The Chicago Bears and Saint Hester November 26, 2007

The Chicago Bears and Saint Hester

If you missed the Chicago Bears game yesterday, it was awesome.

(Oh wait… we’re mostly atheists here. We don’t follow sports.)

Short recap: Devin Hester returned a punt and a kickoff back for touchdowns. Bears had a blocked punt near the end of the game and a last-minute touchdown to tie it. They won in overtime on a field goal.

Back to Hester for a moment…

The Bears have a 5-6 record but they’re still in the hunt for a playoff spot. I’d argue the main reason is because Hester has kept them in games they would have otherwise lost. He provides sparks when the team needs them the most.

It’s interesting to see where the praise for yesterday’s victory is going, though.

Devin, the humble guy he is, thanks God. That’s not unusual for a superstar athlete. Hester’s not hiding his faith, either. He has tattoos of a “biblical verse on his back and the artwork on his arms.”

But it’s strange to hear others say the same thing.

David Ramsey of the Colorado Springs Gazette throws in some religious imagery (with Hester’s help):

Still, this quiet man is blessed with a massive reservoir of self-belief. Hester had just shredded the Broncos, delivered a victory for the ages to throngs of Bears fans, but he didn’t surprise himself. He expects to arrive in the end zone.

“I’m just playing with God-given talent,” he said, “and God blessed me with a lot of great things.”

Amen to that, Devin. Amen and amen.

The headline of Chicago Sun-TimesJay Mariotti‘s column today read this:

Devin from heaven saves Bears again

Head coach Lovie Smith said this last night:

“We were saying a lot of prayers [during the game]… Thank God they came through.”

Can’t we just give credit where it’s due?

Hester is a great player who works hard in practice and never feels like the game is over. It’s not a divine gift. It’s just a damn good athlete.

At least the Chicago Tribune‘s David Haugh managed to get it right with his response to Smith’s comments:

“We were saying a lot of prayers,” Lovie Smith said. “Thank God they came through.”

For Devin’s sake, don’t forget to thank Hester too.



[tags]atheist, atheism[/tags]


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  • I’m laughing out loud because Olbermann had it right: Todd Sauerbrun violated the NFL’s STUPID POLICY.

    It wasn’t a good homecoming for him, yo.

  • Bad

    Well, I don’t follow sports anyway. Ed Brayton keeps having these same sorts of sports breaks over at his blog too. You guys drive me batty!

  • I always had a feeling that if I made it to the NFL, I would be one of the few that wouldn’t give credit to a god. I totally see your point… these guys work incredibly hard. I used to play football, and I wish I still did, but let me tell you that you have to be incredibly dedicated to a football lifestyle.

    You must diet well, sleep well, train incredibly hard in both cardio and weightlifting. You have to run ALL THE TIME, regardless of your position. 350lb linemen run just as much as 180lb safeties.

    Devin Hester deserves more credit than anyone for his hard work. That’s why he is a “kick return specialist”. (This coming from a die-hard Steelers fan, with the Steelers exemplified as one of the hardest working teams in the NFL.)

    For once, I wish a football player could simply say “I did this myself, with a little emotional support from my friends/family. If there is a god, he/she/it doesn’t give a damn about tackle football, but I sure do. Thats why I am where I am.”

  • (Oh wait… we’re mostly atheists here. We don’t follow sports.)

    Really? That’s funny, because I’m one of the few Christians here and I don’t follow sports at all either. I find them interminably boring and an immense waste of time.

  • Maria

    I watch the superbowl-that’s the extent of my following sports

  • The Unbrainwashed

    For once, I wish a football player could simply say “I did this myself, with a little emotional support from my friends/family. If there is a god, he/she/it doesn’t give a damn about tackle football, but I sure do. Thats why I am where I am.”

    Amen brother.

    And who says atheists don’t follow sports? Hemant: it seems like you’re buying into the nerd, depressed atheist stereotype. Or do I sense a bit of sarcasm?

  • Actually I have a number of guys over Sunday Night (because no one does color commentary like Madden, and I can’t stand ESPN’s Cornhole) for beers and football. It’s a blast especially when you have friends that are die-hard Colts and Bears fans (I live in Fort Wayne, Indiana, truly a city divided).

    Well at least Grossman doesn’t look like he’s bowling anymore (that boy couldn’t catch a hike to save his life). [imaginery finger poking you in the shoulder ;)]

  • Bad,

    You know you could skip the sports posts . . .

    Hester is amazing. I’m just not sure why teams keep kicking the ball to him. Maybe god is keeping the ball from going out of bounds and directing it right to Devin.

  • stogoe

    I only watched the playoffs last year because one of my friends is a diehard Bears fanatic. He’s not around here this year, thankfully; I don’t have to pretend to care. But at least I know the basic rules enough to fake it – thank marching band for that.

    Sports is just another substitute for religion – ritual combat, the safe and cathartic release of violent behavior for the benefit of society, etc. Bleh. Give me an awesome novel or TV series for group cohesion any day.

  • Well, it’s nice that the Big G came through for the Bears. Given their abysmal record, though, I have to wonder what’s happened in the 6 games they lost. Did they not pray hard enough or in the right manner? Did the other teams pray harder and/or more correctly?

    It reminds me of the most recent World Series, which baseball’s prayingest, most deliberately Christian team, the Rockies, lost. Was the Big G not powerful enough to beat the Red Sox? Or did the Sox pray harder and better? They obviously played harder and/or better, but it’s not like that would have had anything to do with it.

    Does the Big G not like athletes or sports that much? Does he have trouble figuring out who to support from week to week, since people on all teams deluge him with supplications?

    You’ve obviously touched on some theological questions that require much more prayerful, humble, penitent rumination than I can give them.

  • Karen

    My husband and two boys are absolute sports fanatics. They play sports, watch sports, write and read about sports.

    My theory, and I’m serious: The whole thing is a substitute for the testosterone-fueled, deep-seated need to go to war, vanquish an enemy and prevail on the battlefield.

    In that sense, I’m grateful for organized sports. Not only does it keep them in great shape physically, it gives them a (low/non) violent way to fulfill that blood-lust need for battle.

  • Rasputin

    Who says atheists don’t watch sports?

    This atheist watches 200+ baseball games a year and football and college basketball and hockey games often.

  • Larry Huffman

    As always in these cases, I frankly wonder what kind of a god would concern himself with sporting events. I wonder if the poeple making these comments even bothers to consider that there are other people of their faith on the other side, saying the same prayers. Do they really think their god favored them in an athletic competition over others? Well, sadly, yes some of them do…which as I said…makes me question why a god that takes sides in a sporting event would be worthy of praise, let alone belief.

  • I don’t care for baseball, but I love NFL Football! It has just the right number of games in a season. The game moves fairly quickly, and there’s real drama with each play. I love it!

  • I always find it funny when athletes thank god when they score and don’t blame him when they don’t. Not very consistent. And isn’t thanking god for helping you and not helping someone else a little selfish?

    I watch sports (mostly football: go Packers! — been a Packer fan since I was born!), and I agree that for many people (mostly men) they are a substitute for war. It’s a kind of tribal hatred. For me, sports are just a challenge, a fun competition that should be taken seriously but not too seriously. I think physical challenges are important for human beings. But I think intellectual challenges are just as important, if not more important. In a sense, an intellectual accomplishment is much harder to achieve than a physical accomplishment, because it requires you to actually think and work things out. Physical goals can often be had just by putting your body to work, like a robot. However, at the best of times, things like sports require both physical ability and intellectual ability, especially in the sense that physical accomplishments are often achieved by “mind over matter” — you need to convince yourself that your body can last longer, can do this or that. I pride myself in being a young man who is both good at sports and good at thinking, and can appreciate both.

  • My theory, and I’m serious: The whole thing is a substitute for the testosterone-fueled, deep-seated need to go to war, vanquish an enemy and prevail on the battlefield.

    I think you’re on to something there – though we shouldn’t also discount the sociological influence of our American cultural myth that meaning and self-worth are found through competition and defeating one’s opponents. I think there’s probably a little bit of both nature and nurture going on here.

  • And who says atheists don’t follow sports? Hemant: it seems like you’re buying into the nerd, depressed atheist stereotype. Or do I sense a bit of sarcasm?

    A bit sarcastic. But in the several years going to atheist meetings, I’ve rarely had a sports discussion with anyone! It pops up everywhere else I go (work, friends, etc.) but only rarely in my non-religious world…

  • Norm

    I hear you Hemant. I’ve often had to keep my sports fandom and atheism in different boxes, as the two do not seem to mix very well. But as a guy who follows the Minnesota Vikings, I’d be remiss not to alert you to their ex-RB Robert Smith, who is an out atheist and was a damn good player in his day. I also wonder, how does it feel to always have your guy being referred to as the OTHER Adrian Peterson?

    Looking forward to crushing their playoff hopes in a couple of weeks.

  • Jen

    I don’t watch sports, and its because I remain deeply skeptical about the whole thing. After years of trail and error, I am unconvinced that yelling, “Rex, you suck!” at the tv actually changes the outcome of the game, especially when it is pre-recorded.

    I will keep everyone updated on this as the data rolls in.

  • You know, pointing out football as an all brawn and no brains sport really bugs me. In actuality, football is one of the most intellectual of professional sports. I’m very surprised that more of the intellectual community is not into football the same way I am. Yeah, I love the big hits and the huge plays and what-not, but you can’t ignore the intelligence behind it all. Being a coach in football goes far beyond just motivation. Coaching involves strategy, intellect, as well as presence in the locker room. For every minute of football actually played, I’ll bet that there is at least an hour of preparation for that minute.

    I don’t care if you like football or not, but please don’t call it a substitute for testosterone inspired violence, for it is much more than that. Like in most sports, brains are just as valid as brawn. Player “X” might not be the fastest safety on the field, but he’ll defend the best and fastest wide receivers better than anyone because he can read a route and pick a pass. Being able to run fast or hit hard hardly make up for the ability to read and react to a play.

  • Todd Youmans

    As a displaced Denver fan it is disconcerting that God apparently hates the Broncos. I guess Denver is just filled with atheists. I suppose that is encouraging. Headline: DENVER WINS ATHEIST SUPER BOWL!!!

    And as a comedian once said:
    Why don’t you ever hear a player say, “Jesus made me fumble”?

  • Karen

    I don’t care if you like football or not, but please don’t call it a substitute for testosterone inspired violence, for it is much more than that. Like in most sports, brains are just as valid as brawn.

    Absolutely true. And I have nothing personally against football or sports in general, actually. There’s a lot of thought, strategy and intelligence that goes into putting together a sports season – just like there’s a lot of the same that goes into winning a war. One only need be familiar with Sun Tzu’s Art of War to realize that.

    And I should also add that my kids have learned excellent life lessons from participating in sports. I doubt either of them would have the confidence, poise, determination or compassion (yes, compassion!) they have now if they hadn’t been immersed in sports their whole lives.

    Playing on a team teaches you teamwork and cooperation, of course, but it also teaches you not only to win, but to lose. It teaches you that most of the time you’re not the best player in the world, let alone the best player on the field. It teaches you that you can reach deep down and come up with what it takes to get the job done if you try hard enough. And if you fail, you learn to accept your limitations and try harder next time.

    I’m grateful for all those things they’ve learned, and I’m also grateful that they learned them in the reasonably safe arena of sports rather than in the arena of warfare.

    As for sports being a particularly American cultural phenomenon, I don’t see that. I can’t think of any country that doesn’t have its sports teams and its sports heroes. Give the poorest kids in the most marginalized society a round object and they’ll be organizing a soccer game within about five mintues. 😉

  • Aimee

    I’m a female AND an Atheist, and I love to watch football. I’m married to a Cowboys fan who is also an Atheist. We are out there : )
    Unfortunatley God helped Hester out last week instead of my Broncos, Bastard! I agree with you though about thanking god. It bugs me not only when athletes thank the big man upstairs, but also celebrities at award shows. I’ve argued this in religious blogs and it gets no where because they believe their talent was god given. Never mind the hours of work they put into it and blah, blah, blah. I want to break their fingers everytime someone catches a great pass or runs a touchdown and points at the sky.

  • Rovakur

    Is the “atheists don’t follow sports” an actual stereotype? I’m guessing you were sarcastic, but want to be sure.

    Like many have written above, my wife and I are atheists and diehard football fans. She’s also into tennis, while I’m into hockey and soccer. And we like to play several sports.

    I’m still on an Onion kick from the Footprints post, but these are short. And I think Hermand will really enjoy this first one:
    http://www.theonion.com/content/node/31577

    And insight on how god decides the victor:
    http://www.theonion.com/content/node/31813