Idol Chatter

What’s the deal with the networks not wanting to show prayers on sports television? What is so bad about athletes trusting in–or at least pursuing–God?

After each game, when the fans are filing out of the stadium and the networks are switching to other games, players and coaches from both teams gather near midfield to pray together. Many of these players participate quietly in pre-game chapel services and the teams also have chaplains sponsored by local churches or Athletes in Action, a highly regarded national sports ministry.

The player-initiated tradition after the game is a wonderful sign of unity and faith, and it’s a reminder every Sunday that there are human beings and spiritual seekers underneath all those helmets and pads.

It’s really quite a sight, and if you don’t go to football games live at the stadium you’ll never even know what you’re missing. Why? Because the networks don’t show it. In fact, they go to great pains not to show it. Often, the cameramen will stand almost back-to-back against the circle of prayer in order to hide the group from the background of an on-field interview. Last night, the cameraman angled and zoomed in on Thomas Jones’ (Bears’ running back) head so that the prayer circle several yards behind him was hidden.

For years we’ve seen players acknowledging God after they score a touchdown or make a great play. According to the Christian Science Monitor, former Philadelphia Eagle Herb Lusk is believed to have been the first to kneel on the field after a touchdown. He did it in 1977. There are skeptics though, too. I’ve talked to several ex-NFL players who think a lot of the post-TD prayers are as much superstition as anything else. “Doug, you gotta understand,” one of them told me, “players will try anything if they think it’ll give them an edge in the game.”

But the post-game prayer is more than just a superstitious gesture after a touchdown–it’s an authentic attempt by players to reflect spiritually after having worked physically, mentally and emotionally all week long.

I guess the only real positive about the lack of coverage is that we know that the players aren’t doing it for show. But it’s a great tradition and a good piece of role modeling for kids and young athletes who watch the game, and I wish they’d show it more on TV.

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