Super Bowl Week – which is really two weeks of hype, created controversy, Richard Sherman bashing, Richard Sherman supporting, “What-if?” questions, projected legacies, weather analysis and a time intended to create as much buy-in for people to want to watch the big game. As football fans, we find so much of this unnecessary as we are already invested into the season and want to see who wins. Non-football fans, I just feel pity for them.
But with every big event, we often like to wonder where God’s interests are. One reason is because we presume that God only watches the station “America” on His heavenly flat screen. I’ll move past our “American God complex” and continue on under the “God is everywhere and a lover of all his children throughout the world and so we can safely assume He cares on some level” deal. This allows me to continue thinking what does God think of the Super Bowl?
It’s often been asked what does God do when two opposing teams offer prayers of victory? Is this how upsets are determined? In some games it makes great sense like in Super Bowl XLII when the Giants ruined the perfect season of the Patriots. To many intelligent spiritually-minded people, it’s perfectly logical that God would send His angels to help Eli Manning escape the collapsing pocket and throwing a pass of desperation to David Tyree who fought off Rodney Harrison and the forces of darkness to make one of the greatest plays in Super Bowl history affectionally called the “Helmet Catch” (link for video!). This of course kept the drive alive that resulted in Eli connecting with Plaxico Burress for the winning touchdown. And just as God preferred Able over Cain and Jacob over Esau, we saw Him choose Eli over Tom. Oh and we saw something like this again in Super Bowl XLVI.
But was that really God’s divine intervention? As much as I enjoy having fun with this idea, even as a Giants fan, I see this as simply as amazing athleticism performed at a world-class level and therefore anything can happen. So what happens to all those prayers being offered to God before kick-off? We see these pictures of 250lb. warrior men with painted faces and tattoo sleeves holding hands, kneeling in prayer, many with tears in their eyes. When football players says “Football is life!” I take it to mean, “The struggle, the competition, the planning, the executing, the cheering, the criticism, the pain, the joy all attached is a microcosm of life.” Who wants to say all that so it’s much easier to say, “Football is life.”
So about those prayers? Some are for safety while others are about conduct, their performance, and all the things connected to life. What you don’t know is that marketing executives gather in their board rooms and “commercial creators“ gather in their studios and join hands and pray their advertising will produce amazing sales quarters and that their commercials will go viral or better, create a controversy. And this will lead to amazing sales quarters! For some, this is life.
I’m a pastor and as a man who is dedicated to praying that God will be glorified and the people of the world be blessed, I sit watching the game hoping there will be enough Doritos and that the refs won’t screw it up. Oh and if I don’t have to explain why Beyoncé dresses and dances like that to my 4 year old, that would be great too but I know that football was never intended to be appropriate family viewing which is why my children will be playing quarantined in another room with knives and matches this Sunday night.
So who does God cheer for? Is it possible that in God’s eyes this is the American version of the Tower of Babel? Complete with all our best performers, all our latest technology, the full attention of our nation, aimed at reaching the heavens and giving joy to the masses – does all this represent our greatest accomplishments?
Does God look at this and see everything that is wrong with our society? Does He see our pride, vanity, and our selfish moments? Does He see this game as a metaphor for our propensity for violence? Does He see the women and boys who are being trafficked and grow in anger as He watches those who consume and profit?
While pieces of this may be true, I imagine God cheers for all of us. Not just those on the field and sidelines but everyone watching and not watching. I believe this because I believe God is good and He does not need a special occasion to love us even more. It may be heretical but I don’t think God hates football, I think He likes it but probably for a different reason than you might think.
I bet you God will be tuned in and inviting people over. He’s hoping for a great finish too and He’s also hoping there are enough Doritos and that He doesn’t have to explain “twerking” and “wardrobe malfunctions” to the angels. I like to think that even God gets a little excited on “4th and inches” as the playclock counts down to zero and the ball is snapped a split-second before. I like to think the thrill we get from the completed Hail Mary or the pit in our stomach from a turnover is part of the humanity that God breathed into us. As a preacher, I am spiritually contracted to say something like, “To God, everyday is Super Bowl Sunday!” and then take an offering but I’m afraid my mediocrity has caught up with me today and I’m not living up to the deal. Oh and I’ve misplaced the plates.
And so, I find myself ending with this. For better or worse, the Super Bowl is one particular microcosm of the way we live. And if our view of God confines Him to being threatened by this microcosm of sports then somewhere along the line we have distorted Him into being a divine ogre. Instead, as we gather with family and friends, enjoy world-class athleticism, laugh at goofy commercials, cringe in the awkward moments, and celebrate the many beautiful moments represented, let us remember that this is a microcosm of life and that God loves this microcosm and desires to bring all that is contained in this microcosm and all that is beyond it to redemption.