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Football, Religion and Country

Even if the Super Bowl – the championship game of the National Football League – doesn’t excite you, it’s still hard not to watch.

You’re pushed, for one thing, by the fact that for many days before the big day that the entire country is talking about it – and not just the sports fans. They discuss the teams and the players – but also what commercials will be shown and how much they cost per second. People also discuss the artist(s) that will perform and what entertainment will be presented at half-time, which so many look forward to.

And, on the other hand, even if you are not a fan of American football per se you are driven to watch it by the artistry of the players and their power, as well as by the fervor of the fans of each team – but also because it is a celebration of the uniqueness of the country.

Now, if you and I don’t understand all the rules of the game, having grown up with soccer, that doesn’t take much away from the satisfaction of the spectacle.

In fact, two of the things that impress me the most are not even directly related to the game itself, but they are wrapped up with that spectacle. They are things related to religion and patriotism.

Here is what I mean: It impresses me and strengthens my own faith, as I imagine it does for many millions of other viewers, when I see young players – and not just in the championship game – who just before the game kneel down and with devotion deeply painted on their faces plead with God in front of tens of millions of eyes to help them in the game they are about to play. They then get up and take their seats with their respective teammates.

Such is the general social climate in the world these days that you don’t expect it.

There is nothing about them that prepares you for a spiritual moment like this. And yet…

The other thing, in a more political context, is this: These games are a great opportunity to manifest and cultivate patriotism among players and viewers.

The other day, I saw a player so emotional that tears were streaming down his cheeks when an artist sang the national anthem of his country.

Some were grim-faced and did not participate – perhaps because of nerves or something else. But others were standing so proudly, in a posture of respectful attention.

The patriotic atmosphere was further heightened by a swarm of fighter planes, piloted only by women (for the first time in history at a Super Bowl), which streaked across the sky over the stadium at the moment the National Anthem was being sung.

Great stuff.

Now, can’t both of these behaviors be general examples for all to follow?


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