Football, Too, Is a Religion

We attend football games religiously.

7 o’clock Friday, the field is illuminated in white. We stand in a pit of sweat and grunge, carrying flags like small spears into battle. Dressed in uniform green, we are antsy. Already the strips of menacing paint beneath our eyes is peeling off. The band lines up in two separate columns on either side of the goalpost. Tensing our bodies, we press up against the back of the pack of football players. Music begins, builds- with this crescendo we tumble through a banner. Stumbling across the pristine green field, squinting up at the giant white lights. Football season has begun.

Truth is, I had no idea it was called a goalpost until I just googled it:  I was prepared to call it “that white thingie with two white arms.” As far as I can tell, anyone could be winning at any moment. My knowledge of football is limited. Sometimes, I’ll watch the opposing team score a touchdown and begin dancing, only to remember seconds later that I should be sulking.

Us getting touchdown:  good.

Them getting touchdown:  bad.

Watching high school football, I suppose you have to remember these things. Not that football isn’t terribly exciting- I just don’t know much about the logistics. Or the rules.

That doesn’t stop me, though, from getting caught up in the excitement. Just what about a football game excites us? Makes us leap up in the precarious bleachers, rocking back and forth. We’re a mob of filth, sweat, and war paint. There is no science to spirit- you just have it. Must have it. Breath it. Because, if you’re not exhilarated by your team, then what do you stand for? This is a crash course in loyalty, and you show yours by painting your face two different colors, wearing a sparkling golden toga, and chanting at the highest volume.

We sing psalms of praise toward the football gods, raising our arms in innate worship. Football, if you do not know, becomes an intensely spiritual experience. Like at an old Protestant revival, we stomp our feet and raise our arms and dance in tight circles. We howl into the night sky, bodies wiggling, faces convulsing.

Football season has begun.

Of course, football could its very own religion. Texts written on it read longer than the Bible and Torah put together. Every Friday is our night of worship, and we spill into the stands hungry to worship. What if we put this much energy into God, though? What if we approached God’s love like we do football? We fall down in reverence and chant his name? We fist pump?

We could approach so many things this way:  especially things we don’t understand. You don’t need to fully understand football to get caught up in the ecstasy of the moment. And I’m not condemning football here. Football may be the only sport that pumps me so full of testosterone, I want to transform into the Hulk.

But with so much energy devoted to football, what else can we devote our energy to?


2 thoughts on “Football, Too, Is a Religion

  1. I’ve always thought of football as a (normally) non-lethal substitute for war. Think about it. The players gang up into two teams, map out their strategy and fight to gain territory. The victors get the spoils of war–cheerleaders, trophys and accolades. The losers go home in disgrace.
    Gotta say–I think we’re both right on this one.

  2. I’m totally with you on the football thing. I don’t get it. Never did. Never will. Don’t want to. The thingy they throw isn’t even shaped like a ball. Shouldn’t it be called footelipse?

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