"Does God care? Evidently, he's cared 16 times, because we won 16 games, and not to say he didn't care the other two times, but maybe he cared enough to allow the other team to win the other two times."
--quarterback Randall Cunningham
Date: Sunday, November 14, 1999. Place: Park Avenue Country Club, a sports bar in Manhattan.
Q: Excuse me--God?
A: The one and only. Are you surprised?
Q: No, no. I guess I just didn't expect to see you--the supreme deity, that "than which nothing greater can be conceived"--dressed in Nikes and a Super Bowl XXXIII sweatshirt.
A: Well, there's a lot people don't know about me. Hang on! [Points to a TV monitor] It's third and 10 with 17 seconds left to the half. The Giants could take the lead . . . C'mon, Big Blue! . . . Gimme a break! I saw great grandmothers cross the Red Sea with more hustle! . . . Anyway. Grab a stool. What you drinking?
Q: Uh, whatever you're having.
A: Bartender! Two more, and easy on the ice this time ... Great place, eh? Two satellite dishes, ten giant screens, fifty TV sets. I can watch all my games, plus I can fire up a stogie and no one complains.
Q: [Waving away smoke] First, Lord, thanks for agreeing to this interview.
A: Sure, just remember what I said. Rule number one: We only talk football. Stick to pigskin, and I'm all yours. Till halftime's over, of course! (Laughs)
Q: Of course. But if I may, why won't you discuss the "big issues"--war, poverty, justice, suffering, the problem of evil . . .
A: Boooring. [Rises and shouts] Hey, anybody want to discuss suffering and the problem of evil? We got ourselves a philosopher over here! [Laughs, sits down] Looks like I'm not the only one who's not biting today, Aristotle.
Q: Right, then. Football it is. When did you become so interested in the NFL?
A: Three, four years ago. That's when I started getting tens of thousands of prayers, every day, from football players. "God, heal my shoulder for next Sunday." "Lord, please, trade me from the Saints, or at least tack another 10 mil on my contract." "God, if you put another 7 points on the board, we promise . . . " Lotsof Faustian stuff. And after a game, an entire team would get on its knees on national television and thank me for the win! And I thought, do these guys really think I care who wins a stupid football game? So I started watching the sport, just for kicks. But you know what? The intensity, the athleticism, the bloodlust, John Madden's commentary--suddenly I understood all the fuss. And now I'm hooked . . . Hey, it's the NASDAQ Halftime Report! Let's see how are my Skins are doing.
A: Aw nuts! Oakland is crushing Miami. Not even I saw that coming . . . Where were we?
Q: Earlier last year, Deion Sanders said, "When it's fourth down, I pray. I'm seeking God's help." He also prays that opposing quarterbacks will throw him the ball. Do you actually intervene in games, say, by giving an athlete a boost of energy or by forcing an interception?
A: Well, I try not to spoil the fun. But, yeah--guilty as charged! Look, I'm like any other fan. I've got my favorites. Difference is, I'm omnipotent. Don't tell me there isn't a Jets fan out there who wouldn't blow a little extra wind behind a Ray Lucas pass--if he could.
Q: How else do you influence the sport?
A: I'm sure you've heard the athletes' testimonies.
Q: Ex-Packer Reggie White told reporters you helped his team win the Super Bowl in 1997. True?
A: [Nodding wistfully] New England didn't have a prayer. Reggie and I sacked Drew Bledsoe three times that day, setting a new Super Bowl record!
Q: Speaking of Reggie White, he once announced that you told him to retire. Then, two days later, he announced you changed your mind and wanted him to return for a final, triumphant season. But then the Packers were painfully defeated in the wild-card playoffs. Did you forsake him?
A: What can I say? Elway and Davis were having a heck of a year, so halfway through the season I decided to go with the Broncos. But don't weep for Reggie--he made a bundle. I take care of my boys.
Q: So, you're a fickle fan?
A: Show me one who isn't.
Q: Back to Deion Sanders for a minute . . .
A: Prime Time! Love the do-rag with "Jesus" written across the front. Love the "Holy Ghost dance" in the end zone. Deion's my man!
Q: I once heard him say in an interview, "That wasn't Deion Sanders you saw score that touchdown today. That was Jesus." Any comment?
A: What do you mean?
Q: Does a 90-yard kickoff return really, as he says, glorify you?
A: What if Deion said, "That wasn't me who scored that touchdown. That was John Spalding." Wouldn't you feel glorified?
Q: I don't know what I'd feel . . .
A: Well, you would if you loved the game. Plus, a touchdown sends a good message to the kids.
Q: Which is what?
A: That football rules. [The Giants return to the field.] Woo-hoo! Let's crunch some bones, boys!