Gratitude, humility or just plain silliness

This week’s crisis for professional football occurred when a Muslim player intercepted a pass, scored a touchdown, fell to his knees to pray and was promptly penalized 15 yards for unsportsmanlike conduct.

Apparently the officials didn’t realize what the player was doing was a religious gesture and not one of the many various celebration dances players engage in. And a religious gesture (think Tim Tebow) is allowed, albeit uncomfortably for many fans.

Frankly, I’m getting a bit uncomfortable with all the celebrating and religious gesturing each time a football player scores a touchdown, sacks a quarterback or finds his water bottle on the bench. (Although American football players aren’t as bad as professional soccer players who start taking off their clothes when they score – I really don’t get that one.)

I can’t get into a player’s head, so maybe when he crosses the goal line and points to the sky, crosses himself or drops to a knee to pray he really is demonstrating deep, heartfelt gratitude to God or the transcendent being of his particular choice. But I’m a bit cynical; sometimes I think it is as much to say “see how cool I am” as “give credit to God.” Which begs the question of whether God really cares about football.

There seems to be an inverse relationship between celebration of achievement and the value of the actual achievement. Some guy runs around end 20 yards for a touchdown. The crown cheers. He drops to his knees and thanks the Good Lord for giving him the strength and speed to score six points. Then he does a few nifty dance steps, jumps into the crowd to share their adulation and high fives a few teammates.

On the other hand, some nerd in a lab finds a cure to some form of cancer and he gets a write-up in scholarly journals and his friends take him for a quiet dinner at Smith & Wollensky. You just don’t see scientists doing high fives and happy dances, although I expect many do take time for a sincere prayer of gratitude.

I’d like to see a football player cross the goal line, drop the ball and jog off the field. That would put his achievement in the proper perspective.



About Jim Fair

Jim Fair is a writer and consultant. He lives in the Chicago area and has a wonderful wife, son and daughter. He enjoys fishing and occasionally catches something. He tries to play the piano and sings a little. In addition to writing for Regnum Christi Live, he blogs at Laughing Catholic. And you can follow him on Twitter: Jim Fair (@fishfair).
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