General Sports

Religion in Sports

By Billy Fellin

Zach Johnson’s comments that circled around that the Masters’ ended on Easter Sunday and that Jesus was there with him to help him win got me thinking about just how big of an impact religion has on sports. The comments to that particular blog article also helped spurn these thoughts in my head. So this one is for you anonymous fans that posted those comments!
Religion is not a new thing to sports, not by a long shot. Most locker rooms before a game, most commonly football as depicted in a number of movies, such as Friday Night Lights, say a prayer for the safety of the players and to be triumphant in victory and humble in defeat. College football is not exempt from this either; anyone been to Notre Dame’s campus recently and seen “Touchdown Jesus”? Baseball is no stranger to this either. Many baseball players point a finger upward after a home run, such as Cardinals slugger Albert Pujols, or it might be in their pre-bat ritual. Or they may have some sort of prayer or religious practice they do far before the game, maybe in their home or hotel room or the locker room. NASCAR has the most blatant showing of religion in a sports venue as before each race there is an invocation said by an ordained minister, asking The Big Guy Upstairs for the safety of the drivers and for good weather and a good race. Look around at any sports event and you probably will see some form of religion sneak in there, whether it be as blatant as a pre-race invocation or as subtle as a player’s personal religious ritual.

Not to hit a hornet’s nest with a stick, but maybe Zach Johnson was taking his faith a bit too far with his comments about winning on Easter. He is obviously a very religious person with a very entrenched faith, which is great for him, more power to him in a country that allows religious freedom for all. However, saying that he felt Jesus there with him might have been stretching it. Sorry Zach, but you swung the club and hit the golf ball at Augusta, not Jesus. You put on the green jacket, not Jesus. Sure, your faith in Jesus very well might have attributed to your training harder or having a stronger conviction that you really wanted to win the tournament. But seriously was Jesus really there with you? Somehow I doubt it. It was Easter after all.

Though I do have a problem with the second part of that quote: “Regardless of what happened today, my responsibility was to glorify God. Hopefully I did.” Again, it’s great that he has a deep belief in his religion, but does he really play the game of golf to glorify God? Perhaps I’m being too much of a seperatist, but more than likely he’s playing the game because he has a deep passion for the game and to provide for his family. His responsibility might be to glorify God, but I don’t see him or any other golfer walking the back nine with their caddy reading their favorite piece of scripture.

I’m really not stepping on anyone’s religious toes here (or intentionally anyway) this is just how I feel about the topic. You very well may have a totally different opinion on this, just like any of my other columns about the Giants or the Yankees or whatever I have written about in the past. And I’m totally cool with that; sports is one of the most debatable topics that journalists can write about and that’s one reason why I love it, that one thing can have many different views, and potentially all could be correct in some way, shape or form. However, what is indisputable is how religion and sports will always be intertwined. Some athletes out there very well may need the spiritual guidance that religion offers. If their faith helps them on the field great, but saying that Jesus was there with you and helped you win the Masters or Super Bowl or World Series or Stanley Cup is taking the notion a tad bit too far. Just don’t say that Jesus rode the Tower of Terror with you at Disney World.

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