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Football is a U.S. Religion! by Don Boys, July 23, 2012

In 1982, famous sports announcer Howard Cosell breathlessly said in his own inimitable way, "The Cowboys are more than a football team in Dallas; they are a religion." He went on to say, "Look at the loyalty of those people! Look at the signs they have made. Truly, the Cowboys are a religion in Dallas."

Cosell was only confirming what Dr. Alan Goldberg of the University of Connecticut said: "Sports [is] like a religion." This is obvious to anyone when even enthusiastic, evangelistic and evangelical religious leaders change their church schedules for athletic purposes! Houston's First Baptist Church announced in June 1994 that their Sunday evening service could be changed "if there is a sixth game between the Rockets and the Knicks." God help us when alleged Bible-preaching churches are so fanatical about secular things such as sports.

Football, yea most U.S. sports, has become a religion to many Americans. The “denominations” are the various professional and college leagues. The coaches are the pastors/priests and their associated coaches are the associate pastors. I suppose some would say there is even a pope representative in the football commissioner. They often play on Sundays and money is a major concern. (Although no one ever says, “Those sports’ teams are only interested in money. Every time I go there they charge huge parking fees, massive entrance fees, and gouge me for a hotdog and drink. What a racket!”)

Recently a major tragedy was played out when one of the major “priests/pastors” was discovered to be guilty of sexual child abuse. Jerry Sandusky, the former Pennsylvania State Assistant Football Coach, was recently convicted on 45 counts of sex abuse involving at least 10 boys over a fifteen year period.

Furthermore, his immediate boss, legendary Hall of Famer Joe Paterno (recently deceased before the hangman could grab him), along with the university president (fired as president but still teaching there!), the athletic director, and university vice president “failed to protect against a child sexual predator harming children for over a decade” according to a just-released report by former FBI Director Louis Freeh. They all knew a homosexual predator was living among them but looked the other way!

Someone should have fingered Sandusky thereby protecting an unknown number of innocent boys. There were more red flags there than are displayed every May 1 in Red Square. Penn State Assistant Coach Mike McQueary admitted that he observed Sandusky raping a boy in the locker room in 2001. He did nothing. Well, maybe the 28 year old husky former football player at Penn State clinched his fists and even held his breath but the coward did nothing to help the boy. I wonder how well he has been sleeping the past decade.

When Paterno, who was considered the king (or maybe a cardinal of college football), was fired for his part in the cover-up, the “congregants” rioted in protest. Sport’s enthusiasts are very dedicated fanatics. Paterno was considered the most ethical coach in college football but by keeping silent and permitting an underling to sodomize boys, he proved to be a coward. No one spoke to Sandusky to even suggest that he might stop bringing boys to the campus for sessions of sodomy!

Why did Paterno or one of the other three high level men not drop by Sandusky’s office (very close to Paterno’s) and say, “Hey Jerry, maybe you should keep your pedophilia off campus.”

I have not read one report that applies the word “homosexual” to the horrendous assaults upon innocent boys. We have been told that, in fact, there is no link between homosexuality and pedophilia! But no sane person believes that. It’s sure a crazy world out there.

There will always be creeps (perverts) like Sandusky but university leaders are supposed to be men of education, sophistication, character, convictions, honor, and decency who also should have concern for the young, innocent, and helpless.

But this is an old story, a story of fallen men who put reputation, salary, perks, popularity, friends, family, and job ahead of duty, honor, and truth. They stifle their shame, subdue their honor, courage, convictions, and live with guilt and shame for a lifetime. In 1999 Paterno promised Sandusky he could coach as long as he wanted even knowing Sandusky was being investigated over a 1998 sodomy incident!

This column title suggests that the football culture is religion and we see parallels with the cover-up by the Roman Catholic Church when some of the highest U.S. religious leaders dawdled, dallied, and delayed while thousands of boys were sodomized by “men of the cloth.” I don’t think the Catholic Church will ever recover–and maybe it shouldn’t.

Alas, the same is true with my own crowd: fundamental Baptists! There have been many cases but one that I am privy to is the Bob Gray case of Trinity Baptist Church in Jacksonville, Florida. Bob was an acquaintance of mine who had been very gracious, generous, kind, and helpful to me and my work but Bob admitted sexually abusing many little girls in his church office.

The abuse became known to church leaders and they did exactly what the top honchos at Penn State did: stammer, stall, and stonewall. After all, “we can handle it and keep more innocent people from getting hurt.” Or, “Yes, this is terrible but we must be concerned how this will impact our ministry.” Or, “Since we didn’t actually see anything, maybe we can ship our pastor off to Germany as a foreign missionary.” I don’t suppose the thought occurred that there are little girls in Germany. Like Paterno, they paid him to go and like Paterno, Gray beat the hangman to the grave before trial.

Sounds judgmental and self-righteous but I’m often ashamed to be part of the human race and occasionally ashamed to be a Baptist. However, I would rather be a lapsed Baptist than a religious sports fanatic!

More articles by this author...

Copyright 2012, Don Boys, Ph.D.


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