Sports and Religion:
An ongoing series by Manny Stiles
A Post Game Statement of Faith
In the biggest moment of his sporting career, on the biggest stage - with the whole world watching – and he paused. Taking a quick moment to close his eyes and quietly reflect upon his steadfastness, his dedication, his hard work. And he quieted his mind and gave thanks to the powers that allowed his arrival here, at this moment, in this place. He stepped up to bat and swung at a pitch –a wicked pitch from the best closer in the game – and ended the most thrilling Game Seven 9th inning in the World Series ever imaginable.
He was a hero. He won the series for his team. He performed a feat that will be recounted on video replays and in the tales of lore for generations. When a post-game interviewer and cameraman trudged through the pile of champagne soaked, raucously celebratory and joyously embracing teammates they found a smiling champion. With a national audience - drunk with disbelieving wonder and disbelief at the preceding events - eagerly attentive to the hero’s words he began to gather his thoughts.
“I want to thank first and most importantly…” and the hero paused to catch his breath and to collect his thoughts. He looked at the interviewer in the eyes and took a deep breath…
“Jim, I want to tell you something. I am a very spiritual person. I have dedicated my faith and my time to my almighty ruler who has blessed me…” the game’s hero started.
The cameraman panned in to capture the essence of the man’s personal convictions. His soul was emanating through the warming glow of television into the living rooms and sports bars of the world.
“Cut to camera three goddamn it!!! Now! Camera THREE!” screamed the program director. The people in the control booth scrambled to follow the stern directions. “I cannot have this Bible-banging Jesus shit on the air. If our sponsors see this, we’re fucked!”
Camera three was a stationary camera showing a panorama of the sporting venue and the crowd that was yet to have dissipated. The voice of the play-by-play commentator explained that there was a “mechanical malfunction” and “we’d be returning to the clubhouse momentarily after some words from our sponsors.” And the TV fell into a round of witless commercials.
Normalcy seemed to win out and a religious man’s message was cut short by a anti-religious sentiment (the almighty dollar) in order to save people from learning the graciousness of a hero’s spirituality.
Back to the clubhouse: The interviewer and game’s hero had no idea they were cut from the air so suddenly. But more importantly, they were not prepared for what was about to happen. Neither was the director.
The hero continued his thankful monlogue.
“…blessed me with the power and knowledge of darkness: That the purpose of life here is purely for us to enable evil. I have embraced that and serve my master completely. Causing suffering is what is best for humanity.” the hero explained to the shock and dumbfounded-ness of the journalist and cameraman.
“I am glad that the Prince of Darkness has empowered me at this time to bring such pain and suffering to an entire region of the country. I have been blessed with more money than I can spend, more women than I can dream of fornicating. I can only thank Satan, my overlord for whom I have sacrificed many animals, defiled many virgins and spilled much sacred blood of innocents.”
The interviewer stood silent. The hero grinned, peered into the interviewer’s eyes with a steely gaze that made the hero’s pupils appear vertically slit as a serpent’s as he waited a moment for the next question. The journalist was in shock, filled with confusion and growing fear and the next question never came.
“Thanks, Jim.” The hero closed the interview and left to celebrate with his beaming teammates who in their celebration had not heard the exclamations made by the hero of the moment.
That was the day the sporting world almost found out that it’s biggest star of the moment and a legend to be remembered for all time was "very religious".
I guess the point of this story is – why should it matter to you or me what someone else’s faith is? I mean, most people who claim to have faith or announce their spiritual dedication are usually the most tremendous sinners too!
Why do WE take offense when someone else declares their preferences that differ from ours? If you don't agree with a person's personal convictions - Don't! You really can live your life without feeling attacked when someone else declares their religiousity.
If any of us were to truly take the cues from our religious mores, we would “love one another” for our differences; not “love one another as long as we agree on the same principles”.
But the word “love” is so confusing in our world. How do we “love”? How many kinds of love are there? (I love my wife, my kids, the color blue, pizza, lazy Saturdays, when the Suns win, etc.). And we use ONE word to describe this prism of expression. Hell, even Eskimos have 29 different words for ‘snow’. We have one word for “love” in the English Language.
Love is a tolerance AND a joy. It really is the essence of the “Golden Rule”. If a sports hero loves Jesus or Satan, his own glorious self or some righteous figure – WHY do we care? Why does it affect US personally?
Sports heroes are no different than any other people when it comes to many facets of existence. They shit, they eat, they love their Moms and apple pie. They deal with the questions of purpose and existence much like many of us do – haphazardly.
It is OUR problem when we attach a level of value to these idols’ ideas and thoughts. We place them at a value greater than “one” – one individual with individual ideals.
We should not support the ability to deny an athlete’s faith and/or pronouncing of that faith when the microphones are on. We shouldn't have to agree, disagree or even listen.
Faith, religion, spirituality - these things are an individual matter. If you have these things in your life, what would YOU gain by denying others to have these things in their life? It's not our jobs to 'right' the world, it is "at best" our jobs to 'right' only OUR world. And that's all an athlete pronouncing their faith feels like they are doing... no matter how haphazardly they may try.
We should not be surprised by anything an athlete says about issues off the field of play any more than we should celebrate our freedom to shove a microphone in any idiot’s face and get an opinion on something other than their famous chosen profession or area of expertise.
Afterall: Would we give a damn about a famous preacher’s detailed thoughts about sports?
Next Episode of Sports and Religion:
When both sides pray for victory.
- Note: the devil-worshipping player that was cut off the airwaves was Luis Gonzalez at the 2001 World Series. How else can you explain his curiously amazing 2001 season?