by V. Rev. James Rosselli
This past Sunday, the NFL sent its lawyers to shut down a church Super Bowl party. The church, which had intended to use a big screen and to ask its members to kick in for the refreshments, was violating their copyright, claimed the NFL.
They didn’t bother the bars and taverns down the street, who were doing the same thing. Saloons are exempt from the regulation.
Without question, football is a great game. It exemplifies all that is noble: courage in the face of danger, intense preparation for one’s task, intelligent planning and selfless teamwork in pursuit of a goal, and fair play in an aggressive environment. No wonder, then, that the game is so attractive to Christians. Throughout its history, football has exemplified the hard-driving life lived clean., and thousands of sermons have been preached using football as a metaphor for an honorable life.
Americans have always approached “watching the game” as an enjoyable group activity. Friends invite friends over, pals gather companionably at the local pub, the family settles down with popcorn in front of the tube. Churches, in fact, have been having—and advertising—Super Bowl parties for almost as long as there has been a Super Bowl to party about. America’s relationship with football has always been a comfortable, friendly and casual one.
All that has changed, now.
Time to re-examine.
The NFL has made it clear that it has no use for Christians. The prohibitions against hanging personal signs out at stadia were specifically aimed at the “John 3:16” signs fans used to bring. Last year, Janet Jackson “accidentally” exposed her breast as part of the Super Bowl half-time show, and objections were met with editorials about “ignorant religious people.” This year, they have begun to target churches for aggressive action, even attempting to forbid the showing of a video made by the championship coaches expressing their Christian testimony.
The NFL obviously wishes to have no relationship with us, Perhaps we should reconsider our relationship with them.
Monday Night Football helps take the edge off “blue Monday,” and psyches us up for the rest of the week. It also keeps us up late. It eats up our entire evening, and reduces us to screaming at a little glass box when we could be talking with our family, or going out together to dinner, or maybe renting a movie we could all enjoy It draws us deeper into the great American quagmire of sitting in front of a box, watching other people do things.
We don’t even “support” the team from the distance of our living room. I think we actually forget that they can’t hear us.
This year, the teams were Chicago (in the next state from me) and Indianapolis (which is three and a half hours away, in a different time zone from my part of Indiana)—two teams in which I have absolutely no stake. On the other hand, Notre Dame—one of the premier football teams in the country—is from South Bend, where I spend several days a week. My local high school has a State-championship-level team, whose play is as exciting as anyone’s, anywhere. Tickets are cheap, and you get to actually be there. It’s an actual activity. I bet you have a similar situation, where you live.
The NFL is entertainment. They have their status in our culture by our permission, not by Divine right. Football is supposed to be fun, and it’s supposed to belong to us. When it begins to behave like we belong to it, and further, to make judgments about which of their fans are and are not entitled to casually and without fanfare enjoy their games over a publicly-broadcast medium, maybe it’s time to re-think the relationship.
Maybe we can do without Monday Night Football for a season or two..
Fr. Jim Rosselli is a Mitred Archpriest with the Community of the Holy Spirit, Ukrainian Autocephalous Orthodox Church.
Fr. Jim’s political and social commentary is his own, made as a private citizen expressing an opinion, and is not necessarily offered on behalf of the jurisdiction he serves.