Ahead of the Game: The separation of church and (home) plate - The Explorer: Import

Ahead of the Game: The separation of church and (home) plate

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Posted: Thursday, September 7, 2006 11:00 pm | Updated: 7:52 am, Thu Mar 24, 2011.

September 6, 2006 - Score a touchdown and He's there. Net yourself a goal, He's there again. Hold a Faith Night at the ballpark? You better believe He's there.

The man, or woman if you so choose, in question is God - the No. 1 sports fan in the universe.

On Aug. 26, the Tucson Sidewinders hosted its first Faith Night at Tucson Electric Park, a tribute to the man upstairs. And we're not talking about the general manager or owner.

What is God's true role in sports? Does he even have a place in sports? Can you go to Faith Night at the ballpark if you're an atheist?

We've all been there before in some sense. Your team is down, backs against the wall, in search of some divine intervention. So we pray to the Big Man.

Leaving our sports fate in the immortal hands of a higher entity isn't something new in today's culture. For centuries, Chinese cardsharps have trusted their hands to Wang the Pure, the god of sports gamblers. Norse athletes aspire to please Tyr, their god of sports and everyone knows the feats of Nike's feet, the god of victory.

Is it possible that God's focus has simply changed with the times; trading archaic athletics for extreme sports? Listening to today's modern athletes - especially in post-championship interviews - you would believe that to be true.

If that's the case, then it was the Almighty who answered the prayers of the 1991 New York Giants who kneeled on the sidelines and called on God to make Bill's kicker Scott Norwood miss a kick to win the Super Bowl. Norwood's kick sailed wide right. God must have had money on the Giants.

If the creed counter is correct, there should be trophies from 39 Super Bowls, 59 NBA championships, and 100 World Series on God's mantle. And only, well, God knows how many MVPs, halls of fame inductions and rookies of the year awards have been won in his honor.

God is also apparently omnipresent at the ESPN X-games and surfing contests and the like. How else could you explain the "Jesusmeister" slogan on the billboard outside the Church of Christ on Mountain Avenue? Sounds to me like a real righteous dude.

The question rarely asked is, if God loves a champion, who is with the loser? Plus, if sports and religion are slowly morphing into one, how long is it before our churches have Diamond Vision scoreboards and cup-holders in the pews?

The questions far outweigh the answers.

Like anything in life, whether it's our religion or our sports, they must be worshipped in the proper context. The beauty of both sports and religion is that they can resemble each other as a unifier of people.

Get fanatical about either and you're heading for trouble.

Sit in on a few pre-practice devotionals at Pusch Ridge Christian Academy. These closed-door team prayer/meetings range from inspirational to lighthearted to downright emotional. Winning a state championship or not, at the end of the season, those Pusch Ridge teams are a close-knit group of kids - unified with a healthy balance in both their sports and their faith.

Perhaps Faith Night at TEP really worked. The following night the Sidewinders clinched their first Pacific Coast League Southern Division title and playoff berth. If the night was a success, then hopefully a balance can be struck for tomorrow's sports fan and athlete.

Perhaps while growing up I could have used a Faith Night. I was raised and confirmed Roman Catholic, but if you had asked me when I was 11 years old, I would have told you that I worship at the altar of Yankee baseball. Around that same era, I was also a devout fan of the NHL's New Jersey Devils.

Looks like it is sports purgatory for me.

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