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Secular Worship Services, Part Two: The Superbowl

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Seattle Seahawks Russell Willson lifts Superbowl Trophy with Confetti

Sorry to all the Denver Broncos fans out there – that was pretty rough.  The Seahawks out executed in every phase of the game.  Hats off to a humble, classy, and non-flashy Russell Wilson for his quiet leadership and on-field play.

There are two very distinct kinds of liturgies at work in the Superbowl:  The Superbowl the Game (and half-time show), and The Superbowl the Commercials.  The game and the commercials overlap at points and in many ways are inextricably linked but also diverge at points as well.  This post will cover the topic of the Superbowl the game and the next post will analyze the Superbowl the commercials.  After analyzing a number of various forms of secular worship we will then discuss what these secular liturgies mean on a cultural level, a religious level, and an individual level. 

The Superbowl the Game

In many ways sports provides for men (and women also) a pressure relief valve on their bottled up, suppressed, repressed, or unexpressed emotions.  Sports can function as a kind of surrogate intimacy to other failed or stunted intimacies – this is why some men who are entirely dispassionate in other spheres (marriage, vocation, parenthood…) all of a sudden come alive in the arena or in front of the flatscreen.

Liturgies follow formats and rhythms of expected time, space, color, and aesthetics.  In many ways, most sports liturgies follow the same liturgy:

The Pregame (Welcome, Greeting, and Sacrament)

The pregame is filled several elements that invite the sports worshiper into the liturgy to follow.  Elements of the pregame involve storylines of the forthcoming game, analysis of the players and teams involved, and perhaps also preliminary indulgence into the sacramental table of the expected food and drink (tailgating, BBQ… etc.).

The Grove at Ole Miss

The Grove at Ole Miss

There are obvious corollaries between the tailgate and the Lord’s Supper (or eucharist); both are inviting the worshiper deeper into the liturgy (game and camaraderie)  to follow as well as serve to unite the participants into community with one another.

National Anthem (Call to Worship)

This is a moment of civil religiosity where we find unity in our commonality as residents (or citizens) of the United States of America.  This can also function as a kind of call to worship for the events that are about to happen on field.  It provides a very least common denominator unity to all in attendance regardless of their team allegiance.

The Game Itself (Worship in Song, Creed Recitation, Iconography, Benediction)

The game itself is participatory in many ways.  Most teams have some sort of team song(s) – this is common also among other sports – particularly college football, soccer, and rugby.  The songs serve to unite, provide camaraderie, and a sense of belonging.  Most teams also have at least one, often more than one creed, chant, or rally cry.  It could be as simple as an idea – Seattle Seahawk’s (aka. TAMU) Twelfth Man or longer form chants or cheers like University of Florida’s We are the Boys from Old FloridaAlabama’s Rammer Jammer Cheer, or Ole Miss’ Hotty Toddy.  Many of these serve to make great the dynasty of one’s own tribe to the detriment of the rivals.  There is also highly developed iconography associated with sport.  The icons serve far more than to merely brand but serve to identify allegiance to the particular tribe.  Most teams will also have some form of a victory cheer or chant as well.  These chants function in many ways similar to a benediction to a worship service (provided your team wins).

Peyton Manning - Sad Face - Superbowl - Denver Broncos

Sports can provide great elation and crushing agony (just ask Peyton Manning).  These ranges of emotions are natural because we worship with the heart – hence, success is met with great joy and defeat brings frustration, anger, and a whole host of other emotions.  We cheer when our team scores a touchdown or wins the big game and we get ticked and want a new coach when our team goes 4-8 (#Muschamp).

Sports as Evangelism (Mission)

Sports fans want other people to be a part of their tribe.  Sports is inherently evangelistic.  It is by nature evangelistic because it is human nature to want other people to enjoy the things that we enjoy.  Hence, there is a significant missional component that is hard wired into sports, particularly the Superbowl in America.

This post is the second in a series of post on Secular Worship Services, the first analyzed The Grammys.  Up next, we will take a look at The Superbowl with respect to the commercials.  

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Written by Michael Graham

February 3, 2014 at 9:04 pm

New Tim Tebow Jockey Commercial

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I don’t think Tim should go into acting… but I am sure he’ll sell a lot of shirts.

Written by Michael Graham

March 31, 2011 at 2:51 pm

Posted in Sports, Video

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Best Links of the Week

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‘Skills Don’t Translate to the NFL…’

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Tim Tebow’s skills clearly don’t translate well to the NFL.  He’s too slow, has an awkward throwing motion, and will get hammered by faster and stronger defenders.  I couldn’t resist.

Written by Michael Graham

December 19, 2010 at 11:32 pm

Posted in Culture, Sports, Video

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Best Links of the Week

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Chuck DeGroat has one of the best pieces I have read in a long long time called, “What’s Wrong With Your Pastor?”  Orthodoxy without orthopathos is orthoworthless.

Tim Tebow writing a memoir about ‘faith, family, and football’ entitled Through My Eyes, and can be pre-ordered in hardcover and Kindle.

Marvin Olasky is resuming full-time duties at World Magazine.

Kansas State nutrition professor loses 27 pounds over two months while eating a diet of Twinkies and Nutty Buddy Bars, while lowering bad cholesterol by 20% and raising good cholesterol by 20%.

Company creating an app and cell phone plug-in device to test for STDs.  I am not sure if this is exceedingly strange or a good idea… or both.

iPhone app of the week:  MileBug – creates IRS compliant travel logs simply and easily and you can email yourself the reports in both Word or Excel formats.  If you don’t want to pay the $2.99 they have a Lite version that allows you to create 10 trip reports before having to email yourself.  Also, it allows you to take notes and add parking, toll, or food expenses to each mileage report.

Pretty crazy trick play in a Middle School football game:

Women solves Wheel of Fortune puzzle with just one letter:

Best Links of the Week

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Some cogent thoughts on church planting by Ed Stetzer (see video above)

Tim Tebow Documentary coming out soon:  Trailer Here

Excellent piece in Vanity Fair by Michael Lewis entitled, “Beware of Greeks Bearing Bonds

WSJ article on Obama pushing for a tax cut and a tax hike?

Further Seems Forever reuniting with Chris Carabba.  I am hope that the new music is substantive and layered.

HDR video using two Canon 5D Mark ii‘s

Very-well written piece utterly dissecting Lady Gaga (and by corollary the generation that has made her famous) in an article entitled, “Lady Gaga and the Death of Sex.”

Interesting debate in Israel over daylight savings time and theology.

Tennessee Volunteer football coach has to coach up players on how to take a shower properly after a series of staph infections amongst players.

Popular Science gallery on 30 Awesome College Labs (classes).

Stanford creating seriously peer-reviewed rival to Wikipedia.

Infographic on who is in the blogosphere. (HT: Challies)

How to block abusive or unfriendly email on Gmail

Fidel Castro reportedly saying publicly that Cuban model of government and economics does not work… then states he misspoke and meant to say “capitalism doesn’t work.”

Really strange soccer goal (HT: Uri)

Why the Chinese economy is expanding – efficient production.  Note – the video has not been sped up

Best Links of the Week

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"I believe that God made me for a purpose, but He also made me fast. When I run, I feel His pleasure..."

WSJ Article:  How Missionaries Lost Their Chariots of Fire and Why They Should Add the Gospel Back to Their Good Works.  In this vein Desiring God had a great series re-thinking short-term missions as well as the Chalmers Center.

White House Spent $23M of Taxpayers’ Money on Fight to Legalize Abortion in Kenya

Man squatting foreclosed home tells judge in his defense that he “bought it from Yahweh.”  You can’t make this stuff up.

Someone else has finally put into words the frustration of the script of the USPS mandatory upsell.

Man attempts to smuggle 18 monkeys through security and onto plane by hiding them under his shirt.

Ed Stetzer has an insightful post at Challies on “rockstar” pastors.

Black parents give birth to blond haired and blue-eyed baby.

How to win at Rock-Paper-Scissors.

Some of the craziest pools in the world.

Old Spice Voicemail Generator.

The man claiming ownership of 84% of Facebook may actually have some merit.

ESPN mocks itself and the ridiculousness of the “Lebron Decision” special with the help of Steve Carell and Paul Rudd:

HT:  Kevin DeYoung

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