Everyone has heard of the idea of separation of church and state. Well now I'm proposing a new one: the separation of church and sports.
How many times after a game have you heard an exchange resembling this one?
Reporter: Hey how was your team able to run the ball so well today to secure the win?
Player: Well first and foremost, I want to thank God for allowing me to succeed today and giving our team this huge victory.
Interviews in sports are filled with so much irrelevant dribble and so many mind-numbing clichés, most fans might just let conversations such as that one slip by without a second thought. But if one thinks about what the implications of statements such as those one really are, he would realize proclamations like that one have no place in sports because of how foolish, insulting, illogical and hypocritical (I could go on) it is to associate God with sports.
First off, if you're an athlete talking after a game about how God helped you accomplish challenges such as catching a ball, making a tackle or winning a game, such references don't make sense, and just make you sound like a moron. What if during a sportswriting job interview the interviewer compliments me on a particular sports page I print, and asks me how I accomplished this, only for me to reply that the major factor in publishing a well-done sports page involved God. How do you think the interviewer would look at me after I answered the question like that? What do you think the chances are that I'm getting that job?
So I think one could agree answering a question in that manner doesn't make one sound too smart. But athletes are often making comments that don't make them sound like the brightest humans, so this may not be the worst type of comment to make, at least on this level.
What truly agitates me about using God to credit yourself and your team for playing well is that it insults the players around you. When thanking God for your performance or the outcome of a game, you're consciously giving credit to God, while unconsciously removing acknowledgement from your teammates. If a running back has a good game, it means that his offensive line is opening space for him to run, his quarterback is getting the ball to him well in passing situations and his coaching staff are pushing the right buttons with play calling. Those are general reasons why a running back has success, thus thanking a spiritual being and not referring to your teammates is insulting.
Going back to my fantastic journalism example, if I believe I turn out a good sports page, it's because my co-editor, my writers and a number of other people in the staff worked hard to help me accomplish the task. Those are the people I would thank if someone asked me why I performed well; not God.
Thanking God for a well-played game not only insults a player's teammates, but it insults the other team. The implication you're making here, when thanking God for allowing you to win a game, is that God did not want the other team to win the game. Why would God want to Colts to beat the Ravens in the NFL Playoffs? When an athlete says something like that, it just sounds bizarre, unreasonable and hypocritical.
If only a select number of individuals referenced God when talking to the media, I would let it go. But for whatever reason, a huge portion of players have strong ties to their religious communities, and feel a need to bring their religious views into public discourse, when all fans want to do is watch them talk about sports.
So I hope when athletes are asked about a game, they think about their teammates, their coaches and their opponents. Not God.
Little does Scott know, God has the secret to an unstoppable jump shot. Let him know at email@example.com.