The League

Jim McCormick
Blitz Magazine Publisher

Jim McCormick

The editor and publisher of Blitz Magazine

Does it Matter?

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We've all heard this one before. Will an athlete ever blame God for a loss or a bad play in the same way that God is thanked and praised for a great play? In a cynic's mind, God throws touchdowns, not interceptions.

Has religion always been a prominent element of football or has it become more prevalent in recent years? Or is it that we merely cover the sport that much more intently and intensely as it's grown in popularity? As incalculable as this is, it does seem that over the past decade or so the invoking of God and the post-game prayer circle has become as common as the post-game press conference.

Is there a saturation point for religion in sports, particularly in this most popular game of football? And more importantly, how do you find a definitive connection between faith and football? As in most religious discussions, there are endless open-ended questions. And it's not just the players and teams that have inspired these religious conversations. On both sides of the pond, football -- American or classic -- has been compared to religion. Intense fandom has seen its "parishioners" using sport as a basis of faith, following with intense devotion and adhering to agreed rituals. Churches now compete with stadiums for attendance.

When asked whether there is too much God in football, my answer is yes. For others, there's not enough. And that's how it will always be. Because religion, if you haven't heard, has long been a point of contention amongst the masses. It seems that in the spectrum of faith, that football and in particular NFL players are more apt to be religious than not. So really what we are dealing with is a very successful company that happens to host a large contingent of religious employees.

So if you feel that there is too much God in football, you are essentially saying that there are either too many religious football players or that they are too vocal in their faith, because the league itself has never enunciated a religious stance. At the same time, the league has never asked, at least not publicly, its players to curb their enthusiasm. Many NFL teams have chaplains, so teams themselves recognize the role of faith with their players. It's quite possible that every team has a chaplain, but I couldn't confirm that. In a move that would make certain neighborhoods in Belfast tremor, the Green Bay Packers have both a Catholic and Protestant chaplain.

In some ways the NFL can be perceived as a Christian-friendly company, or at least one that condones a significant contingent of their workforce to be vocally faithful. Fellow panelist Dan Levy touched on this, and it's a salient point to be made, that the league allows the players to freely express their religious agendas. This is especially interesting considering the league is notoriously fixated on controlling the perception of their players. But the role of religion in the game hasn't affected the bottom line and it likely never will, whereas the NFL's problem with criminal conduct has had a considerably negative affect on the league's approval rating. A company like Chick-fil-A, for example, has long been recognized as a powerful entity with an overtly Christian agenda, and it hasn't seemed to have a negative affect on sales or public perception.

It seems, though, that in the end most fans just want their teams to do well and the league itself wants continued growth, and both are somewhat unconcerned about the involvement of religion in the game. Regardless of how people feel about religion entering certain non-secular spaces, they will continue to love chicken sandwiches, and of course, football.

By Jim McCormick  |  February 4, 2009; 2:03 PM ET  | Category:  Arizona Cardinals , Crime , Dan Levy , Emil Steiner , Fans , NFL , Pittsburgh Steelers Save & Share:  Send E-mail   Facebook   Twitter   Digg   Yahoo Buzz   Del.icio.us   StumbleUpon   Technorati  
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