CONSPICUOUS displays of religious fervour sit more easily in US sport than they do in Britain, where few punters seriously believe that God can be prevailed on to favour their team any more than He can tell us in advance what’s going to win the 3.30 at Ascot.
But just how many of our cousins across the pond truly believe that the Almighty has a divine hand in significant sports events?
The answer: Three out of ten!
According to a study released yesterday by the Public Religion Research Institute 27 percent of Americans believe that Him Upstairs plays a role in determining which teams wins sports events. A majority — or 53 percent — also agree that God rewards believing athletes with success and good health.
The findings were published ahead of Sunday’s annual American football extravaganza, the Super Bowl, which will see the Baltimore Ravens square off against the San Francisco 49ers.
Said Robert P Jones, PRRI’s chief executive:
In an era where professional sports are driven by dollars and statistics, significant numbers of Americans see a divine hand at play.
According to the poll, Americans living in the country’s South are most likely to think God has a stake in who wins sports games, with Christians from racial or ethnic minorities and white evangelical Protestants more likely to feel that way than other Catholics, white mainline Protestants and the religiously unaffiliated.
The survey was carried out between January 16 and January 20 and involved a random sample of 1,033 adults aged 18 and older. The poll’s margin of error is plus or minus 3.5 percentage points.
UPDATE: Whilst God’s influence on the Super Bowl is thought to be both real and good, gay involvement in American football is most certainly not.
Last week, Baltimore Raven’s defensive tackle Brendan Ayanbadejo, an outspoken advocate for LGBT equality, said he hoped to use the Super Bowl as a platform to advocate for marriage equality and anti-bullying efforts. This prompted one of his opponents – San Francisco 49ers cornerback Chris Culliver – to declare this week:
I don’t do the gay guys man. I don’t do that. No, we don’t got no gay people on the team, they gotta get up out of here if they do.
Can’t be with that sweet stuff. Nah…can’t be…in the locker room man. Nah.
The 49ers became the first team to film an anti-bullying “It Gets Better” video last August, and, in a moment Culliver probably wouldn’t enjoy, Sports Illustrated featured a picture of two male 49ers fans kissing in a bar as part of the magazine’s Super Bowl preview issue.