The Deadly Super Bowl sins

Super BowlIn commenting on previous posts about the Super Bowl, GetReligion reader Evagrius has been quick and consistent in reminding us that football is just a “bloody, brutal and violent” game that has nothing to do with religion or Christianity. I respectfully disagree about the religion part (what sport in America has more religious people in it than football?), but that does not mean that the concerns Evagrius raises are not covered by the media, and many of them have a lot do with moral issues.

Earlier this week, the Associated Press poked around in the players’ temptations in warm and sunny Miami and how they can easily distract the players from their main purposes. The article leaves a lot to read between the lines, but the point is clear. Players are seeking a good time, but that could cost them their much-desired championship rings. You all remember Atlanta Falcons safety Eugene Robinson?

The Bears took advantage of their head start Sunday night.

“We hung out a little bit,” defensive end Adewale Ogunleye said. “I can’t say too much. It was the only night I’m going to be able to do that. We had most of the guys on the team there — most of the single guys. I don’t want to get the married guys in trouble. But the single guys hung out.”

Details may be sketchy, but it’s easy to imagine how much fun a group of millionaire athletes can find — especially in South Florida, the kind of place where a 7-foot NBA All-Star center can be seen chasing down a hit-and-run driver at 4 o’clock in the morning.

Both teams know they should be in bed at that hour.

“If you want a ring,” Bears receiver Bernard Berrian said, “you’re going to avoid the distractions.”

I don’t get the sense that reporter Steven Wine was allowed to trail the players during their nights of fun. If he did, this article’s details leave a lot to be desired.

Of course partying in Miami isn’t the only potential trip-up involved in Super Bowl week. All over the country, millions of dollars are exchanging hands in betting. In all the articles I’ve read on the subject, sports betting is treated like any other business and little mention is made that betting often destroys lives and has little redeeming value to society. Or at least that’s how some see it.

The New York Times published a much-needed piece earlier this week about the pain and suffering players endure after their glory years have passed by. But don’t expect the broadcasters to be discussing it during the game tonight.

The top Super Bowl deadly sin in my book is the egotism of the players. The Miami Herald had a nice piece on this earlier this week, and it made me remember why we should appreciate the pair of coaches in tonight’s game: They are polar opposites of the egomaniacs that abound in this game.

Those of you who despair over the sin and extravagance that accompanies Super Bowl football, rest assured that some journalists are out there covering the story.

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  • Roberto Rivera

    (what sport in America has more religious people in it than football?)

    Well, I don’t have any hard data but I suspect that baseball would give the NFL a run for its religious money. You have an entire team — the Colorado Rockies — run on more or less explicitly Christian principles. Chapel services are every bit the fixture in MLB club houses as they are in NFL locker rooms. You give me Tony Dungy and Lovee Smith, I give you Albert Pujols and Carlos Beltran, to name but two.

    Actually, that may be part of the problem: MLB is increasingly dominated by players whose first language isn’t English. For instance, how many people know that the “Hammer of God,” Mariano Rivera (no relation, unfortunately), is a devout Christian? Probably not many. Not because he hides it but because of the language barrier.

    Another part of the problem is that, as Sports Illustrated has been recently pointing out, the NFL gets the kind of pass from the media that other sports can only dream of: we all know, lament and condemn steroids in MLB but Shawm Merriman tests positive (something, we should add, that McGwire, Bonds et. al. never have), serves a month and most of the press acts as if nothing happens.

    As you note,

    In all the articles I’ve read on the subject, sports betting is treated like any other business and little mention is made of the fact that betting often destroys lives and has little redeeming value to society.

    A great deal of the NFL’s popularity rests on the ease with which it lends itself to betting — a point that more than a few writers have made. Yet, no one much seems to care. (In fact, ESPN runs several columns each week on how to bet on the upcoming games. The fact that the “experts” barely break .500 underscores the waste you mentioned.)

    Finally, speaking (writing) as an unapologetic liberal in these sorts of matters, the shameful treatment and condition of former NFL players, especially in contrast with their MLB counterparts, can largely be explained in one word: union. The much hated MLBPA looks out for its members in ways that the thoroughly-domesticated NFLPA, never did. Given the reasonable expectations for life after football (my best friend in high school played for 8 years in the NFL and has the crippling injuries to proof it), it should, if anything, be the other way around.

  • shelley chan

    i’m not sure if Evagarius has noticed much…

    Athletes in Action, the sports ministry of Campus Crusade for Christ, has teamed up with both head coaches and several players to create an opportunity for them to use this historic stage to talk about their common faith in Jesus Christ.

    On Friday, February 2, Campus Crusade placed a full-page advertisement in the USA Today Super Bowl special section. The ad features both head coaches and points readers to a special Web site,

    The Web site features articles and streaming video from players and coaches who share their stories and talk about their faith in Jesus Christ. Additional articles and a clear presentation of the gospel create multiple opportunities for site visitors to learn how they can begin a relationship with God and receive God’s love and forgiveness.

  • David

    Well, there you have it. The Colts won because the Bears spent that “night out on the town.” Daniel, hopefully that doesn’t tarnish the enjoyment(?) of the moment. :-)

    All good points raised, though. On a percentage basis, I suspect that there are as many Christians in MLB, the NBA, the NHL (talk about “bloody, brutal and violent”!!!) and other sports. Some might even argue that NASCAR has more Christians in it than the NFL (does this have anything to do with the Red State/Blue State thing?). Likewise, the gambling, temptations idolatry of sports, drugs/steroids, double standards, unions, etc. issues could/should all receive more coverage than they get.

    I enjoyed the coverage of the Dungy/Smith angle of the Super Bowl and appreciated that Associated Press reported Dungy’s comment:

    “I’m proud to be the first African-American coach to win this,” Dungy said during the trophy ceremony. “But again, more than anything, Lovie Smith and I are not only African-American but also Christian coaches, showing you can do it the Lord’s way. We’re more proud of that.”