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Excerpted from

Drop Kick Me Jesus, Through the Goal Posts of Life or, "Take It Outside, Godboy!": Professional Football Finds Religion

By Tim Woessner

I can handle many of the recent changes in football: the outrageous salaries that may one day bankrupt the entire league, the utter lack of loyalty to team or community among players and coaches, drug use, poor sportsmanship, greedy fatcat owners who move their teams from city to city in search of ever richer stadium deals, players who throw their girlfriends down flights of stairs. What I can't handle is all this Jesus-talk. It's startling how often Christ comes up when players talk to the media. In the past, it wasn't unheard of for players to mention God ("Well, you know, Brent, I wanna thank the Man Upstairs for giving me this opportunity"), but lately these occurrences have become far more frequent and specifically religious ("Well, Jim, I'd just like to give all praise to the Lord Jesus Christ Almighty. After my knee injury, I prayed, 'Father God, I give my life to you and I pray to be reborn in you.' And God brought me here to Tampa Bay."). I have nothing against God or Jesus or Christians. I'm sure Christ was a lovely man. However, if, in fact, Christ was the son of God, was crucified and buried, rose from the dead and ascended into heaven and is seated at the right hand of the Father, I suspect he's only a casual football fan. Yet many pro players are convinced that The Lord is helping them win games.

We don't hear much of this talk in other areas of public discourse. When the CFO of MCI Telecom discusses the Dow with Lou Dobbs on Moneyline, he doesn't say, "Well, you know, Lou, I'd just really like to give all praise to my Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ. He's kept earnings high and inflation low for several years, and because of that, our projections for the fourth quarter look strong. Praise Jesus!"

Since this phenomenon looks like it's here to stay, I guess I should look for a silver lining--and I think I've found one. This could be a boost to the NFL, which has been slipping in the TV ratings and losing fans to ridiculous sports like snowboarding, in-line skating, and soccer. So here's what to do: Realign the NFL along religious lines. I propose four conferences: the Islamic League, the Christian Coalition, the Agnostic Association, and the Jewish/Miscellaneous Conference. Each conference would be made up of teams representing different denominations or religious factions. Thus, the Boston Catholics, the Miami Jews (Reform), the Atlanta Baptists, and the St. Louis Methodists.

A league divided along religious lines presents ample opportunities for excitement, whether it's watching a close game or participating in a bloody religious riot in the stands. For the fanatic--and that word takes on a whole new meaning in this league--the new NFL (can we call it the "Born Again" NFL?) offers limitless possibilities for sports drama. Now it's not just civic pride and merchandising profits on the line, but an entire worldview. How can we know which of the world religions is really the "right" one? We'll find out in the Super Bowl.

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