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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