A year ago, I wrote about the possibility of sports being a national idolatry in this country. (I’m sure you remember the column?)
I thought that this year, I’d poke that hive again, what with this being Super Bowl week.
I’ve been out of the country for the last two Super Bowls. Two years ago, I watched the game at a restaurant in Honduras with many of the folks on our house building mission team (until the blackout, when I retired to my room and watched the rest of the game alone. And, yes, people who know me, if a non-sports fan watches a game with no witnesses, it may still have actually happened…) Last year, my husband and I were in Istanbul, and I’m sure that somewhere, expats were watching the game in the city, but we never heard a word about it.
This year, I’ll be at friends’ for their Super Bowl party, and I may or may not win/lose a few dollars in the process (don’t tell my mother.) I’ll eat terrific game food, laugh a lot, listen to people commentate and/or commiserate, and watch the commercials AND the actual football game.
And this year, as always, there is a lot of chatter about the Super Bowl.
Some will be talking about players and prayer. There are the praying players, who point to God after their play or kneel to pray after their win. Russell Wilson gave God the credit for his four interceptions last week. I knew that I was a Seahawks fan, but I was relieved that God is, too. I like being on God’s side. Then there’s Aaron Rodgers, who had the audacity to vocalize that he doesn’t think that God really cares about who wins a football game. Rodgers thinks that God cares about the people involved, but not about who wins a game.
Geez, where’s his faith? And if the godly Seahawks lose to the cheating Patriots, well, my faith will be shaken to know that you can cheat God and win.
Some will be talking about statistics. There is more pizza delivered on Super Bowl Sunday than on any other day of the year. There will be more than 100 million pounds of chicken wings consumed Sunday. And there are unavoidably more inane statistics dropped during the game than points scored by both teams together.
Meanwhile, the Christian Church has exploited the Super Bowl.
And that’s OK with me. In 1990, Brad Smith, a seminary intern serving at Spring Valley Presbyterian Church in our very own Columbia had an idea – that people could care for their neighbors. So their youth group stood with soup pots that day, and folks donated food and money for their local food closet. They then invited other churches to follow along, and now the Souper Bowl of Caring has generated more than $90 million which has been delivered directly to each congregation’s local community outreach. They report the donations on the Souper Bowl of Caring website, which tracks it for the whole country, then donate it locally.
We participate, at Grace, and happily toss in dollars and cans of soup (or other stuff.) This year, the offering will go to Renew Our Community, which serves all of York County. Our youth group has a partnership with ROC, which included decorating their space for Christmas.
How ‘bout you? Your congregation of faith can participate as well. We can take this national obsession (idolatry?) and make something great happen. Whether Russell Wilson is right (I don’t think so…) or Aaron Rodgers is (I think he’s got the right idea…) everybody wins in the Souper Bowl of Caring.
The Rev. Dr. Joanne Sizoo, who enjoys watching sports on TV about as much as she enjoys watching paint dry, is pastor at Grace Presbyterian Church in Fort Mill, near the intersection of Highway 160 and Gold Hill Road. Contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org.