Yesterday was Super Sunday. In fact, it was Super Sunday XLIX. I went to our Recreation Center where I saw a bunch of college students…mostly junior and senior athletes on my campus. As I looked out over their young faces, I realized they never knew life without professional football’s Super Sunday. In their lives there has always been a Super Bowl!
I think they were a little stunned when I told them I remembered a time in American history when there was no Super Bowl! Of course, that makes me at least 48 years old! In fact, it is a little difficult for me to remember those days. But I do recall (I think) the third Super Bowl (III). That was the year Joe Namath, quarterback for the New York Jets, prophetically called the victory over the Baltimore Colts, the heavy favorite. More than anything, that probably made the Super Bowl what it was to become.
Yesterday each thirty-second commercial cost $4,000,000! That blows away my mind. $4,000.000 is a great deal of money. But then, you think, that is for one 30 second commercial. One minute equals even more! And sometimes, there are four or six commercials in a row. Some people even watch the game only to see the commercials.
Obviously, an extravaganza like the Super Bowl causes me to think about the potential overlap of sports and religion…or in some cases, probably the fact that sports come very close to being a pseudo religion. I am not the first one to sense this correlation (or confusion). I have participated in both enterprises. I played sports. And I have pursued religion.
Let’s look at both arenas. In the first place, I am intrigued that we talk about “playing” sports. But I do not recall hearing anyone talk about “playing” religion. That could mean many things. It means for me that sports have a role; they can be fun, etc. But sports have no ultimate value or meaning (knowing full well some would disagree with me). Most folks I know would claim religion is more than “play.” Religion is not an interlude in my day…an interlude between working, eating, and resting. Most importantly for me, religion has an ultimate quality about it. It is serious; sometimes, it is deadly serious. At times, it can and should be fun, but it also goes beyond mere fun. It has a meaning and purpose both in this life and, maybe, in the next life as well.
A second thing that occurs to us if we compare sports and religion is the event itself. As I sat and watched the Super Bowl, I did not get to participate…except vicariously. I never tackled nor did I get tackled! I threw no pass and made no runs. I committed no errors and was not interviewed after the game.
But every time I practice religion, I am more than a spectator. I participate. I pray. I have the experience…and it is not just vicarious. I am “in the game.” There are rules to follow, just as there are in sports. But the rules of religion are more profound. A couple of the rules of my religion require that I be a loving person. In fact, one of the rules says that I have to love my enemy! Now that’s a real difference. In football I get to tackle my opponent. I get to beat him. Sometimes I can even humiliate him!
But religion is different. Instead of going for my opponent’s throat, I offer him or her my heart. Instead of knocking them down, I bend down in order to pick up the downtrodden. In fact, in my religion there is the real possibility that there will be no losers! I mean, with a loving God going around being gracious…who knows.
I like sports. I played sports and enjoyed it. I watch them and still enjoy them. I watched the Super Bowl. It is ok with me if it is Super Sunday! That does not mean Easter was a joke…it just was not super.
And that’s religion’s secret. In professional football only one Sunday a year gets to be “Super.” In religion every Sunday is significant. In fact, every Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday, Friday, and Saturday is significant. Super Bowl gave us a winner for the year. Religion gives us a blessing every day…forever…