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Does G-d care what happens in a football game?

DOES G-d care what happens in a football game? The falsely pious, the would be pious and many of the earnestly pious respond instinctively:

“Of course not! G-d cares about real things, like peace and war, love and hate, illness and poverty, not about a game.”

Actually, if you accept a fairly common theological postulate, Divine Providence, of course G-d cares about what happens in a football game. If you do not believe in G-d or Divine Providence, you are not part of this conversation; but if you do believe, how is one to distinguish between a football game and any other human circumstance?

Divine Providence posits that  G-d cares about everyone in every circumstance. The good, the bad, the ugly, the glorious, the peaks, the valleys — G-d’s Providential caring is always there.

Let us say, for the sake of argument, that you can fragment Divine Providence. Let us concede that  G-d cares only about “real” things, not games. Even so, G-d clearly cares about what happens in a football game because it is impossible to cut people’s lives in half.

Say, for example, a football fan trips on the stairs on the way to his seat in the stadium and ends up with a complicated fracture. Surely this happens. Well, because of a game G-d cares about a “real” thing: health.

Examples could multiply endlessly. Say that a poor person spends much of his salary for the ticket to a play-off game. His family then cannot eat. Surely this happens. Again, because of a game, G-d cares about a “real” thing: poverty.

How much marital discord — or marital happiness — occurs because a team loses or wins? How often do people endanger their future because of bets lost on a game? Think about it: So many “real” things happen in life because of professional sports games. Even on the illogical assumption that G-d cares only about “real” things, countless real things happen because of “non-real” things like football games.

You could counter:

“Wait a minute. When we talk about G-d not caring about what happens at a football game, we’re talking about the players, not the spectators. The players are involved in trivial pursuits. G-d doesn’t care who wins or loses a football game.”

Really? Are not football players, for example, prone to multiple body blows, short careers and extended health problems? The very same litany of implications of a football game for spectators applies to players. Their health, their marriages, their economic futures, their reputations depend on what happens at a football game.

A PERSONAL aside: When people say that G-d doesn’t care what happens at a football game, I think that most such commentators stand at a distance from G-d and reflect a lack of personal perception of G-d’s caring. So it’s easy to toss off a superficially credible statement, “Well, of course, G-d doesn’t care about football games.”

Tim Tebow prays at football games. Again, a personal aside: Perhaps those who see Tebow’s open display of prayer as silly or sacreligious have no personal engagement in prayer in relation to their own livelihood.

While we’re at it, is it offensive for a football player to pray in the public square? Is it an unacceptable violation of boundaries?

I don’t see how, since a football game is not a government activity. It is a private enterprise. (The government is not handing out contracts worth millions to individuals; the team owners are.)

The issue as to whether prayer is appropriate in a public setting — at the opening of a session of the legislature, at a school graduation — is itself subject to dispute. But a private setting? I see no issue.

Tens of thousands of people may attend and millions may watch a football game, but this does not make it “the public square.” No one forces me to watch, and no one spends my tax money to make it happen. If people want to pray there, what could the objection be other than a personal opposition to or discomfort with prayer?

Of course, one has a right to oppose prayer or be uncomfortable with it. Fine. Then again, the next guy has the same right to pray.

Think about it. The observation, “G-d doesn’t care what happens at a football game” means that G-d is confined. His caring is not universal. G-d chooses when to care and when not to. The prayer of Tebow (or anyone else) out in the open says: “G-d is not confined. His caring is universal.”

That is the issue.

Or, as the Kotsker Rebbe said in response to the question as to where G-d is, “Wherever you let Him in.”

Copyright © 2012 by the Intermountain Jewish News

Hillel Goldberg

IJN Executive Editor |

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