Josh Axelrod > University of Maryland > Freshman > Journalism, Photo courtesy of topicagnostic
The Boston Red Sox ended an 85-year World Series drought in 2003 and added another championship to their franchise in 2007. The Chicago Cubs have not won a World Series title since 1908. Some would say the fact that the Red Sox ended their slump was purely due to human-controlled factors like amassing talent and, well, winning. But here is another theory: what if God is secretly a Red Sox fan and a Cubs hater?
God’s role in sports has long been a topic of contention. If a fan wants to believe God is ensuring their team’s victory rather than helping the victims of countless disasters around the world, they are entitled to their beliefs. But when athletes start bringing religion and faith directly into their sport, controversial situations tend to arise. Athletes have done everything from praising Jesus in a post-game speech to living for four days in a 1,500-year-old monastery with Greek Orthodox monks (here’s looking at you, Pittsburgh Steelers safety Troy Polamalu). In moderation, an athlete showing his faith is no more offensive than a celebrity mouthing off about his/her political beliefs. There are times though when God should be left out of the conversation.
When the Buffalo Bills played the Steelers earlier this season, Bills wide receiver Steve Johnson found himself wide open in the end zone with a game-winning pass coming his way. He bobbled the ball and it fell to the ground. The Steelers would go on to the win the game in overtime. After the game, Johnson had this to say over Twitter: “I praise you 24/7!!! And this how you do me!!! You expect me to learn from this??? How??? I’ll never forget this!! Ever!! Thx Tho.” When I initially saw this, I assumed he was being facetious. But apparently the Internet and SportsCener decided to spend the next week dissecting his intentions and debating the ramifications of such an @God tweet. Johnson probably should have known that anything he put on the Internet would become public in a flash, but the fact that it brought God into the mix caused its relevance to explode in ways that would make even the most outrageous attention-seeker jealous.
Twitter seems to be the new medium athletes use to share their thoughts and feelings on life and the universe. After the Cleveland Cavaliers got pounded by the Los Angeles Lakers 112-57 on January 11, former Akron Hammer Lebron James had this to tweet: “Crazy. Karma is a b****.Gets you every time. Its not good to wish bad on anybody. God sees everything!” This was a clear jab at Cavs owner Dan Gilbert, who had shown animosity when James joined the Miami Heat this summer. Mr. Miami Mallet claimed that this was just a comment that was sent to him that he reposted. Whether that was true or not, he, like Johnson, should have known how people would perceive it. Unlike Johnson though, James was a household name who had spent most of the summer alienating everyone not from South Beach. As badly timed religiously themed tweets go, King James takes the crown with no competition.
Of course, there are times when religion is the key issue in an athletic situation, and for good reason. Brigham Young University basketball star Brandon Davies was suspended from the team for – wait for it – having sex with his girlfriend. For those not familiar with BYU, it is a Mormon school associated with the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. Every student that attends the school has to sign an honor code that, among other stiulations, requires students to “live a chaste and virtuous life.” Breaking this vow cost Davies his spot on the team, his school a possible number one seed in the NCAA tournament, and might even get him kicked out of school. If you sign the honor code, you have to abide by it.
Despite these controversies, there is a time and place for religion to mix with sports. A good example: praying for former Bills tight end Kevin Everett to regain his ability to walk (which he eventually did) after an in-game accident left him paralyzed from the waste down. A bad example: Dwight Howard telling the media that God was the reason that they should pick his Orlando Magic to defeat the Los Angeles Lakers in the 2009 NBA Finals. The Magic would go on to lose in five games. Maybe Howard, Johnson, and James should teach a school on karma: saying that a higher power is affecting how a sports team or player performs will get you onto SportsCenter for at least a week, and not for reasons that will endear an athlete in the public eye.