The moment when you really know there’s something spiritual about football:
Have you ever surfed the AM radio dial late one autumn night from your car and come across one of those fire and brimstone preachers ranting about something in front of a boisterous congregation?
But hold on. The very instant it first popped up on your speakers, what did it sound like?
Right — some football announcer raving about something in front of a boisterous capacity crowd.
Well, the old saying goes that football is like a religion.
But why stop there? I’m going to take that leap of faith, if you will, and tackle the obvious.
Football is a religion. At least as far as I can tell, for a lot of people.
Being raised a Roman Catholic, I think I spot the similarities all the time, as I’m sure followers of other faiths can attest.
So let’s compare a trip to church with a trip to a football game.
n Casual mingling. People tend to gather/linger before and after to meet and talk, whether it’s tailgating in the parking lot at the game, or in the vestibule of the church.
n Someone has to officiate, and dress the part. On the field, it’s the guys in striped shirts carrying whistles. In church, it’s the priest or minister, usually wearing clergy robes. Both parties are usually mic’d up, so as to better direct the proceedings and get their point across.
n There’s music. At the game, it’s probably a marching band if you’re lucky or ear-splitting piped-in pop music during breaks if you’re not. At church, it’s usually a piano or organ and the choir singing some very old, traditional tunes. And we’re not talking “Na Na, Hey Hey’’ here.
n There’s food, and folks get together for the breaking of the bread. At a lot of churches, communion is served as followers gather at the altar. At the game, some people whip up lavish tailgate fare, while others smuggle in food and drink. And you’ve usually got concession stands (not confession stands — that’s something entirely different).
n There’s always lots of singing and praying at both locations. At the football game, there’s singing when you’re ahead and praying when you’re behind.
n A moment of complete silence/reverence. In a Catholic church, you stand at rapt attention during the consecration of the bread and wine. At the game, you stand at rapt attention during the National Anthem. Sometimes at games (or in church), a moment of silence is requested to recognize a recent event of regional or national significance.
n Each features an impassioned halftime speech where attendees are exhorted on to do the greater good. At the game, it’s the coach talking to his team in the locker room; at church, it’s the homily.
n Money can be an issue. Donations are always accepted/expected at church, especially when the collection basket is passed. At the game, you pay to enter (unless you know somebody). The basket gets passed there, too, at least in high school games for the 50-50 drawing. And you always need spare change for the coin toss. Come to think of it, some people toss in spare change with the collection basket, too.
n At church, you have a series of readings — passages from the Bible. Football has its Bible, too — the playbook. If players forget to read and refer to theirs, they may not have a prayer (see above).
n At the end of the day, you get a receipt so you can convince people you were there for the big event. At the football game, it’s a ticket stub. At church, it’s the bulletin.
n Remember, the seats tend to fill up fast during important dates. In church, we’re talking Christmas and Easter; at the stadium, it’s rivalry games and playoffs, baby.