Tuesday, February 09, 2010

Thank God If You Make It, Thank God If You Don't

We've all seen the athletes who look up to the sky, point, mouth something like "Thank you God!" when they score a touchdown, hit a home run, score a goal, etc etc.

Some of us are glad to see people expressing their faith in a public outlet like that.

Other people (read: me) are a bit more disgruntled by these displays. Why? Because they seem fake.

I get it into my head that these athletes are only praising God because something awesome happened. If you're thanking God because you scored a touchdown, does that mean that he made you score that touchdown? Which implicitly would mean he made the other team not stop you? 

And what about field goals? You don't thank God for making you miss! You shouldn't thank him for when you make it! You're not thinking through all the theological implications, you stupid place kicker!! Put your hands down!

So I get a holier-than-thou attitude because of the football player pointing to the sky after he kicks a field goal. I'm disgusting.

So during the Superbowl, I saw something that really caught my eye. 

Matt Stover, the kicker for the Colts, attempted a 51 yard field goal. Now, if you know anything about Matt Stover, you would know that kick had a snowball's chance of making it. 
  • This past week, Matt Stover became the oldest person in history to play in a Superbowl at 42 years old. 
  • He was a mid season addition to the Colts, because their kicker was injured
  • He wasn't playing anywhere else, because he was cut by the Ravens. 
  • He does not kick very long field goals. Even 45 yards is pushing it. 
  • What he DOES do is kick incredibly accurately, and he's a very good kicker...just not for 50 yarders.
And of course, as this was a long field goal, he missed it.

Funny thing, many sports analysts will say this miss was when the momentum of the game shifted. The Saints had excellent field position, got the lead and never gave it up. Granted, Manning threw a pick later that made the game out of reach, but the momentum swung on this missed field goal.

So anyway, Stover misses the field goal and the camera goes back to him to show the "head down walk of shame" back to the sidelines that everyone does after a missed field goal.

But he didn't do it.

He had both his arms raised, pointing to the sky, head up, mouthing "Thank you God," and then jogged off the field...

Look familiar? 

And there was a bit of silence from the announcers, the camera just stuck on him, as if the director was stunned by the shot and was planning on following him slowly to the sidelines and now had no backup plan. After a brief moment, one of the announcers said something along the lines of "Matt Stover: Very religious man, thanks God if he makes it, thanks God if he doesn't."

And to me, in my brain, those words just hung in the air long after they were said.

Such a seemingly simple thing to understand. But I know I sure don't do it.

I have a hard time thanking God when things don't go my way. And to see a kicker thanking God for a missed kick that he probably knew he would miss, and one that he probably knew had the potential of swinging the entire momentum of the game, the Super Bowl, probably his last game of his last season...

That's something to me.