Idol Chatter

In his book “Season to Season,” Joseph L. Price declares, that for Americans, “sports constitute a form of popular religion.” And while it can be argued that sporting spirituality is just as strong across the pond, there is perhaps no better exemplar in America than Super Bowl Sunday, with its religious holiday-like reverence, fervent prayers, and last-minute “Hail Mary” passes.

Even Norman Vincent Peale, pastor and Positive Thinker, is said to have remarked, “If Jesus were alive today, he would be at the Super Bowl.” From Guideposts to goal posts, eh, Norman?

But, religion and sports have been intertwined for millennia. One just needs to look at the upcoming Olympic Games in Torino, Italy. Originally, one of the four ancient Panhellenic games, the Olympic games were held in honor of Zeus, ruler of the Greek gods.

Still to this day, large crowds gather in arenas to honor their god. The most striking example of this modern-day incarnation is the Christ-centered men’s ministry The Promise Keepers, which holds its conferences in sports arenas. Co-founded by Bill McCartney, the former coach of the University of Colorado football team who came to be known as “Coach,” Promise Keepers was the perfect marriage of religious fervor and sports fanaticism when it came on the scene in 1990. More recently, extreme sports festivals for Christ have been popping up around the nation.

In recent years, churches around the nation have stopped competing with the Big Game for attendance and have started throwing Super Bowl related events, including Super Bowl services, where television pre-empts the pulpit while jersey-clad parishioners cheer from the pews. Other communities of faith partake in The Souper Bowl of Caring, wherein church members donate one dollar on Super Bowl Sunday to local charities.

“The contemporary tendency to connect athletic success and divine favor–or simply to blend the spirit of sporting competition with the fervor of evangelical piety–suggests that the convergence of sports and religion involves a kind of denigration of one or both, the profanation of the sacred or the diminution of sporting competition,” notes Price. “However, the process of their modern mixing perhaps represents a reintegration of two sorts of ritual rather than a profanation of sacred rites.”

Think about that as you watch the Seahawks’ Northwestern Totem-inspired helmet running down the field…

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