Has God made the Super Bowl coverage today?

Last year on the morning after the Super Bowl, I blogged about all the media attention that was being given to the faith of the winning Saints.

Reggie Bush was widely quoted saying that God had brought notorious partier Jeremy Shockey to the Saints.

At the same time, the faith of the losing Colts was ignored — even though Head Coach Jim Caldwell was a devout Christian.

My point was that…to the victors goes the faith (at least in the media coverage).

So far today, I haven’t seen many references to the faith of the Packers — even though the Baptist Press wrote during the week about QB Aaron Rodgers being a serious Christian and many of the Packers attending Bible Study on a regular basis.

The only faith-filled quote I’ve seen is from receiver Greg Jennings: “To God be the glory. We’ve been a team that has overcome adversity all year, and now our head captain goes down. “(It was) emotional in the locker room. Our No. 1 receiver goes down. More emotions are flying in the locker room, but we find a way to bottle it up and exert it all out here on the field. To God be the glory.”

Maybe media people were more tuned into religious storylines last year because of all the spiritual vibes in New Orleans.

I’ll keep looking for religion-themed stories on the winners AND the losers.

(AP Photo/Morry Gash)

Still searching for perspectives on the suffering in Haiti

I noted yesterday that several New Orleans Saints were crediting God with their Super Bowl victory — while no Indianapolis Colts (that I’m aware of) said a peep about God favoring the opposition.

The phenomenon of people crediting God when things go right but not mentioning God when things go poorly got me thinking — again — of the religious responses we’ve heard to the suffering in Haiti.

As I’ve written over the past few weeks, numerous religious leaders have contended that God is present with the survivors and the rescue workers and that God expects all of us to help rebuild Haiti with our donations and prayers.

But few religious leaders address the dark and tenuous question (yes, the subject of my book) of where God was when the earthquake struck and thousands of people, young and old, good and bad, got crushed.

I can’t help it. I’m drawn to theodicy — attempts to reconcile God’s presence with the presence of evil.

So I went back and re-read a homily by a Catholic priest that came to my attention. Father Rees Doughty, pastor of St. Ann’s Church in Nyack, addresses the questions at hand quite directly.

I was going to quote a few sections of his homily, but I’ve decided to reprint the whole thing.

In short, he blames Original Sin for humankind’s fractured relationship with Creation. He says that until the created world finds peace in the fulfillment of “Jesus’ Kingdom,” God has rendered himself “helpless.” And he compares this state of helplessness to God’s position when Jesus Christ died on the cross.

Obviously, this is a Christian explanation that may not soothe those of other faiths. But it is an explanation that is worth reading, particularly if you, like me, admire religious leaders who don’t duck the tough ones:

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Our helpless God

When the human race suffers any natural disaster as catastrophic as the recent earthquake in Haiti, believers almost by nature turn to God not only in prayer but in bewilderment.  (Even non-believers appear to wonder.  The saying, “There are no atheists in foxholes” comes to mind.)  What was God thinking?  How could He have allowed something like this to happen? Where was He? Continue reading

Was the Saints’ win God’s plan?

Well, that was quite a game.

You have to feel good for the city of New Orleans, no matter which team you root for.

Coming five years after Katrina, the Saints’ big win seems perfectly scripted.

By whom?

A bunch of Saints players are saying that it was “God’s plan” that they beat the Colts.

Super Bowl FootballI saw an interview with QB Drew Brees last night on ESPN, maybe an hour after the game. He was calm and collected, like he just came home from the beach with his kids.

Brees is well known to be a devout Christian. He said that it was God’s plan that he came to New Orleans as a free agent a few years back and that it was God’s plan that the Saints won the title.

I’ve been looking for some video on the Web, but can’t find any so far.

Saints running Back Reggie Bush also made God his MVP: “God had a bigger plan than all of us, a plan that we couldn’t see three or four years ago.”

Bush also credits God for bringing tight end Jeremy Shockey to the Saints: “I told him, ‘God had a different plan for you.’ He’s got to appreciate it. I know he does. Shockey’s brought so much to this team, an attitude that we definitely needed. … We needed a guy like Shockey to bring that aggressiveness to our offense, and he’s been nothing but special from Day 1.”

And New Orleans’ defensive tackle Anthony Hargrove, who was in an alcohol treatment center before this season began, credited God with his dramatic turn-around: “It’s just totally divine, this is God’s plan.”

I don’t mean to be flip, but I’m waiting for one of the Colts to say that they lost because it was God’s plan — or at least to say that it was God’s plan for the Saints to win, and the Colts happened to be the opponent.

Haven’t heard anything to that effect so far.

But, I did see the Colts’ kicker, old-timer Matt Stover, point to the heavens after he MISSED a kick. I remember thinking “Huh?”

One of the announcers actually noted Stover’s “spirituality” and that the kicker points skyward whether he hits or misses.

I think that makes Stover somewhat unique in the world of sports, where athletes generally acknowledge God only after they score or win.

Finally, there was Tim Tebow’s commercial (really his mom’s commercial), which came early, went by fast and only acknowledged the abortion issue with the broadest of strokes.

I can’t imagine there will be much fuss about it today.

The Focus on the Family website has a longer and much more expansive interview with Tebow’s parents.

Well, you know they’ll be celebrating the Saints’ win — the SAINTS won the Super Bowl! — in the churches of New Orleans and at Mardi Gras in a few weeks.

(AP Photo/David J. Phillip)

College star Tebow already making Super Bowl news

Another football item (hey, the Super Bowl is almost upon us):

Tim Tebow, perhaps the biggest college football star ever, is preparing for the NFL draft in April. There are questions about his readiness to play quarterback in the NFL, and the whole affair will become one of the most covered sports stories of the next few months.

But that’s a subject for a different blog.

Tebow Super Bowl Ad  FootballTebow is making news now, though, because he and his mother plan to star in a pro-life commercial to air during the Super Bowl. The Tebows are devout Christians and young Tim — smart, earnest, charismatic — is not shy about sharing his faith.

When playing games at Florida, he wrote Bible verses on the “eye black” under his eyes. He even talked at a pre-season press conference about saving himself for marriage.

The Super Bowl ad is being paid for by Focus on the Family, the evangelical group.

Now a coalition of pro-choice groups is asking CBS not to show the commercial, arguing that it would be divisive. The Women’s Media Center has an online petition aimed at CBS.

Jehmu Greene, president of the WMC, says: “An ad that uses sports to divide rather than to unite has no place in the biggest national sports event of the year – an event designed to bring Americans together.”

No one’s a bigger football fan than me, but the Super Bowl an event designed to bring us together? I don’t think so. It’s an event designed to make money (and bringing us together around the TV helps the $$$ cause).

The focus of the commercial is that when Tebow’s mom, Pam, was pregnant with him in 1987, she became ill during a mission trip to the Philippines and was advised by doctors to have an abortion.

For his part, Tim Tebow says: “I know some people won’t agree with it, but I think they can at least respect that I stand up for what I believe. I’ve always been very convicted of it (his views on abortion) because that’s the reason I’m here, because my mom was a very courageous woman. So any way that I could help, I would do it.”

Thirty second ads during the SB, by the way, cost $2.5 to $2.8 million.

If CBS stays with the ad, it will give new reason to pay attention to the Super Bowl commercials — other than the usual talking babies, stupid animal tricks and lots of pitches for beer and cars.

(AP Photo/Dave Martin)

The…Saints?

Football teams are usually named after ferocious animals (Bears, Tigers, Bengals, Panthers) or tough birds (Eagles, Falcons, Seahawks, Cardinals) or various marauders (Raiders, Buccaneers, Cowboys) or Native Americans (Chiefs, Redskins) or just big, tough stuff (Giants, Jets, Chargers, Titans).

Then you have the somewhat odder, quirkier nicknames (Packers, Steelers, 49ers, Browns).

And then you have the Saints.

NFC Championship FootballThe Saints? A football team named after…tough, rugged, intimidating saints.

Now that the New Orleans Saints will be playing in their first Super Bowl, I thought some might be wondering how they got the name.

According to the Pro Football Hall or Fame website, the city of New Orleans was awarded an NFL team on Nov. 1, 1966 — All Saints Day.

Of course, the city’s anthem is “When the Saints Go Marching in.”

And that’s probably the reason that when the late New Orleans States-Item asked New Orleans fans to choose a name for their new team, the winner was the Saints.

And what about the song itself, a famous gospel hymn recorded by everyone?

According to Allexperts.com, which relied on The Book of World Famous Music, Classical, Popular and Folk by James Fuld (1966), the earliest version of the hymn was published in 1896 in Cincinnati.

The hymn is a “funeral march,” meaning:

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In the traditional funeral music traditions of New Orleans, Louisiana, often called the “jazz funeral”, while accompanying the coffin to the cemetery, a band would play the tune as a dirge On the way back from the interment, it would switch to the familiar upbeat “hot” or “Dixieland” style. While the tune is still heard as a slow spiritual number on rare occasions, from the mid-20th century it has been massively more common as a “hot” number. The number remains particularly associated with the city of New Orleans.

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And what about the lyrics?

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The song is apocalyptic, taking much of its imagery from the Book of Revelation, but excluding its more horrific depictions of the Last Judgment. The verses about the Sun and Moon refer to solar and lunar eclipses, respectively, although these cannot actually occur simultaneously. The “trumpet” is that of the Archangel Gabriel. As the hymn expresses the wish to go to Heaven, picturing the saints going in (through the Pearly Gates), it is entirely appropriate for funerals.

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Does this explanation make the Saints a more appropriate nickname for a football team? Or less so?

Oh, and about the symbol on their helmet? The Saints’ website explains:

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indexThe Fleur de Lis, the emblem most closely associated with the New Orleans Saints and worn on the team’s helmets, is a symbol from the Court of Louis XIV. It is a french word that stands for “flower of the lily”. The Fleur de Lis is also a symbol for New Orleans, which was adopted during the French occupation of Louisiana from 1682-1762. Traditionally, it has been used to represent French royalty, and in that sense, it is said to signify perfection, light and life. Due to its’ three petals, the fleur-de-lis has also been used to represent the Holy Trinity.

(AP Photo/David J. Phillip)

Kurt Warner’s Christian faith almost became the storyline (again)

Had the Arizona Cardinals held on to their lead last night, it would be another off-season of Kurt Warner profiles. We would all be hearing about his Christian faith and what a good guy he is.

I heard that a Westchester Catholic priest talked about Warner in his homilies this weekend.

But it was not to be.

There’s no big religious angle connected to the Steelers’ amazing comeback. But I’ll note that Tim Rooney, who owns Empire City at Yonkers Raceway, is part of the family that owns the Steelers.

And Tim Rooney is a pretty active Catholic. He was honored by Cardinal Egan not long ago for his support of Catholic Charities. And he was grand marshal of the NYC St. Patrick’s Day Parade in 2006.

So there’s your religious connection to the Super Bowl champs.