God and sports

November 27, 2007    By: Geoff J @ 7:36 am   Category: Life,Mormon Culture/Practices,Sports

Apparently there are a lot of Utah Ute fans who are having a cow over a post-game comment by BYU receiver Austin Collie. Collie is the receiver who caught the long pass from Max Hall on 4th and 18 in the waning moments of the game on Saturday. That unlikely play eventually led to the Cougar victory. As far as I can tell here is what Collie said to a radio journalist in the euphoria after the game:

“I wouldn’t say it was lucky. We executed the play well. We should have had another one (TD). Obviously, if you do what’s right on and off the field, I think the Lord steps in and plays a part in it. Magic happens.”

The sports message boards and Utah radio airwaves have been abuzz with debate over this comment. Journalist Mike Sorenson said: “That implies a higher power favors one team over another and that his team is favored for being more righteous.” Is it just sour grapes or is there something wrong with what Collie said?

(I lean toward the former…)

97 Comments »

  1. I doubt Collie was thinking through the implications of his statement, which is understandable given the circumstances. Crediting the Lord for successes is one of those things that a lot of us do instinctively. Sorensen is right that on it’s face Collie’s comment implies that the Lord favors BYU because of superior righteousness, but I’m sure Collie didn’t mean to imply that. The proper reaction would be to cut the kid some slack, but there’s enough rancor and religious tension in the culture of the Wasatch Front that people aren’t really in to slack cutting.

    Comment by Tom — November 27, 2007 @ 8:11 am

  2. What Collie said was stupid, stupid, stupid. But the 4th and 18 was still divine intervention. There is no other explanation for that miracle. Of course, I remember a field goal on the last play of the game in a Wyoming/Utah game where Utah blocked it and ran it back for a touchdown to win the game. (circa 1984) Yup, miracles happen.

    Comment by Blake — November 27, 2007 @ 8:31 am

  3. Blake,

    If that is the case then why was it stupid, stupid, stupid to give credit where credit was due?

    Comment by Geoff J — November 27, 2007 @ 8:37 am

  4. Blake,
    Why was it stupid? Theologically, it’s probably not true, but pro athletes (and, for that matter, musicians at the Grammies and actors at the Academy Awards) almost universally give God some credit for their successes. (It may be more common in sports than among actors, but it’s not uncommon at any point.)

    I know, I know–BYU-Utah is emotionally and religiously charged, the Wasatch front is rancorous, etc., etc. But they need to get over it. Collier was speaking in the language of sports, not the language of religion, which makes sense because it was after a sports victory.

    (Full disclosure: although a BYU alum, the BYU-UofU rivalry is weak. The real rivalry, growing up, was UCLA-USC, and that’s the only one that will ever mean anything to me. As rancorous as it might be, though, there are no saint-sinner accusations flying around.)

    Comment by Sam B. — November 27, 2007 @ 8:43 am

  5. This is the kind of thing that gets said all the time, particularly down here in the south. I think it’s absolutely wrong-headed — God almost certainly does not care one wit whether Arkansas beats LSU or whether BYU beats Utah. But people usually just blow off this type of thing as normal post-victory talk. The fact that it’s causing a ruckus in Utah speaks to the particular dymanics between the U. and the Y. It’s more than just sour grapes — we have our fair share of that here in SEC country but people don’t complaint about comments like this. Instead, it’s reflective of the political dynamics of the state.

    Comment by Randy B. — November 27, 2007 @ 8:54 am

  6. Randy: I think it’s absolutely wrong-headed — God almost certainly does not care one wit whether Arkansas beats LSU or whether BYU beats Utah.

    I hear this type of comment a lot but I don’t know why people seem so confident in saying such things. How do you know what God cares about? If he cares about where your lost keys are when it is important to you why wouldn’t he care about other things that might be important to you?

    It seems to me that this is the proper axiom: “If it is important to you, it will probably be important to God too.”

    Comment by Geoff J — November 27, 2007 @ 9:14 am

  7. Don’t they call Max Hall “The Lord of Football”? Yeah, I think they do, which of course renders everyone’s complaints as superfluous.

    Comment by Rusty — November 27, 2007 @ 9:14 am

  8. It is certainly a little presumptuous to be expressing any degree of confidence about what God is thinking. That said, if you believe that God really did intervene so that the Y. would pull off an improbable victory, then don’t U. fans (who presumably don’t believe such a thing) have a real complaint here? Haven’t you in essence confirmed their fears that the Y. really does believe it is morally superior and more loved by God.

    Comment by Randy B. — November 27, 2007 @ 9:38 am

  9. For Collie this may be an important lesson – you can think some things and even believe them, but some of them you can’t say.

    In todays world this will simply be taken as self-righteousness.

    God might care about some football games, but I do not think he cares much about the point spread. (Did BYU cover the spread?)

    Comment by Eric Nielson — November 27, 2007 @ 9:44 am

  10. Geoff,
    But that would raise the question, does God root for teams, or is He only involved in individual games, with no preference as to team. For myself, I cannot imagine that God would be a Yankees fan but, aside from the last couple years, if He chooses teams, the Yanks would have to have been His. It would seem like you’d need some sort of winning streak to claim divine fanship. And I’m afraid that, at least in the time I was there, BYU didn’t win enough (except maybe in volleyball and women’s cross country) to claim Him as a fan.

    If, on the other hand, He only intervenes in a given game for no reason we can understand, then the Utes’ complaint makes no sense at all–even if God did intervene, it was whimsical, by our understanding, rather than a systemic statement of approval of Cougars football.

    Comment by Sam B. — November 27, 2007 @ 9:47 am

  11. Geoff,

    There are several problems here. The first is that the statement assumes that the BYU team is more righteous. Despite Bronco’s constant comparisons to the Stripling Warriors I remain unconvinced. I’ve known my share of college athletes and I have to say that while I knew some very righteous Mormon athletes I also knew some that weren’t so righteous, and the proportions were about the same among the non-Mormon athletes.

    Secondly, even if you assume the superior righteousness of BYU rapi^h^h^h^hfootball players, you’ve also concluded that God rewards personal righteousness not with the athletic excellence needed to dominate an opponent, but with freakish good luck and a bit of stupidity on the part of the opponent. I don’t seek the connection. In fact, I think that God pretty much leaves sports alone. The idea that preparation and practice will pay off as they naturally (and not supernaturally) do applies. Why would God interfere with this? There are lots of seemingly miraculous things that happen in sports. This is because they play a lot of games. Most games are pretty mundane. But occasionally you get something like the 2004 ALCS. Does that mean God is involved? I don’t see the evidence for that.

    Finally, the mis-use and abuse of religion is simply an ill-considered rhetorical ploy that is frequnetly used in the verbal and online spats that accompany BYU-Utah rivalry. To participate in such rhetoric is a sign of either fanaticism gone too far and/or a weak mind.

    I assume that God was also blessing the fist of the BYU fan that broke a Utah fan’s nose at the game.

    Geoff, do you seriously think that there was divine intervention on Saturday?

    Comment by a random John — November 27, 2007 @ 9:49 am

  12. So why did the Lord let BYU lose to UCLA earlier this year?

    And what about the loss to Tulsa? A lot of football players must have forgotten to read their scriptures THAT week.

    Comment by California Condor — November 27, 2007 @ 10:13 am

  13. I don’t think there is any reason to believe that God intervenes in any sports event beyond the ordinary sort of blessings that follow from keeping the Word of Wisdom, developing a sound character, and the like. It would seem to make him a respector of persons, and generally to be beneath his dignity.

    Comment by Mark D. — November 27, 2007 @ 10:35 am

  14. Mark D.

    Do you think that character has any super-natural influence on success in sports? Or do you think that character is a factor simply through natural consequences such as the respect of your teammates?

    For instance, has Barry Bonds been blessed in sports because of his character? Mike Tyson? The world of athletics is full of scoundrels, whose propensity to behave badly is often aided by their money, fame, and physical prowess.

    If character were a huge consideration every team in the world would be drafting President Hinckley, the Pope, and the Dali Lama, right?

    I would guess that for the most part the outcome of athletic events has very little to do with the Mormon concept of character, and almost certainly none of the little influence it does have is super-natural.

    Comment by a random John — November 27, 2007 @ 11:18 am

  15. So God does care about Football? I think he cares about your faith, he cares where your heart is. If you can live your faith out on the football field then yes God cares about Football, because he cares about you.

    Haven’t you guys ever seen the film Facing the Giants?
    http://ca.youtube.com/watch?v=nUUviElxeTM

    Comment by Gunner — November 27, 2007 @ 11:28 am

  16. Gunner,

    So how does one live their faith on the football field? Does the converse also apply? Do dirty players suffer the consequences? Did Detroit not win back to back NBA championships in the 80s?

    God doesn’t care if you win or lose a football game. He does care about how you win or lose, and I would guess that winning and then claiming that He is the reason you won is not what He has in mind.

    Comment by a random John — November 27, 2007 @ 11:56 am

  17. aRJ (#15),

    I am not fond of the word supernatural. I think that the spiritual is inextricably intertwined with the physical.

    Does character have an effect on sports?: Yes, but clearly not a determinative one. And certainly some aspects of character are far more significant than others.

    Comment by Mark D. — November 27, 2007 @ 12:21 pm

  18. Mark D.,

    Would you care to provide details or a mechanism? Would you also claim that priesthood has an effect on sports?

    Comment by a random John — November 27, 2007 @ 12:45 pm

  19. btw, Mark, do you prefer Collie’s term “magic” over “super-natural”? I’m sorry but if God intervenes to make BYU win, that is “super-natural”.

    Comment by a random John — November 27, 2007 @ 12:49 pm

  20. Randy: if you believe that God really did intervene so that the Y. would pull off an improbable victory, then don’t U. fans (who presumably don’t believe such a thing) have a real complaint here? Haven’t you in essence confirmed their fears that the Y. really does believe it is morally superior and more loved by God.

    No. God answers the prayers of individuals and I am certain he is no respecter of jerseys. If God did intervene in some way I believe it was not because he likes blue better but because someone or some group of people convinced him to do so. But since we don’t know for sure if he intervened or not this is all speculation anyway.

    Comment by Geoff J — November 27, 2007 @ 12:50 pm

  21. arJ: The first is that the statement assumes that the BYU team is more righteous.

    What statement assumes that? I don’t see that in the Collie quote. Are you talking about something else?

    you’ve also concluded that God rewards personal righteousness not with the athletic excellence needed to dominate an opponent, but with freakish good luck and a bit of stupidity on the part of the opponent

    Really? Where did I conclude that?

    Why would God interfere with this?

    Why would God intervene in anything in this world? Why would he help a student during a test but not the girl in the next seat over? Why would he help heal some people and not others? Why would he help one person find her lost keys and not her neighbor? Whatever the answer is to those questions, I think the same answer could apply to sports. (I believe the answer probably has a great deal to do with asking, BTW)

    There are lots of seemingly miraculous things that happen in sports. This is because they play a lot of games.

    This same argument could be used against any miracle. Will you argue that God never intervenes on the earth now?

    I assume that God was also blessing the fist of the BYU fan that broke a Utah fan’s nose at the game.

    Why do you assume that?

    Geoff, do you seriously think that there was divine intervention on Saturday?

    I have no idea if God really did intervene. I certainly am open to that possibility though. Are you certain God didn’t intervene?

    Comment by Geoff J — November 27, 2007 @ 1:04 pm

  22. Condor: So why did the Lord let BYU lose to UCLA earlier this year?

    I dunno. Why don’t you ask him and let us know what he tells you.

    A lot of football players must have forgotten to read their scriptures THAT week.

    Why do you assume remembering to read scriptures would lead to divine intervention?

    Comment by Geoff J — November 27, 2007 @ 1:06 pm

  23. Mark D.: It would seem to make him a respector of persons, and generally to be beneath his dignity.

    Again, this argument falls flat I think. Why is it beneath his dignity to intervene in some seemingly trivial things (performance in sports) and not beneath his dignity to intervene in other seemingly trivial things (performance in school/work/whatever or assisting people finding lost keys, etc)?

    Comment by Geoff J — November 27, 2007 @ 1:09 pm

  24. Geoff,

    Looking over my comment and your reply it appears that there has been some miscommunication and the blame lies with me. I am not taking issue with you but with the statement that you quote Collie as making.

    With that out of the way, I have to say that:

    Obviously, if you do what’s right on and off the field

    strikes me as a statement about personal righteousness. I would hope that you can see how there is also an implication of the moral superiority of the team that God is supposed to have helped in this situation. If the statement applies equally to both teams then the claim is that God is favoring the more righteous.

    I also think there is a difference between claiming that God helped someone by healing them or through some sort of help with a test in school or something than to say that God gave one side an advantage in a competitive athletic event. I’m happy to be wrong on that point, but I’d like someone to point out why it is I am wrong rather than simply suggesting that it is possible that I’m wrong.

    Comment by a random John — November 27, 2007 @ 1:46 pm

  25. Does Collie’s statement also imply that Utah is in fact the objectively better team and that without God’s intervention the Utes would have won?

    Comment by a random John — November 27, 2007 @ 1:51 pm

  26. arJ: I also think there is a difference between claiming that God helped someone by healing them or through some sort of help with a test in school or something than to say that God gave one side an advantage in a competitive athletic event.

    So God cannot help a student who is taking a test that is graded on a curve (like, say the SAT or ACT) then because of the “competition” involved? Or God can’t intervene in wars because there is competition involved?

    I just don’t think this argument works at all.

    I suspect divine intervention has everything to do with asking in faith and that God can intervene whenever he feels like it whether there is competition involved or not (and I think our scriptures teach this idea as well).

    Comment by Geoff J — November 27, 2007 @ 1:58 pm

  27. Does Collie’s statement also imply that Utah is in fact the objectively better team and that without God’s intervention the Utes would have won?

    I suppose it could be read to mean that. Of course that is probably cold comfort to Ute fans.

    Comment by Geoff J — November 27, 2007 @ 1:59 pm

  28. So can BYU players pray for the Utes to not win any games during a season or is God’s intervention limited to making the Utes lose against BYU?

    I’ll go out on a limb and say that if God did make the Utes lose it was retribution for the onside kick against Wyoming rather than because of Collie’s personal righteousness.

    Comment by a random John — November 27, 2007 @ 2:49 pm

  29. So can BYU players pray for the Utes to not win any games during a season or is God’s intervention limited to making the Utes lose against BYU?

    Hehe. You’ll have to ask him what requests he is willing to grant or not… In general though I suspect that praying for your own success would be more likely to be granted than maliciously praying for the failure of others.

    Comment by Geoff J — November 27, 2007 @ 2:59 pm

  30. arJ,

    I have not made any extraordinary claims. I said there was some positive effect. In my opinion, that is readily explainable – who can deny the benefit of patience, persistence, judgment, and leadership for example?

    I do not believe there is such a thing as magic. I also deny that God violates or can violate a true natural law, but rather operates within the constraints of natural laws, even in spiritual things. James E. Talmage and Joseph Fielding Smith have made similar statements.

    So the only remaining question is does living according to the ideals of our faith help one to develop sports-relevant character attributes over time? Absolutely. It is also true with regard to the ideals of many other faiths, and the ideals of many non-theistic philosophies as well.

    Comment by Mark D. — November 27, 2007 @ 3:00 pm

  31. I’m laughing my head off at that last statement!

    Comment by Kent — November 27, 2007 @ 3:00 pm

  32. #28 that is

    Comment by Kent — November 27, 2007 @ 3:01 pm

  33. The problem as I see it lies within the competitive context of sport where somone’s success is almost always coupled with someone elses failure. When God helps you find your keys everyone wins. However, divine intervention that helps one but at the same time hurts another just doesn’t seem right. (believe me I am a Utah fan and it hurt) Are there other scriptural examples where the rightious were punished just because God wanted to bless some other rightious group more? I can’t think of any. I’d like to believe that God chooses to show his love for us in ways that don’t hurt others who are deserving of his love.

    p.s. I’m just a Ute fan so I realize that I may not be as worthy of God’s favor. TIC

    Comment by Steve — November 27, 2007 @ 3:11 pm

  34. Kent,

    Actually it was funnier when it appeared that you were laughing at Mark’s nonresponsive #30.

    Mark D,

    I didn’t claim you were making extraordinary claims, I was asking for clarification. Perhaps it is my own inability to comprehend that has caused me to think that your response is less clear than your original statement.

    Comment by a random John — November 27, 2007 @ 3:24 pm

  35. @Geoff J (22)

    If the Lord saw fit to help Collie catch that pass against BYU, why would the Lord not help BYU beat UCLA or Tulsa?

    Comment by California Condor — November 27, 2007 @ 3:30 pm

  36. Steve (#33),

    How do you respond to my point in #26 about wars or tests graded on a curve? In fact, in any case where there is a scarcity it could be seen that one party “wins” while the others lose. Whenever a Mormon missionary wins a new convert some other church or pastor “loses”. Does that competition mean God must refuse to intervene as well?

    If God can’t intervene when someone “loses” then he is nearly impotent I think.

    Comment by Geoff J — November 27, 2007 @ 3:43 pm

  37. Condor (#35): If the Lord saw fit to help Collie catch that pass against BYU, why would the Lord not help BYU beat UCLA or Tulsa?

    I dunno. Why don’t you ask him and let us know what he tells you.

    Comment by Geoff J — November 27, 2007 @ 3:44 pm

  38. Ponder this:

    How is what Collie said fundamentally different than a small business owner who gets a contract and counts it as a blessing, seeing it as the Lord’s hand in her affairs? She got the contract, seven other people didn’t.

    How is what Collie said fundamentally different than a recent college graduate trying to find his first job as a software engineer who, when he is hired by IBM, counts it as a blessing and sees divine influence in his life. He got the job, the three other finalists did not.

    I think that Collie’s statement, while superficially ridiculous perhaps, touches on some deeper questions of faith/theology/etc.

    How involved is God in our lives? Does he help us get jobs? Get into grad school? Finish that TPS report on-time? Complete long passes in a game against Utah? :P

    Who knows…

    Comment by doug — November 27, 2007 @ 3:45 pm

  39. “Why don’t you ask him and let us know what he tells you.”

    Hebrews 12:6 — “For whom the Lord loveth he chasteneth, and scourgeth every son whom he receiveth.”

    Comment by Randy B. — November 27, 2007 @ 3:52 pm

  40. If God can’t intervene when someone “loses” then he is nearly impotent I think.

    I think you might be confusing “can’t” and “won’t” or maybe even “is disinclined to”…

    I my case I’m not trying to claim a limit on God’s powers, just making a claim that he has pretty good judgment. :)

    Comment by a random John — November 27, 2007 @ 4:15 pm

  41. arJ: I think you might be confusing “can’t” and “won’t” or maybe even “is disinclined to”…

    Well are you sure God is disinclined to help one petitioner if another person loses in any way as a result of that help? If so then the whole idea of praying for help getting into school x, or help landing job y, or help winning war z is deeply problematic.

    The scriptures tell us to ask. If God says no to our petitions that is his prerogative but sometimes he says yes — even to athletes. (Of course the best way to ensure no divine intervention is to refuse to ask for it.)

    Comment by Geoff J — November 27, 2007 @ 5:35 pm

  42. #38: Doug, you took the words out of my… err.. keyboard. As I pondered the implications of what Collie said (not that I take it very seriously considering the circumstances), I fail to see the difference in God helping him make a big play and God helping someone get a job or land a contract. We hear about that all the time regarding people who are faithful and also successful in business. One could argue football is just a game so God would not intervene, and getting a job might make a big difference in your life. However, to some people it is not just a game–it is a career.

    I’m not saying I think God helped him. I have no idea if God cares about BYU football. I suspect he cares at least some for individual football careers the same as he cares about anyone’s career, which means that intervening is not out of the question.

    Comment by Horebite — November 27, 2007 @ 7:33 pm

  43. Condor said: If the Lord saw fit to help Collie catch that pass against BYU, why would the Lord not help BYU beat UCLA or Tulsa?

    Well, obviously to prepare BYU to beat Utah by preparing it for all of those ridiculous trick plays Utah attempted and lost about 10 yards every time.

    Comment by Blake — November 27, 2007 @ 7:41 pm

  44. Actually, after having listened to Collie’s explanation of his comments, his statement makes perfect sense. He was referring to the fact that he had been injured earlier in the season with a pretty severe ankle sprain. Things worked out to let it heal fairly quickly. He was referring to the ability that he had to run and perform and that he had been blessed to able to do that — because of what he did both on and off the field. Now the view that God heals us when we ask is pretty solidly theologically sound. In fact, it isn’t arrogant to give credit where credit is due in thankfulness for one’s physical abilities.

    Comment by Blake — November 27, 2007 @ 8:31 pm

  45. Geoff,

    So you are claiming that in order for BYU to have received super-natural assistance that someone on the team had to have prayed specifically to have God assist them in winning the game?

    Comment by a random John — November 27, 2007 @ 8:59 pm

  46. Look to the church leaders. Have any of them ever given reason for us to believe that Collie’s remark is the way the Lord would manifest himself? I can’t think of such an instance, at least, where they were being serious.

    Comment by Jared — November 27, 2007 @ 9:06 pm

  47. Go Notre Dame. ?

    Comment by Matt W. — November 27, 2007 @ 9:17 pm

  48. Blake (#43) – Hehehe

    arJ (#45) – No, I’m not saying what you said — not with all those clauses and caveats at least. I am saying that it is well established doctrine that asking generally precedes receiving assistance from God.

    Jared (#46) – Yes. Church leaders, along with our scriptures, say God can and regularly does answer prayers and intervene in the world as a result of prayers. Now whether that is what actually happened Saturday or not is not provable but it is certainly within the realm of possibilities.

    Comment by Geoff J — November 27, 2007 @ 9:47 pm

  49. Where was God all those years back in the 50s and 60s when BYU sucked?

    Comment by JanB — November 28, 2007 @ 8:15 am

  50. JanB,

    He was in heaven.

    Comment by Geoff J — November 28, 2007 @ 8:16 am

  51. This is what I think: we aren’t really here at all, we are all hooked up to computers having a virtual reality experience and my experience of a game might be entirely different than yours.

    If it’s important in my experience that one team wins, if it helps me learn or grow or blesses me, that team will win.

    In your experience, that team might lose.

    If I’m wrong, and we’re really here, then I don’t think God cares about sports. And sometimes you win and sometimes you lose.

    Comment by annegb — November 28, 2007 @ 9:27 am

  52. Sorry – coming late to the discussion and I haven’t begun to read all the comments.

    I think it’s a well know fact that for quite a few years the BYU team was very undisciplined. That is I know of a few major bowl games where many players went out drinking the night before and there was (according to some players I talked to) a definite “smell” on the line that indicated not all of the stuff had left the bloodstream. And we all know of the scandals under Crowton which, probably as much as their record, led to his leaving. But the lack of discipline went back to the latter LaVell years.

    My guess is that Bronco has been harping on discipline both on and off the field. And he (rightly) probably told the players that they can’t expect much help spiritually if they are acting undisciplined. (Alcohol, sex, drugs, shoplifting, etc.) While I don’t know anyone on the current team, word around the campfire is that the team is much more disciplined in those regards. That can’t help but affect play on field.

    Sorry, but you simply aren’t going to convince me that trying to play on Saturday will be as effective if you are suffering an alcohol or E hangover. And that slight difference can in close games be more than enough to tip the balance.

    Does this mean that teetotalers will always win? Of course not. If you have tons of talent you can get away with more. But it doesn’t mean you’re playing to your potential. At a place like BYU where frankly recruiting is harder, even a little advantage can go a long way.

    Plus, while I don’t think God particularly cares who wins in a football game, he will bless us according to how faithful we are being in our covenants. In a real way BYU players who are Mormon and who are not living their standards are in for perhaps more danger in that regard than non-Mormons. After all God may very well reward a Baptist who drinks but prays for help since he is not under the responsibility of the Word of Wisdom that an RM is.

    So I think that much of the kerfuffle is silly. But I think Bronco has a big point. Indeed I think his teaching of discipline has probably been key for his success.

    Comment by Clark — November 28, 2007 @ 10:06 am

  53. Clark,

    I’m more than willing to admit that a team that is hungover will not perform as well as a sober team. But God has nothing to do with that.

    Comment by a random John — November 28, 2007 @ 10:33 am

  54. I think though that things went well beyond merely being hung over. But let’s be honest, many teachings God gives us have practical benefits as well as spiritual ones. i.e. the Word of Wisdom will improve your health and performance even if not drinking coffee or tea in moderation have dubious health benefits. Not sleeping around will lead to a more stable life and make STDs less likely. One could go on.

    But my point is that as a team I think there are spiritual benefits to being disciplined. That wasn’t the case years ago. Just as I think you will achieve your own personal potential if you work with God by extension that would carry over to the team.

    I don’t think God is blessing the team because they are BYU. But I think a spiritually disciplined team will receive spiritual blessings and that will have consequences on the field. To deny that is in effect to deny that God gives spiritual blessings at all. (i.e. that my praying before I study for an exam is pointless)

    Comment by Clark — November 28, 2007 @ 11:04 am

  55. To add, I think that’s just as true of the UoU. There are plenty of Mormons on the team and they have, for those wishing to participate, a team prayer after practice. God would bless those people (Mormon and non-Mormon alike) which can have consequences on field.

    Comment by Clark — November 28, 2007 @ 11:05 am

  56. At a place like BYU where frankly recruiting is harder

    Shouldn’t BYU have a spiritual advantage when recruiting? Why then complain that it is hard?

    Comment by a random John — November 28, 2007 @ 12:16 pm

  57. Because there are fewer Mormons who play good football than there are non-Mormons and many Mormons choose not to go to BYU. (Think some big names at UCLA and USC of late)

    Comment by Clark — November 28, 2007 @ 12:24 pm

  58. Isn’t there a scripture about God only being angry at those who deny that his hand is in all things?

    And, yes, sour grapes.

    Comment by Adam Greenwood — November 28, 2007 @ 1:03 pm

  59. The first is that the statement assumes that the BYU team is more righteous.

    It doesn’t, actually.

    Comment by Adam Greenwood — November 28, 2007 @ 1:05 pm

  60. Adam,

    Yes, it does. Go read #24 if you need it laid out for you.

    Comment by a random John — November 28, 2007 @ 1:17 pm

  61. Oops, sorry. The previous comment should have been addressed to Mr. Greenwood. Note that Mr. Greenwood’s #59 didn’t bother to address me at all.

    Comment by a random John — November 28, 2007 @ 1:18 pm

  62. I’m not uncomfortable with the content of Collie’s statements, though I am uncomfortable with him saying them publicly the way he did. (Just as I think the job applicant who got the job should thank God but probably shouldn’t do it around the rejected applicants).

    I’ve been coming over the last few years to Geoff J.’s view that God cares about what we care about. Part of the catalyst for this is that one of my few moments of undeniable revelation concerning the future from the Holy Ghost was about a football game and the next few seasons for a football team. I don’t really have a good explanation for why (I wasn’t praying about it or anything) but what happened is a fact and I can’t deny it.

    Comment by Adam Greenwood — November 28, 2007 @ 1:20 pm

  63. Your #24 is packed with assumptions. If I took those assumptions seriously, I would be forced to think that (1) either God never intervenes in any situation where my benefit could lead to someone else’s loss, or (2) if God does intervene, it is not only because of my righteousness but because of my superior righteousness.

    Neither is consistent with acknowledging God’s hand in all things, which is a scriptural command I take seriously.

    Comment by Adam Greenwood — November 28, 2007 @ 1:26 pm

  64. The REAL proof of divine intervention last weekend was when Notre Dame put the wood to Stanford Jr. university.

    Comment by touchdown hayzoos — November 28, 2007 @ 1:35 pm

  65. That’s Leland Stanford Junior University (what is a Junior University anyhow) to you!

    Comment by a random John — November 28, 2007 @ 1:44 pm

  66. Mr. Greenwood,

    So how often does God help the less righteous team more than the righteous team?

    Comment by a random John — November 28, 2007 @ 1:47 pm

  67. arJ,

    What are you even arguing for at this point? Is your argument that God never grants the prayers of athletes? Or that he is disinclined to ever do so? If that is your argument do you have any evidence to support that claim?

    Comment by Geoff J — November 28, 2007 @ 3:57 pm

  68. I’m trying to understand the points that others are making that seem to be less than fully fleshed out to me. If you’d prefer that I remain silent on this issue please say so and I’ll shut up.

    As for intervention in football, it is my opinion that this life is set up such that we can obtain our salvation without any football miracles. The greatest miracle is to receive a witness of God’s love for you. I can acknowledge His hand in all things without believing in football miracles.

    Comment by a random John — November 28, 2007 @ 4:08 pm

  69. Before you have a chance to ask me to shut up, I’ll add:

    Would Jesus be the greatest quarterback of all time?

    Would he be a better center than Wilt?

    Comment by a random John — November 28, 2007 @ 4:10 pm

  70. I guess what most of us are saying is that football is no different from any other endeavor, whether it be art, academics or anything else. In our culture we have this weird schizophrenia where we both privilege the physical (sports, models, clothes) but devalue them (talk about how they are of no value). It seems to me that in the gospel the spirit is all about heart, might, mind and strength. That is all aspects of our life.

    I don’t see how say Unga praying about playing well in a game when it is potentially his career is different than say me praying about an exam that might potentially affect my career.

    None of this is to say it’s simple. God often doesn’t answer prayers and what we pray for often isn’t in our own best interests. But that larger issue seems to apply equally to football or any other human endeavor.

    Comment by Clark — November 28, 2007 @ 4:11 pm

  71. As for intervention in football, it is my opinion that this life is set up such that we can obtain our salvation without any football miracles. The greatest miracle is to receive a witness of God’s love for you. I can acknowledge His hand in all things without believing in football miracles.

    I doubt anyone here disagrees with any of that. If that is your only argument then we are all in vigorous agreement after all I guess.

    Comment by Geoff J — November 28, 2007 @ 4:15 pm

  72. Adam(#62): I’m not uncomfortable with the content of Collie’s statements, though I am uncomfortable with him saying them publicly the way he did. (Just as I think the job applicant who got the job should thank God but probably shouldn’t do it around the rejected applicants).

    Very well said. I think this really nails the issue with Collie’s comment — it was kind of thoughtless. If God really did intervene it might be even more thoughtless than if he didn’t.

    Clark (#70): But that larger issue seems to apply equally to football or any other human endeavor.

    Well said also.

    Comment by Geoff J — November 28, 2007 @ 5:24 pm

  73. Maybe my “problem” here is trying to reconcile the idea of God making sure that BYU wins a game that they would otherwise lose when there are so many senseless horrible things that happen in the world. Just in my ward we’ve have three people die unexpectedly in the last few months. Why not intervene in those cases?

    Comment by a random John — November 28, 2007 @ 7:41 pm

  74. John, that’s the classic problem of evil. Put an other way, why have prayer at all if God is already trying to be maximally good? Wouldn’t anything you pray for already be something God would do or else not good enough that God should do it? Isn’t prayer then meaningless? (This is a classic problem in theology) God, however, seems to want to develop us and help us develop a relationship with him. So we see things like Joseph losing the 116 pages because he prayed to God to let him lend them out.

    I guess the point is that if one allows for an interventionist God, even if we can’t understand why he answers prayers (or which ones), that it applies to our endeavors. I’ve prayed over silly things (like lost keys) and feel I’ve had answers.

    Comment by Clark — November 28, 2007 @ 10:06 pm

  75. My 15 yr old son regularly stumbles across LDS HALO 3 players on line, including his sunday school teacher. When he finds them he tries to play with them. He claims he and his team never lose when he has LDS teammates. Maybe Brother Collie is one of the LDS Halo players. Say what you will about BYU sports and Mormon athletes in general, but my son is absolutley convinced that more Mormons = more victories, at least in HALO 3.

    (I’m an ACC guy and could not care less about lesser sports conferences like the MWC. So, sure it’s possible that God helped Collie on the play; but, if God is a football fan, it’s more likely he wasn’t even watching the game, but was tuned into real football like UT-UK, UA-Auburn, Clemson-USC or any ACC game that was being played at the same time as BYU-UU. Now that football season almost over it’s time to turn our sights to college basketball and ACC superiority. God is clearly on the side of all ACC teams, except Duke. Witness the recent UNC-BYU basketball game; although, only divine intervention can explain how BYU managed to stay so close for so long.)

    Comment by rb — November 29, 2007 @ 5:55 am

  76. rb: What is the ACC? I know what Halo 3 is, but the ACC? Come on, you’re just making that up, right?

    Comment by Blake — November 29, 2007 @ 7:33 am

  77. While I identify myself as Mormon as I presume most here do, after reading this I doubt we actually believe in the same God, especially if what I read here is accurately summed as One that is actually fussing around with football games. If that assumption is accurate (in general, not of any individual person’s comments), then we truly are on different pages.

    Regardless of individual prayers or levels of righteousness, any level of involvement in something such as the actual outcome of something described as a GAME or a CONTEST seems completely beneath the scope of the God I believe in. I would also venture to say that we mistakenly interpret happenstance (yes, I actually do believe in chance) as acts of God, ie the job interview or test-taking examples above. I do believe God cares about our lives and that prayer is important, but as far as “answers” to prayers I think most often, especially for things of this nature, misinterpretation or, to borrow a favorite term, “spiritual gas.”

    Comment by peetie — November 29, 2007 @ 8:08 am

  78. Peetie,

    I assume you also believe in a God who is too busy to be “fussing around” with other things that matter to his children too like lost keys or job interviews or school exams right? (Would you also say things like how to build boats or where to hunt for food or who ought to serve in what calling in a ward are too trivial of issues in our lives for him to fuss around with too?) If intervening in the real lives of his children is “beneath” the God you believe in then I suggest you are on a different page than most of the people here indeed (as well as being on a different page than all of the prophets I know of…)

    Comment by Geoff J — November 29, 2007 @ 8:16 am

  79. Blake,

    Pray about it. If God helped Brother Collie in a trivial BYU (redundant, I know) game, when you pray about the ACC you will get a burning in your bosom like you’ve never felt.

    Peetie,

    Lighten up. I will continue to pray for my favorite team’s athletic dominance and nothing but pain and injury for whatever team happens to play my favorite team. For really big games, I may even resort to fasting for success. And, if you’re the kind of Mormon who worships for three hours every Sunday, tries to faithfully do HT or VT, watches GC etc. then we go to the same church. I hope we even pray to the same God, but if not, my god can probably beat your god in football and most other sports.

    Comment by rb — November 29, 2007 @ 8:43 am

  80. I hope we even pray to the same God, but if not, my god can probably beat your god in football and most other sports.

    Hehehe. Niiice.

    Comment by Geoff J — November 29, 2007 @ 8:47 am

  81. The REAL proof of divine intervention last weekend was when Notre Dame put the wood to Stanford Jr. university.

    That wasn’t God. It was his mother. :)

    Comment by Adam Greenwood — November 29, 2007 @ 9:29 am

  82. Peetie, I don’t think God cares about football games. I think he cares about football players.

    Comment by Adam Greenwood — November 29, 2007 @ 9:31 am

  83. If God helped Brother Collie in a trivial BYU (redundant, I know) game, when you pray about the ACC you will get a burning in your bosom like you’ve never felt.

    Try antacids. That’s heartburn.

    Comment by Adam Greenwood — November 29, 2007 @ 9:32 am

  84. I hope we even pray to the same God, but if not, my god can probably beat your god in football and most other sports.

    That is the logical extension of most of the comments here.

    Comment by a random John — November 29, 2007 @ 9:49 am

  85. Only if we actually worship different Gods John.

    Comment by Geoff J — November 29, 2007 @ 10:00 am

  86. Wow, Geoff, talk about running in the opposite direction. Nope, my Yahweh isn’t too “busy” for the game, let alone those other matters you tried to extend my logic too. I would say He isn’t that uptight about it – I suppose that another way of describing it is (take this in the way it’s intended – I promise I mean no blasphemy here) as not such a perfectionist. Some things matter, others don’t. While I am a Utah man, sir! and I will be till I die, and hence this next admission will hurt, the game last Saturday didn’t *matter* one whit to him (he was aware, jot and tittle style, but that is different than it mattering). Besides athletes playing to the level they had prepared and practiced for, I see God as completely uninvolved, whether injury is prevented or incurred.

    Now please don’t mistake my tone. Geoff, I really appreciate your blog and efforts to help people think about issues – this community is a vital part of the Mormon culture, and being in the Midwest, this is really my only way to access mormon thought that goes beyond the sunday school level. I do feel you misunderstood the meaning of my original post, and I don’t mean any of this as an ad hominim attack or defensively. But what is with the assault? Did I come across that aggressive?

    Comment by peetie — November 29, 2007 @ 10:03 am

  87. And I totally see how I couched my initial comment as a “my God vs. your God” set the tone wrong. For that I apologize.

    However, I believe if you check the Vegas line, my God has a 15.5 point spread on your God. Can’t talk about other sports – we’ll give you curling, though. (As I said, some things matter, some things don’t j/k)

    Comment by peetie — November 29, 2007 @ 10:44 am

  88. peetie,

    Thanks for the explanation. Yes, you did come across as combative to me in your #77. I appreciate your follow up comment. You are welcome here at the Thang.

    Now as for your arguments, I think I still fundamentally disagree with you about how willing God is to intervene in the lives of people who request assistance in the every day activities of their lives. I have no problem with the assertion that some things matter and other things don’t, I think we just disagree about what matters. As Adam said in #82, football games don’t matter in and of themselves but people do matter. And people play and coach and watch football games. And people care about football games. My argument is that God cares about what people care about.

    Look at it this way. I don’t personally care about Polly Pockets generally. But when my little girl is having a birthday and all she wants is a Polly Pocket then Polly Pockets become important to me too. I believe the same principle applies to God and his children. When God’s children petition him about things that are deeply important to them, those things can become important enough to God for him to respond.

    I sense that many people here are really arguing in a non-intervening God in general. I think that preaching a non-intervening God is completely contra-scriptural as well as being counter to my personal experiences. I don’t know if that is really what you or arJ or others are arguing for but is kinda sounds that way based on the comments I’m seeing here.

    Comment by Geoff J — November 29, 2007 @ 10:50 am

  89. The player’s comment makes complete sense, so long as you BYU fans are prepared to humbly acknowledge the spiritual superiority of Notre Dame University, next time they trounce the Cougars on the field.

    Comment by Nick Literski — November 30, 2007 @ 7:44 am

  90. In their last meeting BYU beat Notre Dame. This year’s Irish team is so bad that if they beat BYU, divine intervention would be the only explanation.

    Comment by Adam Greenwood — November 30, 2007 @ 3:29 pm

  91. I’ll note that Stanford has a perfect record against BYU.

    Comment by a random John — December 3, 2007 @ 11:16 am

  92. OK. Now that BYU has been put in a lose/lose situation against a coachless 6-6 UCLA team that it already lost to this year for its bowl game I’m willing to admit that God is running all aspects of college football.

    Comment by a random John — December 4, 2007 @ 2:06 pm

  93. Yeah, time to demand the resignation of the Mountain West administrators and ADs who set up this ridiculous situation. Utah get a team with a better record than BYU and it finished 4th in the conference. Add the TV fiasco and anyone else would have been sacked long ago. Time for a change.

    Comment by Blake — December 4, 2007 @ 2:17 pm

  94. I have sat at many BYU football games where we were in a really tough spot and said prayers like, “If you just let us win I promise I will be good. I’ll never say another swear word in my life.” Sometimes we’d win and sometimes we wouldn’t. Do I think God took my prayer seriously? About as seriously as I did, which is not very.

    Do I think God takes the prayers (about football)of men like Austin Collie who are actual players on the team trying to make a career out of football? About as seriously as they do, which I assume is pretty seriously.

    Does God intervene in trivial things like sports? I guess it depends on whose doing the praying.

    Comment by Kristen J — December 9, 2007 @ 6:04 pm

  95. Blake, #93:
    Neener, neener!
    jk

    Comment by peetie — December 13, 2007 @ 9:30 pm

  96. Before the UCLA game is over I just want to ask: Just how stupid are the BYU coaches? Didn’t take a knee and gave up a touchdown. The play calling has been just terrible.

    Comment by Blake — December 22, 2007 @ 9:01 pm

  97. Question:

    Does God instantly cut off blessings to a righteous football player (or a group of righteous football players) as soon as he steps onto the playing field?

    I didn’t think so.

    Comment by Scott — January 6, 2008 @ 5:59 pm

Leave a comment

RSS feed for comments on this post.