Thursday, May 11, 2006

All Praise to the Invisible Blue Unicorn in the Sky for Helping Me Write This Blog
With few exceptions, the Christian faith of athletes is generally a mile wide and a half-inch deep. Highly proficient athletes live their lives on a ragged edge between success and failure. They often fail more than they succeed, their careers are short, and their grasp on them is often tenuous. Thus, they need every psychological advantage they can get. So, if they can get an advantage by believing that God is taking time out from curing somebody's cancer and finding somebody else's missing daughter to help them hit a critical three-pointer in overtime, they'll take it.

The phenomenon of athletes thanking Jesus for home runs, touchdowns, and championships jumped the shark years ago, but like other things that have jumped the shark (Desperate Housewives and the Bush Administration come to mind), it shows no sign of slowing down. Salon has an interesting article this week about about the prevalence of evangelical Christianity among athletes, especially in professional sports.

Even when I was still nominally a believer in God, those midfield prayer huddles after football games involving both teams seemed off to me--a bit like Pharisees praying on street corners to show how pious they were. The huddles were popularized by Reggie White, the Packers defensive lineman, who was also an ordained minister. But even White, who was widely thought to be the kind of Christian who put most other Christians to shame, seemed superficially religious to people who knew him well. A reporter who has covered the Packers for years and who regularly saw White in unguarded moments once told me that in his opinion, White was the biggest hypocrite he'd ever seen.

Nevertheless, people can believe what they need to believe to get them through the day. I don't care all that much, as long as their beliefs or the consequences of their beliefs don't get up in my grill. The only danger I see in the colonization of sports by fundies is that it makes their sort of religion seem like the norm to young fans who admire pro athletes. Anything else, Judaism, Islam, skepticism, or even keeping your mouth shut about religion, starts to seem abnormal. And in the testosterone-fueled, what-happens-here-stays-here world of the locker room, abnormal is a bad thing to be.

Recommended Reading:
I haven't linked to Mark Morford at SFGate for a while. He's got a good one today, about what it would be like if gasoline went to $6 a gallon, or $10. It's clear that our country is headed for some kind of historic disaster--economic collapse or fascist dictatorship or wartime bloodshed on U.S. soil--and I've been half-wishing that it would just happen already so we can stop the waiting and get on with whatever's next. Morford observes that while $6 or $10 gas would be extremely difficult and disruptive in the short term, after a while, we'd adjust, and life would go on. Granted, it would be easier to adjust to $10 gas than it would be to adjust to 24-hour government surveillance. But we're even getting used to that.

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