On God and Ray Lewis – Is God not an Eagles Fan?
by Jerome's Friend
I followed Jerome onto the cold, hard AstroTurf field. It became dark, still and silent. The echoes that I once heard, for a moment, ceased. Ahead of us a light formed in the area of the fifty yard line. Football players on bended knee appeared in a circle, first a few, then many, perhaps dozens, perhaps one hundred or more. They wore many uniforms. Some were Eagles, some Giants and Cowboys, and Broncos and Browns. One man stood amongst them, surrounded. He wore the green and silver and his deep raspy voice spoke with conviction about Christ and thankfulness and humility and moral responsibility. He wore the number ninety-two, and the men kneeling before him listened intently.
Sports often serve as a reflection of society. They mirror society’s rules and corruptions, victories and defeats, successes and failures. As a result, spirituality will always have a place in sports, and football is no exception (Note: I use the term “spirituality” here rather than “religion” in order to encompass all religions, as well as faith in God outside of religion). This was illustrated Sunday when Ray Lewis was interviewed by ESPN’s Sal Paolantonio after Baltimore’s win over New England. Lewis, who reached the Super Bowl for the second time in his career by overcoming a torn triceps and is retiring at the end of the season, was overwhelmed with emotion: “When you sacrifice something for God, he will give you anything your heart desires… No weapon formed against me shall prosper. No weapon formed against this team shall prosper.” Aside from the fact that people sacrifice for God daily and receive nothing in return (nor do they expect it), it is wonderful that Ray Lewis is an extremely spiritual man and lives by his faith in God. Does this mean that God is a Ravens fan? If God is backing the Ravens based on either Ray Lewis’ or the team’s collective level of spirituality, then…
… Ray Lewis is more spiritual than Tony Gonzalez (poor guy).
… The Ravens will win the Super Bowl (place bets now).
… Reggie White must have been more spiritual with the Packers than with the Eagles.
… When Freddie Mitchell jokingly thanked God for his hands, he cost the Eagles a Super Bowl (asshole).
… God is not an Eagles fan.
… Tim Tebow should be on the Eagles roster yesterday so he can out-pray the NFL and lead Philadelphia to the “Promised Land”.
Obviously, these are silly. But historically, humans have used God to explain the unexplainable, until the unexplainable is eventually explained, like the weather, electricity, or taxes (yes, the weather… even though we can’t forecast it correctly 100 percent of the time, we can still explain it). And perhaps nothing is less explainable than the outcomes of football games (how else to explain the Ravens improbable victory over the Broncos?). It’s also why we apply spiritual connotations to incredible results, like the Hail Mary, Miracle in the Meadowlands, the Motor City Miracle, etc.
Reggie White often used the field as his pulpit, and he may have opened the door for many other players to express their own spirituality on the field. White was steadfast in his beliefs and the means by which he spread them. However, he later regretted it. After he retired and shortly before his death, White did an interview with NFL Films in which he said, “He [God] doesn’t need football to let the world know about him. When you look at the Scriptures, you’ll see that most of the prophets weren’t popular guys. I came to the realization that what God needed from me more than anything was a way of living instead of the things I was saying. Now I know I’ve got to sit down and get it right.” White recognized that his spirituality is a personal thing. It wasn’t meant to be preached or, in his words, prostituted.
When in college, I used to pray to God before final exams so he (or she) could help me do my best. If I received an ‘A’ I didn’t thank God for favoring me over my peers. I recognized that I did my best, thanked God for it, then had a celebratory beer or three. Ray Lewis is a spiritual guy, and although his belief that “no weapon formed against his team shall prosper” is misguided, the strength he and his team draw from that belief is indeed dangerous. San Francisco better prepare for it… and pray for the best.
You can follow Philly’s Inferno on Facebook and Twitter (@JeromesFriend).