Saturday, 7-Feb.

  116. #116 Ka
    February 1, 2009

    @ # 64, # 68, # 70
    Besides, God does intervene directly in soccer games.

  117. #117 Walton
    February 1, 2009

    I agree that it’s silly to assert that God is on either team’s “side” in a sports match.

    However, I don’t necessarily agree with the wider proposition that it’s foolish for religious people to thank God for any human success. While many human successes are the result of people’s hard work and abilities, most also contain a sizeable element of sheer luck. If someone achieves something great – whether it be an Olympic gold medal, building houses for the homeless, discovering the cure for a disease or preventing a horrific war – they will have put in a hell of a lot of hard work, but they will also have benefited from luck at various stages. Even the hardest-working athlete can be ill on the day of the big event. Even the most brilliant and dedicated scientist relies on luck at times; how many great discoveries stemmed from pure chance (e.g. Fleming’s discovery of penicillin)? For religious people, this kind of good fortune comes from God.

    This isn’t, of course, necessarily the case; God quite possibly doesn’t exist, and if He does, there’s no reason to assume that He is benevolent (since luck also operates to cause great undeserved misfortune to any number of people). But I’m just saying that it isn’t, IMO, intellectually incoherent to thank God, if one believes in God, for one’s successes and the successes of others.

  118. #118 Lycosid
    February 1, 2009

    God can suck it, Ares is a Steelers fan!

  119. #119 firemancarl
    February 1, 2009

    I am huge sports fan. I am a loyal Green Bay Packers fan. That team seems to have its fair share of godbots. I too have never been able to understand why each player thinks that god is wanting his team to win, and why they don’t blame god every time they screw up.

    I am rooting for the Cardinals today. I hate Pittsburgh, and I think I would like to see a Cardinals victory dedicated to Pat Tillman.

  120. #120 TrevUK
    February 1, 2009

    “As for football, they aren’t called world champions, though you’d never find a team outside the US that could beat them.”

    After the game, I bet at least one announcer or official will use the term World Champion (Cardinals or Steelers). There’ll probably be a big sign proclaiming it too. Every year, the winners of the NBA are referred to by the announcers as the World Champion (Celtics / Lakers/ whoever).

  121. #121 Fred Mounts
    February 1, 2009

    I’m fine with people who enjoy sports, and those who don’t. However, either extreme gets a bit annoying: those who are fanatical, and those who act as if all sports fans are mouth-breathing idiots. There is a nice middle ground.

    I’m hoping that God sees fit to break Kurt Warner’s leg. Sanctimonious bastard (apply to God or Warner as desired).

  122. #122 Ami Silberman
    February 1, 2009

    Well, according to “Towing Jehovah” by James Morrow, God is (or was) a big Yankee’s fan.

  123. #123 JimC
    February 1, 2009

    Huge Steelers fan here and a lover of sports in general.

    One can enjoy science and sports. No need to stereotype.

    Go Steelers!

  124. #124 (((Billy))) The Atheist
    February 1, 2009

    Chappie, at “An Apostate’s Chapel,” has a wonderful, though slightly different take on sporting religiousity. Take a look. It’s worth it -> http://thechapel.wordpress.com/2009/01/09/gang-signs/

  125. #125 Matt Heath
    February 1, 2009

    But I’m just saying that it isn’t, IMO, intellectually incoherent to thank God, if one believes in God, for one’s successes and the successes of others.

    It is incoherent if they don’t also curse the bastard for their failures.

  126. #126 Mrs Tilton
    February 1, 2009

    God doesn’t give a rat’s arse about the Super Bowl. She’s saving her enthusiasm for the Six Nations.

    And in that tournament she will demonstrate her impotence and irrelevance by rooting strongly for Ireland. (I’ll be demonstrating my own the same way.)

  127. #127 Mrs Tilton
    February 1, 2009

    David @37,

    National anthems are supposed to be sung at international games, where each team represents a country

    Speaking of rugby, the anthem thing can get a bit complicated…

  128. #128 blf
    February 1, 2009

    Mrs T., so that means there’re at least two people rooting for Ireland (on this blog). We have them other barstuds outnumbered!?

    But I’d love to see Italy put one over on England at Twickenham. That would absolutely make my day. It would continue to do so, probably, even if Italy were to do the wrong thing and beat Ireland (sadly?unless yer Italian?possible?).

  129. #129 KI
    February 1, 2009

    The indifferent god cares not for silly ballgames. NASCAR, however…

  130. #130 Carlie
    February 1, 2009

    We are watching the Puppy Bowl today. Is there another game everyone’s talking about?

  131. #131 Al
    February 1, 2009

    Really annoys me when sports stars do this.
    Lewis Hamilton, current Formula 1 world champion, is another one of these.
    In the press conference following a race he won in the last year (Chinese grand prix I think it was) he said:
    “Well God was with us today, as he always is.”
    And I immediately developed an overwhelming desire to slap the smug, arrogant moron about the face.
    Apparently he is the chosen on, spreading the word of God using the time-honoured method of driving round in circles really quickly.

  132. #132 Sherry
    February 1, 2009

    Sometimes the Jesus people do some really funny things when they think they are advertising their humbleness.

    One of the best was when a pro snowboarder on tv thought he was pointing to his Jesus sticker, while he was actually pointing to the sticker for Stihl Saws. I’m sure his Stihl saws sponsor was pleased!

    Many of the pros in skiing and snowboarding came to their religion from 10 step programs. They often smoke like chimneys though. Guess that’ll get them to heaven faster.

  133. #133 Sherry
    February 1, 2009

    One more thing — my daughter is a competitive snowboarder. Her coach told her to keep her atheism low key. Sponsors don’t mind the Jesus stickers, but they are afraid of atheism.

  134. #134 Desert Son
    February 1, 2009

    Sherry at #133:

    Sponsors don’t mind the Jesus stickers, but they are afraid of atheism.

    Demonstrating once again the One True Religion for businesses: The Market Share.

    Once demographics indicate enough atheist population to generate significant revenue, that fear will go away, at least for businesses.

    Until then, they’ll continue to live in fear of irate letters threatening cessation of sales in the name of The Blessed Jaysus!(tm) (or similar mythological figure).

    No kings,

    Robert

  135. #135 Tony Sidaway
    February 1, 2009

    I just realised, you get the Super Bowl and we get David Attenborough.

    http://bit.ly/D7Io8

    I’m fine with that.

  136. #136 Thom
    February 1, 2009

    If Jesus played football he would be a WR….

    but he would drop every pass because he has holes in his hands

  137. #137 ajay
    February 2, 2009

    There are always these showboating athletes who piously announce that their greatest triumphs are due to divine intervention (strangely, when they fumble, they don’t afterwards shake their fists at the heavens and curse their gods).

    Or, better still, taunt the opposing side after a touchdown: “HA! WHERE IS YOUR GOD NOW?”

  138. #138 Ranson
    February 2, 2009

    I did notice, at least in the early postgame interviews, there wasn’t a lot of god-bothering. A few people threw around the word “blessed”, but it was usually in reference to working with the team.

    The only seriously religious guy I know of on the Steelers is Polamalu, who prays before and after every single play. However, he does it silently and quickly, and never bugs anyone else with it, that I can tell. I didn’t even see him mention religion last night. Warner getting the humanitarian award didn’t bug me much, as he did genuinely help the community (and his projects, from the description, dwarfed those of the other finalists). Not a bad night for a secular game, after all.

  139. #139 Rev. BigDumbChimp
    February 2, 2009

    The only seriously religious guy I know of on the Steelers is Polamalu,

    Rothlesberger is a huge Jesus freak.

    I think he used to have WWJD (or something similar) written in pen on his cleats for every game.

  140. #140 Jim A
    February 2, 2009

    ISTM that it’s kind of like those “do not talk to the driver while bus in motion,” stickers. God would seem to have alot of more important things occupying his attention. It would be one thing if he was doing a great at everything else, but the bus of creation careening from tidal waves to infant mortality to starvation and disease, maybe we should blame all these atheleats for distracting him.

    But it was a surprisingly good game, down to the last play and all.

  141. #141 Jim A
    February 2, 2009

    nb Allthough I didn’t see much of my former neighbor Nils when Bruce was playing

  142. #142 Bill Dauphin
    February 2, 2009

    Sherry:

    Although I will not watch the game, I would like to see the Cardinals win because they were Pat[ Tillman]‘s team.

    I confess to being a bit conflicted about Tillman’s story. It’s impossible to question his personal courage, and my heart goes out to his surviving loved ones… and in any case, I have an instinctive reluctance to speak ill of the dead. That said, though, here’s a guy who left a perfectly respectable career (Aside No. 1: I count professional sports as part of the entertainment industry, and IMHO entertainment is honest, socially useful work, even if entertainers are arguably a bit overpaid) to volunteer in support of a colossally immoral foreign policy (Aside No. 2: I believe some sort of military action in Afghanistan, where Tillman died, was arguably morally justifiable… but the larger foreign policy of which the Afghanistan action was part was not… and in any case, Tillman served in Iraq as well)… during which service he was killed by so-called “friendly” fire (Aside No. 3: I don’t pretend to know where his death belongs on the continuum that stretches from incompetent Charlie-Foxtrot to evil government conspircacy, but in any case the manner of his death seems to fall short of heroic)… after which his death was cynically used to pump up the aforementioned immoral foreign policy, even at the cost of cruelly deceiving his bereaved family.

    I’m broadly supportive of our men and women in the military (including my brother-in-law, who’s a career infantry officer and served a couple tours in Iraq), but my admiration for those who knowingly volunteered specifically to support W’s warmongering is not unmixed. Probably Tillman was just another victim, a good and brave man taken in by the administration’s leveraging of post-9/11 fear to achieve its fell designs… but I’m at a loss to know what about his story is a cause for patriotic celebration.

    YMMV, of course.

  143. #143 Randy
    February 2, 2009

    It’s a well-known fact that the winner of every sporting event is chosen by Gawd solely for their pre-game prayer.

    http://deusexeverriculum.wordpress.com/2009/01/28/dear-covenant-school-of-dallas/

  144. #144 heddle
    February 2, 2009

    Sven,

    We Da City!

  145. #145 Sven DiMilo
    February 2, 2009

    heddle, I never doubted. Well, since like Week 8 or so. And except for a moment late in the fourth quarter yesterday. Unfortunately I was unable to find a local retailer with IC in stock, so I settled for Rolling Rock, only to learn that they brew that stuff in St. Louis now! Very disappointing.
    But a well-deserved finish to a great game and a fun season. Dan Rooney is my hero. #7??

  146. #146 Rev. BigDumbChimp
    February 2, 2009

    NERDS!!!

  147. #147 Neil B ?
    February 2, 2009

    BTW I point out that both heddle and I have special reason to be proud of this Super Bowl win by the Steelers. Their Coach Mike Tomlin is the youngest to win a Super Bowl (and black, need I remind those who worry about white domination of the upper levels), but also from Denbigh High School right here in Newport News where we both live and work (most of the time at least).

    It’s good to put aside the perpetual ranting arguments about God and whatever for awhile for the sake of celebrating something else …

    PS: Wikipedia says officially spaced words FWIW.

  148. #148 Bill Dauphin
    February 2, 2009

    Bill Brown (@51):

    There are penalties for excessive celebrations after a score but apparently going to your knees to thank god is OK…. So– god OK,snow angel not OK.

    Yeah, that’s always bugged me. FSM forbid that any of these people who are being paid millions of dollars to entertain us should ever look like they’re actually having fun! Whatever would the children think?

    IMHO, any celebration that doesn’t include active, specific taunting of the opponents should be not only permitted but encouraged. Call it delay of game if it goes on too long, perhaps… but punishing celebration per se sends (again, IMHO) precisely the wrong message to impressionable viewers. I, for one, want my daughter to take whatever joy she can from life, including especially when she does something well. What virtue is there in acting like success is unimportant?

    Denis Loubet (@75):

    The thing I find odd is that no one seems to realize that if prayers really do prompt a supernatural being to fix a sports game, THAT’S CHEATING!

    No, you misunderstand: The game you see on TV is just the shadow on the wall of the cave; the true Platonic form of the contest — and, I might add of Life as We Know It™ — is all about who can pray harder and better curry favor with Almighty Dog. Getting the Lawd on your side isn’t cheating; it’s the very essence of the game.

    Ranson (@81):

    very few people really seem to be aware that [Tillman] was an atheist

    …or at least an agnostic. I confess I didn’t know that ’til I Googled him before writing my comment @142. Apparently there’s also some reason to believe that he was anti-war, as well, and thought the invasion was illegal. If true, these points make Tillman’s enlistment even more puzzling to me. This is not a John Kerry story of a soldier coming home having learned to hate the war, nor an
    Al Gore story of feeling obligated by both law and duty to family (and to those who would be drafted in his place, were he to evade the draft): This is a guy who, under neither legal nor financial compulsion, freely chose to volunteer during the run-up to an invasion he (apparently) believed to be illegal, and then returned for additional tours of duty, again of his own free will. Further, as an atheist, how did he justify supporting (ultimately with is very life) a war that was clearly based at least in part on theistic conflict?

    Wouldn’t he have been better off to stay in the NFL and use his celebrity to speak out against the war? Things being as they are, rather than as they should be, he might well have been fragged by his (NFL) teammates if he had, but at least that would’ve served a purpose he believed in, instead of being fodder for the W administration’s jingoistic PR machine.

    As I said before, I don’t like to speak ill of the dead… but the whole Tillman story has struck me as unfortunate (at best) since the first day I heard he was planning to enlist.

    Tony (@113):

    simulate shock at the sight of a pastie-covered female nipple?

    That was a pasty? Now I am shocked… and outraged! I want real nipples, dammit!

  149. #149 Josh
    February 2, 2009

    If the Cards had won, Kurt Warner would have gotten plenty of G*d in there. The man can’t take a step (or put grocery’s in your bag) without thanking G*d.

    However, look up Tim Tebow. Dude spent his college summer in the Philipines doing missionary work. Circumcisions (sp?) for kids. I am not joking.

  150. #150 Greg Peterson
    February 2, 2009

    Pteryxx, interesting thing about that coin toss–for the 12th time in a row, the NFC won it. The odds of that are, as I understand it, about 4,000 to 1. So I think for me the real question the game started with–since something so improbable must be by design–why does Baby Jesus hate the AFC so very much?

  151. #151 Sherry
    February 2, 2009

    “Boots on the Ground by Dusk” by Mary Tillman
    Quick read, but not an easy one.

    As an atheist who served ten years in the USAF, I just want to say that patriotism and reasons to be part of the military are complex. And just like parenthood, there is nothing else like it.

  152. #152 Paul Lundgren
    February 2, 2009

    For the first time, though, I’m encountering media articles that are critical of these god-wallopers.

    It’s rare enough, but not exactly new. The best instance I know of personally was a column Rick Reilly wrote back in the 90s taking the New York Giants to task for having a team prayer on the sidelines in the Super Bowl with the game on the line and the OPPOSING team’s place kicker lining up with time expiring. Praying for someone to miss is without class and Reilly called them out on it.

  153. #153 Sherry
    February 3, 2009

    The Book of Revelation, numerology and the Superbowl all in one blathering blog:

    http://parablesblog.blogspot.com/2009/02/super-bowl-43-parable-of-church.html

  154. #154 hery
    January 25, 2010

    This was just before the selectors dropped him, due to a run of poor form