A God-decided Super Bowl? 70 million Americans say yes

Super Bowl XLVIII is just two weeks away. And if The Huffington Post is to be believed, a huge number of folks are about to hit their knees. Not in a line stance, mind you, but in prayer.

HuffPo’s top religion story today claims “Half of Americans Say God Plays A Role In Super Bowl Winner: Survey.” (We have to throw a flag here with headline and story agreement, incidentally, as the U.S. population is estimated at 314 million, and the story alludes to 140 million sports fans. Penalty declined. Now let’s move forward with the game.)

How can you not click on that headline? I mean, who isn’t ready for some God-decided football. I, for one, think it would be a nice change from the referees deciding the outcome.

We have a poll, folks. A survey from Public Religion Research Institute indicates that millions of my neighbors, near and far, think the Almighty chooses which team gets the trophy.

“As Americans tune in to the Super Bowl this year, fully half of fans — as many as 70 million Americans — believe there may be a twelfth man on the field influencing the outcome,” Public Religion Research Institute CEO Robert Jones said in a statement. “Significant numbers of American sports fans believe in invoking assistance from God on behalf of their favorite team, or believe the divine may be playing out its own purpose in the game.”

Football fans … pray for their own teams to win, with 33 percent saying they ask God to intervene in games, compared to 21 percent of fans of other sports.

I’ve heard of church leaders jokingly hurrying through services so as not to miss kickoff. I’ve read about congregations hosting a themed NFL service. But I’ve never seen adults pause a game with the DVR remote to gather in prayer. To get more chips and dip or take a restroom break, yes, but never to bow their heads in supplication.

If the next paragraph is taken at face value, though, I think we have some idea of the prayers being uttered by so many:

On the average Sunday, a quarter of Americans said they were more likely to be in church than watching football, while 21 percent said the opposite. About one-in-five said they’re likely to do both, while one-third said they’re not likely to do either.

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?

Upon further review (get it?), this story also contains some prosperity gospel:

Americans also were divided on whether God rewards religious athletes with health and success. Forty-eight percent of Americans said God does reward athletes this way, but 47 percent disagreed. The belief that God will help religious athletes was most prominent among white evangelicals (62 percent) and non-white Protestants (65 percent). A little more than one-fifth of the religiously unaffiliated held the same view.

What do you think about the methodology and the reporting on this story? Best comment gets a copy of my famous queso recipe, just in time for Super Bowl Sunday.

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About Tamie Ross

Tamie Ross is a wife, mom, writer and all-around crazy-about-life girl now battling autoimmune disease. Her 20-year journalism career included stints as religion editor for The Oklahoman, online editor for The Christian Chronicle and freelancer for clients ranging from The Associated Press to United Methodist News Service. She has won state and national awards for her personal columns and editorials.

  • Alan Cochrum

    So apparently Calvinism is more prevalent than we thought.

  • Brett

    Was this an actual survey or just an example of a Bud Light “It’s not weird if it works” commercial that didn’t get made?

  • helen

    Catching headline; no doubt the story got read. But I think the number of prayers or pray-ers may be exaggerated for effect.
    I do sometimes pray nobody gets seriously hurt. But I have not got a favorite important enough to go further.
    [Some of the Bud Light commercials are pretty weird!]

  • Darren Blair

    About one-in-five said they’re likely to do both,

    The church building I go to has three TVs affixed to rolling metal carts so that people can watch videos as part of the lessons.

    Even with as solid as the building is, back when TV was still broadcast in analog instead of digital a person could get TV stations coming in on those TVs.

    Well, one Sunday it was discovered that one of the TVs was missing; someone had taken it out of storage and wheeled it off somewhere. A prompt search began to locate the TV. It turned out that some of the teens and adults in the congregation had “borrowed” it and slipped into an unoccupied classroom so that they could watch a football game.

    So yeah – we had people watching football in church.

  • http://blogforthelordjesus.wordpress.com Mike Gantt

    There is no corner of the universe where God’s eyes and hands are not present. That said, on the evening of February 2 God will be far more concerned about how many children go hungry than He will who wins a football game.

    “The things highly esteemed by men are detestable in the sight of God.” – Jesus Christ, Luke 16:15

  • fredx2

    It is one of the lefts most treasured ideas – that there are “stupid people” who pray to God to win Football games. Because there are such “stupid people”, it makes the the left feel very superior. They spend a lot of time trying to feel superior.

    So, a leftist paper publishes yet another “poll” to prove they are right in feeling superior to the stupid people.

    What is the “Public Religion Policy Institute”?
    Well, lets look at their board of directors:
    Rabbit David Saperstein “serves on the boards of the NAACP and People For the American Way. In 1999, On August 28, 2008, Saperstein delivered the invocation at the Democratic National Convention’s final session,

    Dr. Diana Butler Bass: Wrote “A People’s History of Christianity. Former columnist for the New York Times syndicate, the review of her book on amazon says “In this panoramic view of two millennia of Christian history…attempts to give contemporary progressive …Christians a sense of their family history.

    Lisa Sowle Cahill: Wikipedia says ” James Gustafson introduced her to Richard McCormick SJ and Father Charles Curran, both of whom have influenced her own career in moral theology…Sometimes called a feminist theologian and sometimes a bioethicist,”

    Richard Cizik: This is the guy who suddenly became the New York Times favorite evangelical after he began an Evangelicals for global warming sort of thing.. “On December 11, 2008, Cizik gave his resignation from his position with National Association of Evangelicals after a December 2 radio broadcast of NPR’s Fresh Air in which he voiced support for same-sex civil unions.

    Melissa Deckman: Is writing “a new book, Mama Grizzlies: Motherhood, Feminism, and the Tea Party in America. In addition, she has been researching how religion shapes attitudes about economic policy and the impact of the “War on Women” on the 2012 presidential election.She is the author of School Board Battles: the Christian Right in Local Politics (Georgetown University Press 2004), which examines the impact of the Christian Right on school board elections, … Along with Laura Olson and Sue Crawford, she is the co-author of Women with a Mission: Gender, Religion, and the Politics of Women Clergy

    Obery M. Hendricks, Jr.: He is a member of the Faith Advisory Council of the Democratic National Committee and an Affiliated Scholar in the “Faith and Public Policy Initiative” at the Center for American Progress.

    That the first six, I don’t think I need to go on. The Public Religion Policy Institute’s Board of Directors appear to be staunch liberals.
    Is this organization neutral? It hardly seems like it. Based on the board of directors, it seems to really be an advocacy organization. (Even though their website swears up and down that they are unbiased and nonpartisan, it would seem they are really partisan. And their statement of purposes shows that their main purpose is to supply information to journalists. In other words, to skew the game.

    Riddle me this: Can you imagine a legitimate polling organization who wants to understand religion in America doing something so frivolous as taking a poll about who prays for the winner of the super bowl? No serious organization would do something like that.

    • Sven2547

      What is the “Public Religion Policy Institute”? Well, lets look at their board of directors:

      I love how you didn’t bother to look at the accuracy or methodology of the poll, you just looked at all the directors of the think tank, declared them to be “liberals”, and implied that this somehow invalidates the entire exercise. Could you possibly be more hyper-partisan?

      doing something so frivolous as taking a poll about who prays for the winner of the super bowl

      Americans are big on prayer and big on the Super Bowl. Is it really that frivolous? Yet again, you’re on the attack, but you’re not addressing the issue at hand whatsoever.


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