Monday, October 18, 2010

Does NFL Football Need a Pope?

I get that standards of dress have relaxed over the years. My dad, born in the mid-thirties, says he and his family always used to put on suits and ties to go to the doctor's. And if you can rely on old movies, no one went outside without a jacket or hat from the dawn of hats (which some experts place at the first time a chinchilla died on the head of a particularly sedentary neolithic man) until about 1960. But things are changing, even in church. In an era where churches can't afford to force people to be uncomfortable in the already uncomfortable pews, the dress codes are relaxing.

Regardless of this faltering standard of dress, people seem to make an effort to do something to spruce up in church: jeans and not shorts in the summer; maybe a sports jacket over the golf shirt for the older chaps. You know, a hat tip to the people's respective version of the Almighty. Just a kind of, "Hey, God. You hooked up the world with . . . you know . . . being a world, and stuff, so the least we could do is not come in with our knobby, hairy knees jutting out all over the place."

But I am baffled these days, watching the faithful shuffle in under the ringing bells on Sundays. Have we actually allowed the football jersey to replace the suit jacket? I can't believe the numbers of folks who wear their teams' gear to worship -- presumably worship of the deity to whom they have committed and not the team to which they have committed. But it does look foggy.

I'm not making a cry for return to tradition. In fact, I hate dressing up and I have said elsewhere that I would prefer to see symphony orchestras in jeans and T-shirts. But, honestly, this all shows sort of a spooky split in faith. For believers, half of Sunday goes to the heavens and half goes to football? (Actually, if we are talking time, more than half goes to football -- maybe five times as much.) Man, if that doesn't say something about American sensibilities, I don't know what does. I mean, people actually "dress up" in their football regalia to go to church, now.

So let's organize this -- just give football its own Supreme Pontiff. Then we can make people choose between football and their current faith. It could be the new schism. Henceforth, we could work out the problems with the pigskin instead of the sword. Of course, we will have to add football strategy to the curriculum in the seminaries of the world. Does anyone know a priest or minister who can throw a guided missile through a defensive line?

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