Many times over football has been declared America’s religion. Maybe it is. When I was saying mass last Sunday, the day that the New York Giants was to play the San Francisco 49ers for the NFC spot in the SuperBowl, there were lots of heavy jackets bearing the Giants’ logo. There were also plenty of remarks after the mass about where people expected to be when the game started at 6:30 that evening. The two religions–the one I’m supposed to represent and the one symbolized by those jackets–were meshing very nicely that morning.
But I’d like to think that where it really counted my religion won. At least in one family it did. The other day I asked a friend from the parish, a retired railroad worker and a rabid Giants fan, whether he had seen the game against the Green Bay Packers the week before. When he shook his head no, I thought he was kidding. I looked at him with a smile, but he shook his head again. He explained that he and his wife had been invited to dinner with some immigrant friends, so he had had to miss the game. “No greater love than this…” are the words that popped into my head.
The same fellow told me that he was impressed with the ending of one of the other playoff games when the head coaches hugged one another at the end of a tense game that ended in the elimination of one of the teams. My friend acknowledged how bitterly contested the game was but saw the embrace of the two coaches as the most important play of the day. Another victory for our side, I thought.