January 31, 2015

Super Bowl: An Exercise in Reaffirming One's Faith

Tomorrow is Super Bowl Sunday in the U.S., one of our most popular and most ridiculous national celebrations. Don't get me wrong - I certainly understand why someone who likes football and whose favorite team is playing would enjoy the game. I'd be glued to the game if my favorite team was playing. There's no doubt about that. The rest of the time, however, I don't see much appeal. The most common reason I hear from others about why they watch the game every year is a vague sense that they are supposed to do so because it is what everyone else is doing. I can't say I find this a compelling argument for doing much of anything.

When I watch the Super Bowl, it is usually because I'd like to see one team win or one team lose. And once in awhile, I really want one team to win and the other lose (like last year). These often end up being enjoyable games to watch because I care about the outcome. But I don't always watch the Super Bowl. I usually don't care who wins or loses, and I find that this makes for a boring experience. And not just that, but when I don't care who wins, the hype somehow becomes less tolerable. Beyond not caring who wins, I have skipped the game some years for other reasons. Sometimes I find myself thinking that this entire spectacle is something I'd rather not support.

When I do watch the Super Bowl, I almost always end up marveling at how determined some Christians are to make it all about their faith. We have the miracles, the prayer, and the absurd notion that supernatural entities affect the outcome of the games. It seems that there's nothing quite like sports to bring out the superstition. Whoever wins must have prayed harder than whoever loses. The winner must have had various gods on their side, and the loser must have done something to lose favor with these gods. It couldn't be about talent, practice, or even luck, could it? No! It must be an opportunity to reaffirm one's faith. How fragile must this sort of faith be that such meaningless forms of reaffirmation are necessary?

I'm not sure if I'll watch the game tomorrow. I'd like to see Seattle win, though not nearly as much as I'd like to see New England lose. But then again, I feel less inclined to support the NFL this year after what seems like one scandal and poor decision after another. Throughout much of the year, I found myself enjoying college football more and professional football less. As a result, I may not bother with the game. If you end up watching, I hope you enjoy it. If not and I do end up watching, I'll try not to mention all the "miracles" you'll certainly miss.

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