Heaven Help Us

When watching sports, is God a passive observer or a meddler?

While God's blueprint can be fuzzy, one thing is perfectly clear: Today's athletes are more expressive, and especially concerning their religion. Mainstream society has recently become snuggle buddies with morality, censoring edgy Super Bowl halftimes and green-lighting FCC fines aimed at muzzling Howard Stern while amplifying David Stern. So too, at least outwardly, are our sports stars finding the end zone of religion, evidenced by demonstrative gestures skyward and post-game, midfield prayer circles.

"I'm not sure today's athletes are more religious," says Summerall, the longtime voice of the NFL who dubbed his Southlake home "Amazin' Grace." "But I'm quite certain they're more vocal about being religious."

Is God a face-painting, pizza-munching patron with no more effect on a game than a rabbit's foot? A hands-on puppeteer writing scripts by rooting for a particular team in a particular game? Or are sports a spiritually suspect quest, too trivial for the universe's reverent referee to rule on?

Legendary University of Texas football coach Darrell Royal, a saint in a state where football often dwarfs religion, leaned toward a separation of God and gridiron by rarely leading his team in prayer.

"Because," reasons Royal, "I'm pretty sure the Lord is neutral about things like football."

Despite all our attempts to integrate entities, it seems likely that God is consumed with final judgments, not final scores.

And that, in the end, Rodriguez's third-inning single to right field was probably less answered prayer that elevated sports to a level of cosmic significance, and more man-made achievement that got lost in the Tigers' six-homer shellacking of Dickey.

Joked Summerall, "Let's hope God has better things to do."

In Jesus' name we play, amen.

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