Friday, November 24, 2017

Faith in faith has no place in sports

Well, who knew? It has been brought to my attention that Canadian Football League (CFL) teams have their own designated chaplains, employed to impart spiritual succour to those big rough, tough bruisers, before and after they knock the crap out of each other on the gridiron.
It's the kind of thing I can imagine happening in the States, where they are much more into that kind of thing, but I am shocked - shocked I tell you! - that it goes on in relatively secular Canada. Apparently, all CFL teams have them, and even some hockey teams.
A bunch of players sit, or kneel, around in prayer circles before a game, and a chaplain intones a prayer and some kind of spiritual pep talk (although they insist that they are not actually praying to God for a win). Many of the players will also engage in a post-game huddle as well, often with members of the opposition team they have just finished mauling, which is even more bizarre. Apparently, people of different faiths are welcome to participate, although I don't imagine there is much demand for Hindu or Muslim prayers. The chaplains also act as counsellors, even though most professional teams will also have a team psychologist on the payroll.
Now, I know that many professional sportsmen are intensely superstitious, and they have their odd pre-game rituals and habits. For many, this manifests as a rushed sign of the cross, even though probably very few of them are actually Catholic, and for most it is almost certainly more of a nervous tic than an expression of a deeply-held inner faith. Most of the crucifixes being worn are fashion accoutrements and obligatory bling rather than objects of veneration.
But somehow I can't imagine European soccer players, many of whom come from countries and backgrounds which are intensely religious, gathering for mass prayer meetings before a game. I can only think that this is some kind of American tradition that has been passed down to Canada, rather like the playing of national anthems before a game (and don't get me started on THAT!) I don't have much faith in supertitions before a sports contest; I have even less faith in faith.

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