Super Bowl Sunday: Go Ravens! (I guess)

I’m always thrilled when Super Bowl Sunday arrives because that means it’s only a short while before pitchers and catchers report to spring training.

It’s also the annual Souper Bowl of Caring, which is a Good Thing. (Yes, canned food drives are clumsy and inefficient, and cash donations to your local food pantries are much, much better. But canned food drives also introduce and inspire new members of the community to pitch in and to learn about the work of the pantries and to move closer to being the kind of people who will write a check and not just offer a dusty can of tuna, so it’s all good.)

I’m neither a Ravens fan nor a 49ers fan, but I’ll be rooting for the Baltimore Ravens today.

Let me be clear that I don’t think God is taking sides in this, or any other, sporting contest. Yes, I’ve seen the Public Religion Research Institute poll about God and sports:

While only about 3-in-10 (27 percent) Americans, believe that God plays a role in determining which team wins a sporting event, a majority (53 percent) believe that God rewards athletes who have faith with good health and success, compared to 42 percent who disagree.

… Majorities of all religious groups disagree that God plays a role in determining which team wins a sporting event, but there are differences in intensity. Roughly 4-in-10 minority Christians (40 percent) and white evangelical Protestants (38 percent) agree that God does play a role in the outcome of a sporting event, compared to less than 3-in-10 (29 percent) Catholics, less than 1-in-5 (19 percent) white mainline Protestants, and approximately 1-in-10 (12 percent) religiously unaffiliated Americans.

Unlike many of the folks responding to that survey, I’m not embarrassed that 38 percent of white evangelicals think God plays a role in the outcome of the Super Bowl. As a born-and-raised native of the evangelical subculture, I’m actually pleasantly surprised that the figure is that low. The survey shows that 62 percent of white evangelicals don’t believe that God plays a role in the outcome of the Super Bowl. That’s better than I’d have guessed.

And while this is dismaying:

Two-thirds (67 percent) of white evangelical Protestants agree that God rewards athletes who have faith with good health and success.

It’s also not as bad as I feared. Only two-thirds of white evangelicals think that Eliphaz, Bildad and Zophar are the true heroes of the book of Job, agreeing with their argument that God always rewards virtue with success. Count me among the minority who agrees with Job.

So, no, God is not taking sides in the Super Bowl. But I will be. I’ll be cheering for the Baltimore Ravens.

Here are my four reasons why:

1. Brendan Ayanbadejo: A fierce linebacker on a team that’s famous for fierce linebackers, Ayanbadejo has also been a fearless and outspoken advocate for LGBT equality. On a personal level he doesn’t abide anti-gay slurs, and on a public level he has used his platform as an athlete to champion equal rights and marriage equality. He’s a mensch.

Picture of Blue Hens QB Joe Flacco from

Ayanbadejo’s uncompromising commitment to fairness for others provides a stark contrast to some of the ugly/stupid things we’ve heard in recent days from members of the 49ers — guys apparently not bright enough to understand the words “San Francisco” on their uniforms. To the extent that their comments have turned this into “The Big Gay Super Bowl,” I’ve got to side with Ayanbadejo’s team.

2. Joe Flacco: I worked for the newspaper of record in Delaware during Flacco’s years as a University of Delaware Blue Hen, and he was probably the second-best local athlete we covered. The thing about following college sports — even big time college football — is that you’re constantly reminded that you’re also watching very young college kids. And after you’ve followed an athlete when he’s still a kid, you feel kind of invested and hope to see him succeed as he gets older. Flacco gives me a “local kid makes good” rooting interest in this game.

3. Baltimore vs. San Francisco: When I don’t otherwise have an interest in the outcome of a sporting event, I tend to cheer for whichever team’s fans probably need it more. I’ve been to San Francisco — it’s a spectacularly beautiful place with gorgeous weather year-round. I’ve been to Baltimore — it’s Baltimore. Win or lose, 49ers fans will still live in San Francisco. Win or lose, Ravens fans will still live in Baltimore. I’m not sure which team is the underdog in this game, but I know which city is. And I always root for the underdog.

4. The Wire. I think it was the greatest show ever on TV, and possibly also the Great American Novel. And the main character of that story was the city of Baltimore. So I’m rooting for the Ravens because a Ravens win would be good news for my old friends Lester Freamon, Bunk, McNulty, Bodie, Omar, Wallace, D’Andre, Stringer, Bubbles, Bunny, Prez, Snoop, Kima, Frank Sobotka, Slim Charles, Prop Joe and all the rest. All of them are fictional, and half of them are dead, but still. Go Ravens.



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  • AnonaMiss

    I live in Baltimore and will be rooting against the Ravens.

    Primarily because one of my dogs is terrified of fireworks.

  • I’m reminded of a bit from Stephen Colbert’s ‘I Am America and So Can You’, wherein he explains that God does in fact constrol the outcome of all football games, always, every single time making it so that the team which prayed hardest wins. Unless they prayed equally hard, in which case God flips a coin.

  • Jenny Islander

    Re cans vs. cash for food banks: Always check with the food bank before you give either.    I am the shopper for my church’s Feed My Sheep program.  My local food bank prefers that I bring food rather than cash because they can’t work a shopping trip into their busy pickup and distribution schedule.  I call the day I shop to find out what’s needed most.  Often it isn’t canned food at all, but fresh produce.

  • AnonaMiss

     Unless he has money on a game, in which case, don’t even bother. And he always has money on the Super Bowl, the World Series, and the Kentucky Derby.

  • EllieMurasaki

     Huh. Food bank I’ve volunteered at, they can’t take produce. It’s perishable.

  • Jenny Islander

    The one I shop for can only give out one box per household per month, but they do distributions every other day, so they can give out a lot of produce.

  • Evan

    I’m dismayed that 60% of  Christians believe that God plays no role in determining the outcome of a sporting event.  I’ve little idea how He determines it – except that it’s not just a question of who prays harder or who yells Jesus’ name louder – but I’m sure He does.

  • Rhubarbarian82

    A year ago, I was overhearing a conversation between two co-workers discussing a Cowboys/Giants match up, and it took me a while before I realized that they were discussing football and not who would win in a hypothetical match-up: a team of giants or a team of cowboys. While the giants would have an obvious advantage in size, strength, and durability, the cowboys would have a strong mobility advantage due to their horses, as well as access to firearms and TNT. I think the cowboys would win if they played smart; maybe by luring the giants into a canyon and collapsing it with dynamite.

    Needless to say, I thought the match-up I was picturing was a lot more interesting than the match-up they were discussing.

    In this case, I think the ravens would definitely get the last pecks in, after the 49ers died in the harsh California wilderness. Possibly after breaking their leg in a tragic mineshaft fall, or being mauled by a black bear.

  • Lori

    I have an aunt who think that God gets her parking spaces when she goes shopping.

  • Doesn’t she stop to realize that one implication of that line of thinking is that God doesn’t think her faith is strong enough if she has to park in the ass end of nowhere in the shopping mall lot?

  • Victor

    (((God isn’t taking sides in the Super Bowl, but I am.)))

    So you’re a god too Fred! Aren’t ya?

    He’s just kidding sinner vic! :(

    Go Figure! |:)


  • Tricksterson

    Personally, I’m going to be watching the Puppy Bowl.

  • Evan

     No, it means God wants her to get some more exercise. ;)

  • I just watch the game for the commercials.

    And wow, but that GoDaddy one was offensive and awful.

  • Darkrose

    Ayanbadejo is awesome, no question. And I’m not happy about the stupid displayed by some of the 49ers players. But I was pleased that the organization responded quickly and unambiguously, making it clear their statements were not acceptable. 
    And I really want to see Giants first baseman Brandon Belt driving Jim Harbaugh’s car in the victory parade.

  • God does determine the outcome of sporting events, but it’s not a simple factor of which team deserves to win or which team prays the hardest. 

    He uses extremely complicated linear programming algorithms and data modeling applications to determine which outcome will, on the cosmic level, have the most positive repercussions on the planet as a whole.

    (Unless He has money on it, of course.)

  • God also practices yield management. He understands that some people are like Job; their faith will remain strong and steadfast despite unimaginable adversity. And some people are… not like that, and will convert to another religion the day they get a parking ticket or meet 2 red lights in a row. 

    The former group can be left on their own and be fine for the most part; the latter needs constant monitoring and a steady supply of small miracles. 

  • Lori

    I’m watching Puppy Bowl too. I seriously want about 6 of those dogs. So cute. Plus, hedgehogs! And a preview of Despicable Me 2, so minions!

    The thing that’s really cracking me up is that Subaru has Puppy Bowl specific commercials.

  • Lori

    Has GoDaddy ever done an ad that wasn’t offensive and awful?

  • Lori


    Doesn’t she stop to realize that one implication of that line of
    thinking is that God doesn’t think her faith is strong enough if she has
    to park in the ass end of nowhere in the shopping mall lot?   

    No, she definitely does not see it that way. Her reasoning is more or less, I need a parking space, I pray about this need and God supplies it. She doesn’t think it’s any weirder to pray for a parking space than to pray for any other need. I think there are a number of problems with her reasoning and that she is in general sort of a nutbar, but she’s harmless so we all just let it slide. 

  • P J Evans

     That sounds pretty normal for them. (Somehow GoDaddy has never figured out how many women are on the internet and have websites.)

  • P J Evans

     Did he get them from Nate Silver?

  • WalterC

    I used to think that they were a porn site for the longest time. Setting the offensiveness of the ads aside, how do you link web domains and hosting to any of that? 

     Did he get them from Nate Silver?


    No, He doesn’t get them from Himself. 

  • vsm

    I can’t help but think there’s something inelegant about a game where the players are allowed to simply carry the ball.

    And now the power is out.

  • The one thing in my opinion that justifies the existence of football is that when the Super Bowl comes around it means that I can go out into the world and do a bunch of shopping without having to deal with the usual amounts of people.  I can take my time, casually strolling down every aisle, and because I’m not rushing to get out and away from the people as quickly as possible, I actually remember to buy all of the things I need.

    Sadly, this year I didn’t really need all that much stuff, so I kind of feel like I squandered the opportunity.  Still, it was nice to not have to dodge the usual obstacles or spend an inordinate amount of time standing in line.

    I don’t even care about the commercials – they’ll all be online anyway, and Iron Man 3 was the only one I was interested in (and I’ve already seen it online).

  • Launcifer

    Not if they have to pass it backwards. Ahem.

  • The GoDaddy one almost made me turn off the TV.  I stuck around for Star Trek, then just turned on the first movie rather than watch any more.

  • RickRS

    Well, I watched Downton Abbey. 

    So how was the game?  Which commercial won?

  • rrhersh

    “I’m always thrilled when Super Bowl Sunday arrives because that means
    it’s only a short while before pitchers and catchers report to spring

    They are reporting early this year, because of the World Baseball Classic.  This is also consistent with the forecast by Punxsutawney Phil for an early spring.  So yeah. 

    Also, the ending of the game was actually interesting.  How often do you see a situation where it actually makes sense to intentionally give up a safety, combined with a head coach smart enough to figure this out within the time and attention constraints of the game?

  • spinetingler

    God supports murderers, apparently.

  • Victor

    Congratulation Fred, your team won, I mean the team you were rooting for.


  • Emcee, cubed

    Most of my friends were referring to it as the Beyonce concert, with the opener as some group the never heard of, the 49 Ravens or something like that. Knowing my friends, about half of them were kidding…

  • Outland10

    OMG, Yes! The Wire alone is reason to root for the Ravens. I too imagine the reaction of the characters to the game.
    I’d add reason 5. Purple and Black, and possibly 6. The Squirrel Dance.
    Yea, Baltimore, enjoy your victory!

  • Rae

    Beyonce won, and I think Entergy lost.

  • guys apparently not bright enough to understand the words “San Francisco” 

    Sigh. Yeah, I’m in the SF Bay Area and that hit the news big time.

    Which commercial won?

    Early returns say Clydesdales.

    What I wonder about GoDaddy is – how does a bargain webhosting company afford so many Super Bowl ads?

  • Outland10

    Ravens, No Doubt! –Omar

  • flat

    That’s what I like about real football (you call it soccer you herectics) We have atleast 45 minutes of playing then a break and then another 45 minutes of playing.
    And some very offensive football chants

    And Fred couldn’t you use the power outage as an example for one of your infrastructure posts?

  • Amaryllis
  • Carstonio

    I have a high standard of proof for any claim that gods care about the outcomes of games. I would want to see them in the stands actually cheering on their favorites. Sort of like the Iliad with the Olympians taking sides between the Greeks and the Trojans. Rick Riordan could set his next book at the Meadowlands.

  • other lori

    God doesn’t care about who wins, but he loves the commercials.
    Or maybe that’s everybody I know on Facebook. I boycott the whole thing–unless the Detroit Lions were to get in, which probably would be evidence of God’s intervention–because I find people getting excited over TBIs and commercials kind of disturbing. But my husband loves it, so I guess it breaks even at our house.

  • phranckeaufile

    When asked what he would say to the families of the two men killed in Atlanta after the 2000 Super Bowl, Ray Lewis replied: 

    God has never made a mistake. That’s just who He is, you see. And if our system – it’s the sad thing about our system – if our system took the time to really investigate what happened 13 years ago, maybe they would have got to the bottom line truth. But the saddest thing ever was that a man looked me in my face and told me, ‘We know you didn’t do this, but you’re going down for it anyway.’ To the family, if you knew, if you really knew the way God works, he don’t use people who commits anything like that for His glory. No way. It’s the total opposite.

    Eliphaz, Bildad and Zophar have nothing on Ray Lewis.

  • Carstonio

    Regardless of his guilt or innocence, Lewis made the issue about himself, which doesn’t speak well to his character.

  • Mike Timonin

    I have an aunt who thinks that God gets her parking spaces when she goes shopping.

    That’s silly. Everyone knows that Rita is the (minor) goddess of parking spaces.

  • Tricksterson

    You are not the only one who envisions football games like that.

  • Tricksterson

    I don’t know about Yahweh or Jesus’ opinion on sports but I assume the Norse pantheon are of course all Vikings fans.  Likewise the Celtic deities and of course the Celtics.

  • Carstonio

    Toronto’s CFL team is the Argonauts. I saw them play years ago when the league had a short-lived expansion into the US. Their quarterback should be named Jason.

  • That first GoDaddy commercial was pretty much par for the ugly, ugly course – not only did it posit that “sexy” and “Smart” could not exist in the same person, and that if you were a woman, “sexy” was your job; but it also invited the audience to be squicked out by the stereotypical non-attractive nerd guy having a kiss with a hot woman, and thus by implication having a sex life. I wanted to wash my brain off after that one. I felt I’d been made complicit in a whole host of body-shaming nastiness.

    But then later there was this other commercial, and I didn’t even realize it was a GoDaddy commercial until after the totally non-sexed up, professionally dressed woman pilot turned around and thumbs-upped the camera and then the logo came up. The commercial looked obnoxious from other angles, but unless I blinked and missed something, I didn’t notice any sexism at all. Which was why I didn’t realize it was a GoDaddy commercial.

    I am sort of afraid to go find a YouTube recap of that commercial and find out what I missed.

    Also, I am glad to have a word for what that Ravens kicker was doing late in the 2nd half before he made his field goal. “Oh, goodness, he’s Tebowing.” Not so much the crossing himself as the showily pointing at the sky to make sure everyone saw that if he made that field goal it was because God loves him, because he’s just that devout. Maybe I’m reading too much into it and being uncharitable, though. Goodness knows Tebow himself was much showboatier.

  • Lori

    Brendan Ayanbadejo used the occasion of  his team’s Super Bowl win to talk again about marriage equality. May the best man win, indeed.

    I lived in the Bay Area for many years and I’m still glad about how the game turned out.

  • Dash1

    One more reason to root for Baltimore is that they’ve got the only NFL team named after a poem. 

  • Dash1


    I have an aunt who thinks that God gets her parking spaces when she goes shopping.

    I’ll see your aunt and raise you an elderly relative who says “Thank you, Father!” every time a light changes to green as she approaches. Statistical probability is not her long suit.