Thursday, January 5, 2012

Don't Pray Away the Game

Now I'm not exactly the biggest sports fan in the world, but I've always been fascinated by the role religion plays in motivating the athletes. In any given game you've likely got at least a couple people on each team praying for a favorable outcome - but both teams can't win. This dilemma ought to be obvious to anyone who thinks about it for a minute, and yet it doesn't seem to deter players from praying away. So with that in mind, I wonder exactly how effective prayer is in motivating a young athlete. Well, over the course of the last week or so I've managed to catch my fair share of the seemingly endless slew of college football bowl games, and I think I may have found the answer.

Let's first take a look at the endgame of the prestigious Tostito's Fiesta Bowl, in which Stanford - tied with Oklahoma State at the end of the game - had the ball within field goal range. Oklahoma State employed a tactic known as 'icing' the kicker, meaning they used a time out right before the field goal attempt in order to psyche out the opposing kicker. The Stanford kicker, Jordan Williamson, turned to his god in order to take his mind off the mounting pressure of an entire stadium focused exclusively on him. He took a knee and made a pose commonly known as the Tebow - named after mediocre Broncos quarterback and Christian fundamentalist Tim Tebow - in what was obviously an act of prayer on the sideline. While the cameras didn't catch the act itself, they did catch the aftermath: a blown field goal, followed by a second blown field goal in overtime, ultimately resulting in an Oklahoma victory.

You can't help but feel sorry for the kid, really. But his story runs in clear contrast to a similar situation faced by the University of Michigan in the Sugar Bowl days later. They needed a field goal in order to bring the game into overtime against their opponents, Virginia Tech. Virginia Tech used a time out in an attempt to 'ice' the Michigan kicker, Brendan Gibbons, who proceeded to tie and then win the game with two field goals. After it was all over, a reporter asked Gibbons what it was he thought about while he was being 'iced' by Virginia Tech. His response is below:

And so it appears that if young athletes need motivation, they might want to turn to brunettes on the beach before they turn to god.

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