Football and prayer. In many ways, the two go together like hand and glove, sunshine and the beach, pizza and beer.
If our weekly, unscientific online poll is any indication — and we like to think that it regularly gives us a pretty good snapshot of how Bladen County thinks — then we will be right on track when we say that weekly football practices and games that are wrapped up with prayer is a good thing.
We understand the concerns of those XX percent in the poll. Separation of church and state is important.
Just as important, at least to the XX percent in the poll, is the fact that this country was founded on Christian beliefs and set up with Christian values at its core.
But football, perhaps more than any other sport, seems to have made prayer as much a part of its protective armour as helmets and shoulder pads. Simply consider the numerous religious references over the years that have been wrapped into gridiron glory:
— There is Franco Harris’ Immaculate Reception in a 1972 AFC playoff game for the Pittsburgh Steelers.
— There is Notre Dame’s Touchdown Jesus, the nickname for a mural at the school’s library that was installed in 1964.
— And, of course, there is the Hail Mary, a term for a long desperation pass to the end zone at the end of a half or game which was first used in the 1930s (it was made more popular in 1975 by Roger Staubach of the Dallas Cowboys when, after lofting such a pass, told reporters that he “just said a Hail Mary”).
Perhaps the most central to this issue is freedom to choose. It’s what our founding fathers wanted to protect most and even what separation of church and state emphasizes.
Unfortunately, perception often trumps that freedom of choice, and sometimes just clouds it enough to work against it. It’s become far easier to legislate against Christians than to protect their freedoms.
But as divisive as a small number of nonbelievers have made this issue, one thing cannot be denied: On Friday nights in the fall, after the last second ticks off the clock and opposing players walk across midfield to shake hands, there is almost nothing more humbling, gratifying and unifying than when those players — along with coaches, family and friends — kneel on the field and recite The Lord’s Prayer.
Can we get an “amen?”