Super Bowl

Fans Rely on God, Rituals to Boost Favorite Team

Supernatural Super Bowl infographic courtesy of Public Religion Research Institute. Via RNS

Most Americans don’t think God or the devil will be picking the NFL playoff winners this weekend or any other sports champions. 

But some will pray nonetheless, and a few will “religiously” perform little game-day rituals just in case.

survey by Public Religion Research Institute, released Thursday, probes the crossover between team spirit and spirituality.

Most Americans (60 percent) call themselves fans of a particular team. Among this group, several will do a little dance or say a little prayer to help the team along:

  • 21 percent (including one in four football fans) will wear special clothes or do special rituals. Donning a team jersey leads the way (66 percent). But some admit they get a little funky with their underwear. One fan wears dirty undershorts on top of his jeans.  (No word if these are boxers or briefs.)
  • 25 percent (including 31 percent of football fans) have sometimes felt their team has been cursed. (No word on how many are Red Sox fans.)
  • 26 percent (including one in three football fans) say they pray to God to help their team. White evangelicals are most likely to lean on the Lord on this: 38 percent will pray, more than any other religious group.
  • Football fans are also more likely than other fans to admit praying for their team (33 percent to 21 percent), performing pre-game or game-time rituals (25 percent to 18 percent), or to believe that their team has been cursed (31 percent to 18 percent).

At Halftime, A Religious Alternative to Beyonce

Super Bowl halftime shows often burn more vivid images into the American conscience than the most-watched football game of the year, and can claim millions more viewers.

They can also ignite controversy, as Janet Jackson did with her halftime “wardrobe malfunction” in 2004. Last year, performing with Madonna, British-born hip-hop star M.I.A. gave the finger to 114 million people.

Outraged by the raunchy behavior, or simply to capture some of the Super Bowl’s supersized audience, some religious programmers are now producing halftime shows of their own.

Sorry, But God Isn't a Ravens Fan

Photo: joyfuldesigns /

Photo: joyfuldesigns /

One of my favorite views of Charm City right now is entering into the downtown area from the 395 off-ramp. Our city is painted with Ravens spirit — purple lights dancing on skyscrapers, "Go Ravens!" posters taped to city windows, and my favorite: the billboard that simply said "WOW" after the Ravens' win Sunday over the Patriots. In fact, as I sit down to write this at the Towson Public Library, a woman just pointed out that the bookshelf next to me contains an entire collection of books with purple covers, complete with a border of purple stars cut out of construction paper.

Purple has become a unifying topic, bringing complete strangers together in conversation. All week at work, I've asked patients, "Did you see the game?" or I'd see someone wearing a purple scarf and fist bump in the air an amiable, "Go Ravens!" I think this is one of the beautiful things about sports: its ability to bring people together irrespective of socioeconomic status, race or political beliefs.

But I can't help but notice something else about all this celebration — something that disturbs me.

Afternoon Links of Awesomeness: Feb. 7, 2012

Ferris Bueller's Super Bowl ad compared side by side with the movie, North Korea goes polka via Norway with A-Ha's "Take on Me,"Jimmy Kimmel encourages viewers to pull more pranks, timelapse photography from Yosemite National Park, guess who said it: Dwight Schrute or Newt Gingrich? And an in-depth Interview Magazine chat with Grammy nominated Bon Iver's Justin Vernon. See this and more in today's links.

Afternoon Links of Awesomeness: Feb. 6, 2012

Improv Everywhere celebrates its tenth anniversary by remixing and remastering some of its best sketches. The highlights from Puppy Bowl VIII are in (look out for the MVP)! Bon Iver puts on an incredible SNL performance. Bill Maher's "Irritable Bowl Syndrome." Mad Men's promo posters have been tampered with! OK GO's latest music video from the inside of a car. A new look at Downton Abbey and more!

Bituminous Coke Dirty-Coal Game Day

Polar bear on shrinking ice from the December 2009 issue of Sojourners

Polar bear on shrinking ice from the December 2009 issue of Sojourners

I know why those polar bears you're seeing everywhere look so pensive. They're thinking not just about coke (a byproduct of coal used in industry), but more generally about the massive use of dirty coal — used to make nearly half of all U.S. electricity (while renewable sources account for only about a tenth).

They're thinking about how the U.S. and the rest of the world's decades of reckless fossil fuel use keep ratcheting up greenhouse gasses in the atmosphere, causing Arctic ice to melt even faster than expected, and threatening them and all their polar bear friends. They'd like a cold one, all right — a cold Arctic, the way their home should be.

Afternoon Links of Awesomeness: Jan. 31, 2012

The Super Bowl is right around the corner, which means tons of sweet commercials (OK GO among the most recent buzz), but more importantly, Puppy Bowl VIII. Also in today's links: Stephen Colbert chases Jon Stewart around NYC, and the basics behind the new alternative activity known as hockern, or extreme sitting. Plus bits on David Lynch, Ira and Philip Glass, Arrested Development, and the 2012 Light Festival.