Football, with Sides of Theology and White Privilege

Spiritual Smart Aleck


Couple of Sundays ago, midafternoon, I realized the Superbowl was on.
It was the Philadelphia Eagles vs. the New England Patriots, for those of you who live on the moon or don’t give a rat’s patootie. Many people were Eagles fans for the day. The Patriots may be loved by their own fans but are not loved much outside that demographic.
Last time the Seahawks played the Patriots in the Superbowl, the Patriots won. Then it was discovered that they had cheated in the game by using a partially deflated ball. Cheating does not inspire respect, or love.

This was an exciting game, with the teams scoring back and forth. The Eagles held the lead until the third quarter, when the Patriots got ahead by one point. They may have thought they were going to win then. They looked smiley and relaxed on the sideline.

In the fourth quarter, the Eagles scored a touchdown to regain the lead, and then the Patriots mounted a drive which ended with a sack of Tom Brady in which he lost possession of the ball. That warmed the cockles of many hearts. The Eagles scored a field goal for three points, the Patriots were unable to make a comeback, and the Eagles won their first Superbowl, 41-33.

The New England Patriots zombie-walked off the field in a state of cognitive dissonance, making their way through hysterical Eagles fans running on to the field.

Like many other people I enjoyed watching Patriots quarterback Tom Brady walk off the field in defeat. This is called schadenfreude, or pleasure in someone else’s misfortune. Not a Christian virtue, but a common human feeling.

After the game, when Eagles coach Doug Pederson was interviewed and asked to what he attributed his team’s win, he said he gave credit to his savior, the Lord Jesus Christ.
I got a warm glow inside. Aw. Someone who is unapologetic about his faith. Then I shook my head. Wait a minute, did he just give his personal savior Jesus Christ credit for the Eagles winning the game?

See, you might think you and Jesus walk in the garden alone when the dew is still on the roses, and that’s a beautiful hymn and I love it and have sung it all my life, but there are many, many other Christians in the garden with Jesus, and Jesus loves them equally, and they aren’t all on the same side of everything that you are.

Listen up: Jesus does not take sides in football games, even the Superbowl. Jesus does not make the catch in the end zone. Winning the game is due to all the training, talent, skill, exertion, teamwork, and luck of the guys playing the game, plus maybe a few good calls from the refs that could have gone the other way.

Football games are man-made concoctions, as are the wars for which they substitute. God is with you win or lose, that’s my point. I wish people, including atheists, would stop giving God credit or blame for things human beings do.

But I digress.

When Darrell Green, a retired player, carried the Lombardi trophy to the podium after the game, the Eagles teammates stood alongside the path it traveled with tears in their eyes, reaching out to touch it. Soon they started kissing it. Then they were all kissing it, kiss on top of kiss. All I could think was, in about a week all these guys are going to have the flu. They won’t have Jesus to thank for that, either.

That night whole families of Eagles fans went out into the streets of Philadelphia to celebrate. Most of them were fine, celebrating the win with civility and team comradery. A few, male and white, got caught up in a mob spirit and rioted. White American men tend to riot over victories. It’s a phenomenon. You can look it up.

There were cries of, “White privilege!” because the rioters were not busted, though there were arrests in the following days. It was a fair call. If you are white, you can riot and get a pass, or be arrested, and get due process. If you are black, you can do absolutely nothing, and have terrible things happen to you, up to and including being killed. You can look that up, too.

Richard Ross, the Philadelphia Police Commissioner, did a good job of leading his force in keeping things mostly calm and safe in Philadelphia that night and in the week after the game. I think he understands the definition of “peace officer.” I wish we had more genuine peace officers and fewer officers who shoot without thinking.

Now. Enough football already. Let’s go outside and dig a trench for planting peas.