God’s Not Going to Help Your Team Win the Super Bowl January 17, 2014

God’s Not Going to Help Your Team Win the Super Bowl

According to a survey released yesterday by Public Religion Research Institute, waaaaaaay too many Americans think they have some sort of direct effect on how their favorite sports team does:

More than one-quarter (26%) of sports fans report having prayed for God to help their team… Football fans are also more likely than other fans to say they pray for their team (33% vs. 21%), perform pre-game or game-time rituals (25% vs. 18%), or to believe that their team has been cursed (31% vs. 18%).

If you look at that graphic, though, you can see that evangelicals/Protestants are most likely to pray in support of their teams. Does that say more about how people feel about religion in sports or religion overall? I would suspect that if you asked the same group of people, “Have you ever prayed for God to help you find a traffic spot?” you’d get pretty similar results.

Tamie Ross at Get Religion puts it well:

I’d submit those petitioning for a touchdown or asking for a fumble aren’t actually praying, by definition, but rather putting a handful of words into the ever-popular theological slot machine. You know, the one you approach when you want a certain outcome and think by wishing for it and uttering a magic phrase, then pulling a lever, you should get your heart’s desire?

And what about the 50% of Americans who believe that supernatural forces are at play in sports? That includes a lot of people who wear their teams’ jerseys on game day… which seems to indicate getting excited about the game far more than it does asking for God’s help.

It’s one of those surveys that sounds way more promising in the headline than it actually is. Even a cursory glance at the questions suggests that interviewees could’ve been misled. If you said you were a fan of a particular sports team, the next question was “Have you ever felt that your team has been cursed?” I’m from Chicago and I’ve been a Cubs fan for decades — my answer to that question would have been an unqualified “Hell, yes” even though I don’t believe in the supernatural. How many other people felt the same way?

In any case, faith in God obviously has nothing to do with how successful your team is.

Just ask Tim Tebow.

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