“He lost because God wanted him to.” That was what Dionisia Pacquiao said a few weeks ago, after her son, the noted Philippino boxer Manny Pacquiao, was felled for the first time in ten years. For her part, Dionisia is convinced that Pac-man’s loss is linked to his conversion from Catholicism to a new evangelical faith. The author seems to infer that Dionisia employs a God narrative to justify being upset at her son. Apparently, Manny did not give his mother money to attend the canonization of a certain Filipino saint.
For those of us who have no stake in the fight (pun intended) the type of athletic-retribution theology Dionisia suggests may seem not only superstitious, but downright manipulative. Manny’s loss is perhaps the result of poor preparation or bad luck…but the will of God?
And yet I wonder if religious types will have that same lucidity as they consider tonight’s BCS Championship between Notre Dame and Alabama. Already billed as “Dynasty vs. Destiny,” major media outlets, some pastors, and our desires to spin our own narratives may lead some of us into some armchair theologizing to explain the workings of the world…and the gridiron.
A Notre Dame win might spawn the following narratives:
- God wants to comfort Manti Te’o for the recent loss of his girlfriend and grandmother.
- God wants secular fans to return to the faith.
- God favors the underdogs (David vs. Goliath, anybody?).
An Alabama win might be spun the opposite way:
- We should abandon our faith. Catholicism is dead.
- The evangelicals have it right.
- God doesn’t favor the lowly. Bring on the Prosperity Gospel!
I know this sounds ludicrous. And of course these are unlikely, extreme responses. Far more likely is that one of the teams will be down by 2 with :15 on the clock and within field goal range. How many fans (from both sides) will clasp hands together for the first time in years and do a little bartering with God? “Please God, let the (Irish/Crimson Tide) win and I’ll…”
It will be more than just a football game then. Somebody’s narrative might be at stake. All across the country people will wonder if God really gives a $&%@ about football.