Date: Thursday, January 29, 2004
Place: Pat O'Brien's, New Orleans, La.
In 1999, I was granted an exclusive Beliefnet interview with God. The terms were His: We'd discuss only professional football-His newfound passion. We met at a New York sports bar on a Sunday, pigskin's holy day, and He limited our interview to the halftime during a Giants' game. God told me He didn't know anything about football until the massive recent increase in athlete's prayers-for everything from pleas to heal injuries and increase salaries to thanks for playoff berths and Super Bowl victories. He had to see what all the hoopla was about, and from His first game on, the Lord was hooked.
Four years later, I managed to track God down again for an update. He told me I could find Him in New Orleans. We met last night in the glow of the giant-screen TV in the main bar at Pat O'Brien's, the legendary French Quarter bar on St. Peter Street where the motto since 1933 has been "Have Fun!" The same rules applied; all talk had to relate to football.
So God, it doesn't seem like your love for football has abated since we last met.
No way. I've also gotten kind of crazy about hoops, baseball, wrestling, and NASCAR. The NFL is a "gateway" drug.
Does that mean you've intervened in any big games?
Oh, I helped the Pats with that playoff game against the Raiders back in 2002. You don't think Adam Vinatieri can hit a 45-yard field goal in the middle of a blizzard with just his foot, do you?
I suspected you on that one.
But that was it. After that game, I stopped helping teams win. I no longer answer athletes' prayers.
Oh come on. What about when the Eagles kicker was getting set to kick the winning field goal against Green Bay a couple weeks ago, and the camera caught Philly's quarterback Donovan McNabb praying? They won. That had to be you!
Nope. When McNabb got down on his knee and bowed his head, I covered my ears and went "blah-blah-blah-blah."
For one thing, I got tired of those guys sticking a finger in my face all the time. Take that Panthers kicker John Kasay and their defensive back, Mike Minter. They make a good play, and up go the fingers to thank heaven. Minter even wears gloves with Bible verses written on them.
For another, it spoils the fun of betting.
Betting? You're betting on games?
Sure. Gambling has added a whole new thrill to the sport for me. I bet for the first time on the Sugar Bowl. I won big with the Tigers.
But who would bet against God on a football game?
Satan. He liked the Sooners, and I said LSU would wipe the field with them and win by seven. He said, "You're on." I agreed not to interfere, and LSU won 21-14. Satan was such a sore loser, he made all the LSU fans spin their heads and projectile vomit like the girl in "The Exorcist." Not that anyone noticed in the French Quarter.
Let me get a handle on this. You gamble with Lucifer? Isn't gambling supposed to be immoral?
Not when it's a cosmic battle between Good and Evil. Haven't you ever read the book of Job? You know, I bragged to Satan about Job's piety. He said, "No way, he's just pious because you've blessed him." We made a little wager, and then put Job through every living hell imaginable. But Job passed the test without any help from me, and Satan ate crow.
Weren't you tempted to bet on LSU, and then create a few 'lucky bounces' for them?
Nah. Credibility issue. Look what happened to Pete Rose.
What about the players who get stopped for a sound bite on the way off the field and thank you for the win? You're making liars out of them.
They should thank the company that made their steroids.
Do you at least still shape team personnel? You admitted in our last interview that you told Reggie White to retire from the Packers, just like he said. Then two days later you told him you'd changed your mind and wanted him to stay on for another season. Were you behind Roger Clemens leaving the Yankees and then unretiring?
No, I like George Steinbrenner too much to do that. He's always offering me advice up here. We've gotten kind of close.
So, you and the Evil One are placing bets on Super Sunday?
Definitely. We both like the Patriots, so it may have to come down to the point spread.
What's at stake?
The loser spends two weeks in Houston. It'll be hell for him.