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Medium Dawn Felagund of the Fountain

On Sports, Religion, and Escapism (and Perhaps a Bit More)

The (Cyber) Bag of Weasels

bread and puppet




"About as much fun as a bag of weasels"...when I first saw this Irish adage, it made me think of the life of a writer: sometimes perilous, sometimes painful, certainly interesting. My paper journal has always been called "The Bag of Weasels." This is the Bag of Weasels' online home.

On Sports, Religion, and Escapism (and Perhaps a Bit More)

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can of worms
Perhaps because it is Monday and I am tired from shifting back to my normal nocturnal schedule over the weekend or maybe because I'm PMSing, things have just been getting on my nerves lately. Now I could grumble about my coworkers and their inability to use technology that's been prevalent since the '80s or the way that Maryland drivers drive when they perceive that there might be snow nearby ("like OMG it's piled all next to the road!") or any number of small things, but I'm choosing instead to write about some thoughts that have been on my mind lately about sports, religion, and escapism and how they intersect.

So, yes, I'm ranting. Hopefully not incoherently but ranting all the same. And since it does not always seem to be clear that my journal contains my opinions, then please be forewarned that my journal contains my opinions. You're welcome to disagree but please do try to be civil about it.

So yesterday, I watched both the AFC and NFC championships in football. And something struck me that I've noticed before and has annoyed me, but I've never thought much of it. When accepting the trophy for the Colts, their owner claimed that the victory was mostly to credit to "the Lord." Now I have a feeling that he was talking about "the Lord" as in "God" or "Jesus Christ" and not "the Lord" as in "the Lord of Caves" or "the Lord of Illusions" or "the Lord of the Dance." Though I could be wrong.

Of course, there was a round of applause in the stadium because whenever we mention the Lord or Jesus, we get applause. How brave, in America, to mention our affiliation with the majority religion! This prompted me to inform Bobby that if I'm ever in a position where I get to accept something before a large crowd of people (aside from a much-deservéd ass-whoopin'), then I think that I'm going to give thanks to some of the neglected religious figures. Like Bastet or Buddha. Or maybe make up my own or maybe thank the Valar, just to see if people applaud.

But my own bizarre fantasies aside, why do people do this in sports? "Well, I'm not to credit for throwing a 400-yard game. It was all Jesus." Yeah. Like Jesus is sitting up in heaven, looking down with fingers crossed and saying, "OMG I hope the Colts win!" Or "Let the Colts win...and they did." Frankly, if God and Jesus do exist, I'm going to go out on a limb and say that they don't really give a shit who wins the Super Bowl much less who wins the conference championships much less if Matt Stover makes that tough fifty-one-yard field goal.

But when the Colts won yesterday--and I do not mean to pick entirely on the Colts because all of the teams do it--then first He Who Shall Not Be Named (the Colts' owner) gave credit to God, then Tony Dungy gave credit to God, then Peyton Manning admitted that he said a prayer asking for success before the game-winning drive. He said (and I am paraphrasing here because I'm too lazy too look up a transcript), "I don't know if it's the right thing to pray for, but I did say a little prayer." So I guess we should all thank God that the Colts won the AFC game because apparently He ordained it so.

Maybe I don't understand this, being agnostic, but it puzzles me sometimes the things that people pray for. Or attribute to God. Like, "God will provide for us by getting back our big screen TV!" Yeah, 'cause God would hate for you to miss the last five episodes of the O.C. Or praying to do well in a football game. Because God is either a Colts fan or just as tired of seeing the Patriots in the Super Bowl as I am.

It seems to me that if a person is going to take the time and expend the effort to get down on bended knee and ask God for something really important...then maybe it should be important? Not big-screen TVs or new kitchens or a Super Bowl ring. I remember when I was a little kid and I used to say my prayers every night simply because I was told that's what I was supposed to do, then I used to say...

Now I lay me down to sleep,
I pray the Lord my soul to keep,
And if I should die before I wake,
I pray the Lord my soul to take.
God bless Mommy, God bless Daddy, God bless Uncle Wodie, God bless Sharon, God bless Moose, God bless Sunnie, God bless Petie, God bless Sneaky, God bless Digit, God bless Julia, God bless Julia's family, God bless Lisa, God bless Lisa's parents, God bless everything and everyone. Amen.

...every night. As I got older and got more friends and more pets, the list got progressively longer. Everyone got blessed every night. But one thing that I remember that my mom used to tell me: you don't pray for things. You don't pray, "God, I would like a pair of gold earrings shaped like sea turtles" or "God, let me get an A on my algebra test."

I suppose that it irks me that these people obviously believe in God and obviously believe in the power of prayer, and they choose to pray for things. Things things things. It reminds me of the old Northern Sun T-shirt, "I'm ready for more THINGS please!" As though THINGS have the power to really make us happy.

The people living around me in their $4 million homes with three BMWs and housekeeper and pool boy but who work eighty hours a week and never see their families and never get to do anything that they want to do...well, they have lots of nice THINGS but they are not happy. Honestly, THINGS get on my nerves sometimes, like "I never speak to you, never call or email to see how you're doing, don't even know what you like, but I bought you some THINGS for Christmas to clutter up your home, so you know that I care!" Bah, but that is a rant for another time.

Anyway. I will openly admit that I am a sports fan and quite a rabid one; I am one of those nuts you see on TV with her face painted (though I do keep my shirt on) and carrying on like a fool. But I would not pray for my teams to win, even if I did pray.

I may be a face-painting nut but even I will admit that people take it much too far sometimes. Sure, sports is a form of escapism for me; I could direct my attention and energy toward far more productive and important avenues, but I choose to care about who wins and who trash talks whom; maybe I am no better than those on bended knee, "Oh please God let the Ravens win!" Maybe I'm a hypocrite. But some people still take it too far, like when I eavesdropped on overheard my coworker Diane talking to Johnny the Boss today. Now Diane makes me look like a casual fan; she has season tickets and goes to every home game and wears her "Ravens beads" every Monday after they win. Whatever, good for her. But today, she and Johnny were talking about the Super Bowl, and she said of the Colts and more specifically Peyton Manning, "I hope that the Bears kick his ass. I hope that they knock him right over and break his leg. I can't stand him."

And I'm sitting in my office, thinking, I really don't like Diane. She's either too lazy or too stupid to figure out how to use her fax machine, so she calls me every time she needs to send a fax, like I'm her personal slave, and she sounds spastic on the phone, and she hasn't figured out that she has to hold down the button on the two-way the whole time she talks, so when she calls me, it comes out as, "Blip." I don't like her--and I certainly know her better than she knows Peyton Manning--but you don't see me going over to Johnny's office and saying, "I can't stand Diane. I hope that she's in a car accident on her way back over the bridge and breaks her leg."

So why is it okay to wish pain and misery upon a professional athlete based on a more-than-twenty-year grudge that Baltimorons have against the Colts? And a grudge is one thing, but to openly wish harm upon another person simply because you don't like his team--and perhaps more important than that, think that the twenty-plus-year grudge somehow makes that acceptable?

So I'm all for a bit of escapism every now and then--through sports or whatever--but sometimes people simply take it too far. Like the fate of humanity hangs in the balance on any given Sunday.
  • I think that the whole thing with thanking the Lord after a successful football game has less to do with religion than with superstition. Professional athletes tend to be a superstitious bunch (lucky jerseys, lucky underwear, pregame rituals, pre-play rituals, that sort of thing), and thanking the Lord is probably that kind of ritual for them, rather than a public Statement Of Faith. As in, "if I take too much credit for this win/touchdown/home run, the Forces of Sports Karma will notice, and I'll miss it the next time, as a punishment for being overconfident." So, in a public show of modesty, they thank the Lord, thus not aggrandizing themselves too much.
    • I would certainly agree that certain "religious" behaviors are superstitious in nature. For example, our kicker for the Ravens follows each successful field goal by pointing both fingers at the sky, thus thanking God for letting him make the kick. Though, in reality, I suspect that it is more superstition or habit than anything; the guy's been doing it for 15 years now (and on a team like ours, where our offense is not very prolific, Mattie kicks a lot of field goals!)

      But I don't think that all of what I observe can be called superstitious. A lot of these players/coaches/owners constantly portray themselves as "men of God" in a rather fervent, frothing-at-the-mouth way that would probably be freaky in another context. A lot of them speak of the "destiny" of winning particular games or honors. For example, both the Bear's coach and the Saint's coach spoke of how their respective teams were on their ways to fulfilling their destinies. Destiny, of course, being the Super Bowl. (Guess God is a Bears' fan? :^D) Lovie I remember particularly mentioning this "destiny" in the same context of him (and Tony Dungy, with whom he hoped to share the honor of being the first African American head coaches to make it to the Super Bowl) being "men of God." Which is all fine and good by me, and I am happy that they both made it...but I don't really think that if I believed unequivocally in God then I could accept that He really turned his energies toward picking the winner of the Super Bowl. This goes beyond ritual or superstition as I see it.
      • (Guess God is a Bears' fan? :^D)

        Damn straight He is! On the eighth day, God created Da Bears.
        • So I guess the last twenty-odd years have been kind of like the trials and tribulations he gave poor Job? :^D
          • As the Jews say, and as all the Cubs fans in Chicago are also good at saying:

            We thank you, God, that you have made us your Chosen People. But why couldn't you have Chosen someone else?
  • Now I have a feeling that he was talking about "the Lord" as in "God" or "Jesus Christ" and not "the Lord" as in "the Lord of Caves" or "the Lord of Illusions" or "the Lord of the Dance." Though I could be wrong.

    I almost said, "Well, when I say 'Lord', I'm referring to the Lord of Caves, but maybe I'm the only one.' but decided to keep my mouth shut.

    That's an interesting point. I've never really noticed it before, but it does seem strange. Then again, there are a lot of hypocrites and strange things when it comes to religion, so I try not to dwell on it too much, lest I injure my brain.

    And a grudge is one thing, but to openly wish harm upon another person simply because you don't like his team--and perhaps more important than that, think that the twenty-plus-year grudge somehow makes that acceptable?

    My brother does this sometimes too! I keep asking him, "Why would you want that? Do you want someone to break your leg?" Maybe someday he'll "get it".
    • Ah, but your brother is still young, and everyone is allowed a degree of stupidity and crassness at that age. ;)

      Diane is old enough to remember when State trooper rode woolly mammoths, not to mention the fact that she is a law enforcement officer and so should have some reasonable concern for humanity. Of course, she's also a raving idiot, so that might explain it too. In fact, I'd bet that your brother--though he's young and a Cowboy's fan--has more sense than she does. :^P

      signed: Dawn Felagund, Lord of Caves ;)
      • Ah, but one might think that as a football player, he would have a little more sympathy! Someday...

        In fact, I'd bet that your brother--though he's young and a Cowboy's fan--has more sense than she does. :^P

        *snerk!!*

        BTW, is there something you're not telling us, O Lord of Caves??

        I hijacked the muses' journal because I can't login to mine. :( So this isn't actually the muses talking.
        • You're still having problems with LJ? Bad LJ! *smacks it around a little on your behalf*

          BTW, is there something you're not telling us, O Lord of Caves??

          I don't know? *is confoosed* What do you think I'm not telling you?
          • Yeah, I sent LJ a support request this afternoon, because I was/am [icon]. (Angry, not Feanor.)

            I don't know? *is confoosed* What do you think I'm not telling you?

            Lord?? *hehe*
            • Oh, right! *snicker* If I ever finish Kasiopea's story about Caranthir's engagement to Taryinde in the Felakverse, my use of the title "Lord" though I am a woman might make more sense. ;)
  • And something struck me that I've noticed before and has annoyed me, but I've never thought much of it. When accepting the trophy for the Colts, their owner claimed that the victory was mostly to credit to "the Lord."

    I wonder if that was intended as an odd form of modesty: crediting an outside force for the win, rather than his team's own skill (which might imply the other team wasn't equally talented).

    But if people really think the Divine cares about who wins a sporting event, what can I say? Some people are simply nuts!
    • Lol, I think I'd definitely agree with the fact that some people are simply nuts! :^D

      I think that you have a point about the modesty too, kind of along the same lines as the people who thank their mom, their dad, their fifth-grade teacher, and their hamster for their success. You never really hear anyone say, "Yeah, I'm here, at the Super Bowl, because I'm made of awesomeness." (Though I think more than a few probably privately think it!)
  • Hmmm ... if there is an omnipotent, omniscient divine being, why should it be a lot of trouble for that being to take care of some football players?

    But I rather agree with Frenchpony: it's probably more superstition than anything else.

    Though, interestingly enough, people wouldn't *dream* of invoking God over a soccer match over here. So I think it's also an American thing.

    Oh, jeez, I'm so exhausted, and you insist on blogging about so many fascinating things. ARGH!
    • I wish that the divine, omniscient being would take better care of the Ravens! :^D

      I think that some of the behavior is rooted in superstition. For example, our kicker always points both fingers skyward every time he kicks a successful field goal. (Which leads me to wonder: Do you think he does it when he misses? :^D He rarely misses, so I've never noticed!) Anyway, this is probably a habit or superstition more than anything, even though Matt Stover is a Christian and certainly gave props to God when we won the Super Bowl six years ago!

      But the behavior that bugs me and was the crux of this post isn't quite what I'd define as superstitious. These people speak constantly of being "men of God" and being part of a "destiny"--it was rather funny that both teams in the NFC championship claimed God and destiny on their sides! Chicago for not having won in twenty-odd years and New Orleans because of their suffering after Katrina.

      Though, interestingly enough, people wouldn't *dream* of invoking God over a soccer match over here. So I think it's also an American thing.

      This is so intriguing to me! Europeans are always portrayed as being more fervent about their sports than Americans. But I guess that even they draw the line differently!

      Of course, in the US, mentioning God is considered to be cool. And somewhat defiant, also, which I've never understood, since Christians are the majority here. And I'm not saying that it's not cool to believe in God--to each her own--but publicly visible figures like to endear themselves to the masses by name-dropping Jesus and God. Politicians do it too; even the liberals like to make a thing of how their good churchgoers and whatnot. Anyhoo, I'm getting off-topic here.... ;)

      Oh, jeez, I'm so exhausted, and you insist on blogging about so many fascinating things. ARGH!

      I'm sorry. I'll try to continue to be fascinating when you have more energy. :)
  • When accepting the trophy for the Colts, their owner claimed that the victory was mostly to credit to "the Lord."

    Oh that is why Celegorm was beaming so proudly. They meant him ;)

    I suppose that it irks me that these people obviously believe in God and obviously believe in the power of prayer, and they choose to pray for things. Things things things.

    Well, I think if you saw a bloodbath of a goat or ox sacrificed and those players coming on the field chanting Zeus soter kai Nike... That is what kick ass heroes did BC and if they wanted to win a battle and claim their victory. Now that would be quite different (not to mention the fines, lawsuits ect ect what would follow after that). I know occassionally the Christian god is thanked when a player wins something, you see it in the tour the France for example. I just think: whatever works for them.

    • Oh, it's not so much thanking God; that I take in stride along with thanking one's mother and Little League coach! ;) But some players and coaches get almost froth-at-the-mouth fervent that God and destiny are on their side and to credit for their successes. Or people who pray to win games...it's just irksome that someone who believes in prayer would think a stupid football game the best thing that prayer could be used for. (And I am a football fan!)

      I hope that you are feeling better? *hugs*
  • This is such a great post. I have absolutely nothing to add. Actually, I do, but I don't have the energy to stir up that big can o' worms with my shit-disturber stick! LOL.
    • You should know that that can of worms is yours to stir with your shit-disturber stick whenever you'd like! ;) My LJ is nothing if not a soapbox...or place for trying to push me off of mine. :^P
      • Too true! The drama that goes on in your LJ sometimes is astonishing!
        • Dude! I'm glad I'm not the only one who sometimes thinks so! People like to fight in my LJ. People like to fight with me in my LJ!

          Kinda weird.... :^P
  • I couldn't agree more on the whole religion thing. The feeling I get from the US in general is a sense of-- condescension, for lack of a better word-- to those of different religions, especially atheists and agnostics. Now, this irritates me, because I identify myself as atheistic, but it seems to be a widespread phenomenon. This issue of National Geographic Magazine even published a whole bunch of things about religion, which rather exasperated me.

    The thing that irks me most is when people mouth those old cliched phrases, about the truth and all that of religion, seemingly without understanding, and how all this is said to the agnostic in a rather patronising tone, as if explaining something to the especially dense. I remember the final line of a TIME article that said something like (paraphrasing here) "And yet, any other person could have told these agnostics what God means to them."

    I do not understand the condescension, especially when this condescension is directed towards those who do not believe that there is a big guy with a beard up in the sky, insinuating that somehow those who do not believe in a deity are somehow deficient. When one considers that the idea of there being a guy sitting up in the clouds, who pulled the universe out of nothing (only not quite, since he had to have been there, and why not have the universe be its own First Cause?) is in itself quite incredible... well, yeah.

    And there was also a TV channel we got once on satellite that was called Smile of a Child or something, and there was this scene where someone blew a whistle and all the sheep flocked over. At first I honestly thought it was an ad for a new kind of whistle that would make sheep follow you. Then up pops this guy who says, "As sheep obey the shepherd, so we should obey GOD's will." You could practically hear the capital letters. So I stared for a bit, and asked Dad, "Is he for real?" and Dad said, "I think so."

    It was one of the few times I was tempted to say, "Whatever are you guys over there thinking?"
    • The feeling I get from the US in general is a sense of-- condescension, for lack of a better word-- to those of different religions, especially atheists and agnostics.

      The closest I've come to leaving my home soil was Puerto Rico (an American commonwealth), and I could not agree more.

      I am agnostic, and I get this feeling too. But worse than that is many people's failure here to understand that people of minority religions or atheists or agnostics do not want to have every detail of their lives infused with the Christian religion, even the tiny things that "do not matter." (More on that point in a second.) To give a recent example:

      Back in the 1950s, Congress changed a line in the Pledge of Allegiance. The line read, "One nation, indivisible." They changed it to, "One nation, under God, indivisible." Some years later, an atheist man in California challenged this, claiming that he did not want his son reciting something religious in nature each morning when school began. The California Supreme Court declared that the "under God" bit was un-Constitutional and ruled that it had to be removed.

      Well, you should have seen the uproar! This was an attack on God because the courts were recognizing that not everyone was Christian and not everyone believed that we were "one nation under God." A lot were "one nation under Allah" or "one nation under Buddha" or "one nation under an array of Gods and Goddesses"...or "one nation under nothing at all." A core idea in our country's history is that we have no national religion and all are equally valuable, so having our pledge serve one single "God" in a country of many "gods" (including none at all) is ridiculous.

      Ironically, the line that returned to "one nation, indivisible," and not long after 9/11 when we needed to be indivisible was suddenly ruined. People--in an act of defiance--continued to speak the "under God" bit, so when the pledge was recited before certain events, the "indivisible" was quite divided...and by what else other than the Christian God?

      "One nation *muddlemuddlemuddle* with liberty and justice for all."

      But what struck me the most was how offended people became that the courts should recognize that this is a nation of many faiths because it did not favor their faith. "Why should you care?" they said to those of us who supported the ruling. "It's just two words. It's not worth getting upset over!"

      Yet they were upset when they perceived that the Pledge was an attack on their own faith. No one seemed to realize that they were in fact making our point: All of those years of having to equate love of our country with faith in a Christian God was a big deal. And it was not illegal to say or believe "under God." They were welcome to continue to do so. All the courts had said was that the official Pledge would not contain these words.

      So if these details are so small, then why do the Christians need them? They roll their eyes at us for making a "big deal over nothing" but yet get in an uproar when the same insignificant detail is changed in a way that they feel disfavors them. "Disfavors" meaning that it does not favor them.

      When one considers that the idea of there being a guy sitting up in the clouds, who pulled the universe out of nothing *snip*... well, yeah.

      I've often said that if I showed the level of delusion regularly displayed by "people of faith" then I would be considered mentally ill.

      If I paraded about claiming that there are invisible Elves who I honestly believe affect our world and that there is a secret island just removed from the sphere of the Earth that one can reach by sailing along the rainbow...yes, people would think that I was nuts.

      Yet they expect that others will readily accept the oddities their own faiths present. That I am to believe that I was made from a rib (when counting Bobby's and my ribs, we have the same number), that the Earth is flat, that all of life is only a couple thousand years old...how is this much different from those who believe that there are spaceships in the tails of comets or that space aliens regularly zap people into their ships to probe them in uncomfortable ways? From the PoV of someone who believes none of that bunk, it's all equally stupid.
      • "One nation *muddlemuddlemuddle* with liberty and justice for all."

        *snerk* It's almost on a par with our Communist Youth League initiations.

        I read about the Pledge thing, since I follow the whole religious fiasco in the US with a sort of fascinated horror. There was also that thing about religion in school, which I was especially interested in, since I had to argue with the teachers over that in lots of schools. In the Bahamas school prayer was mandatory when I was a first-grade kiddie, but it made me uncomfortable, so I just steepled my hands together and tried to pretend, until I got taught.

        Then there was the convent school in Singapore, where the science teacher said something like "One night my nephew's pillow caught fire, and he was not burned. Why?" So I was thinking madly, when she said, "Because God protected him." And I was all "WTF?" because it was science class. So then I decided to make up my own religion, because I said it wasn't fair that they could get away with telling stories and I couldn't. I told Mom, who smiled and told me to go ahead. So I dreamed up a rather complicated universe with portals and magic and fairies. Come to think of it, it would probably make a nice story. :P

        If I paraded about claiming that there are invisible Elves who I honestly believe affect our world and that there is a secret island just removed from the sphere of the Earth that one can reach by sailing along the rainbow...yes, people would think that I was nuts.

        Couldn't agree more. I write about Elves, I obsess about them at times, but I do not go around shouting that they are real and being nasty to people who don't think so. 'Nuff said.
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