calendar February 8, 2023 in News

God, Guns, and the Super Bowl

By The Rev. Kayla Sadowy

Right after the eagles win the NFC championship, I noticed social media posts from news outlets, influencers, and politicians hailing the decline in gun violence when the Eagles win. According to an October 30, 2022 OpEd article in The Philadelphia Inquirer, there were no shootings at all the weekends of two significant Eagles’ games. Could this be a sign?

Overall, the data remains to be seen, especially since domestic violence significantly increases during professional football games, as the article cites. Turns out, social scientists have been researching this for decades, and it is not as simple as it seems. Many factors are considered – weather, sport, location, etc. But as for us here in Philadelphia, one of the deadliest cities and regions in the country for gun violence, maybe there is room for us to hope.

Don’t get me wrong. Professional sports, especially the NFL, are replete with problems – racism, sexism, homophobia, exploitive financial practices, environmental disregard, you name it. Football itself is built on brute force that even mirrors violence. Yet sports remain such a part of our culture, most of us cannot peel ourselves away, myself included. And sometimes, just sometimes they give an entire region, too often plagued with intersecting pandemics and problems, a unity that, even just for a moment, we can all hope together.

I am no expert in gun violence. As a white woman living a middle-class life in Philadelphia and serving in Delaware County, I have the privilege of having no direct experiences with gun violence. I cannot make any claims or arguments about gun violence and sport success. But I do know a thing or two about winning teams from experience and the hope they inspire. Hailing from Quarterback Cradle and the City of Champions, I know the vivacity and electricity of a region in pain suddenly having hope. (Shout out to any of yinz from the Burgh!)

When a sports team does well, an entire region finds itself in sync. We all go to work and school and talk about the same things – our speculations as to who will win the big game, reservations about a certain player’s performance, and our plans to watch the game. We all go to the store buying many of the same items and often at the same time. We are all scheming our gameday menus and how much green (or black and gold) food to serve. Our lives begin to align in ways that might otherwise seem coincidental, but they are really outward expressions of our shared hopes and dreams for something good to happen.

We saw this last fall with the Phillies’ tremendous World Series run. Grocery stores swelled before game time. Roads were empty during the games. Bars and restaurants were flooded with business. Everything was red – from the city skyline to baked goods to everyone’s shirts. And all of us rooting for the Phillies believed, or at least wanted to believe, that something awesome could happen. Just like our anticipation, our hope was all in sync.

Now, in the days leading up to the biggest game of the year, perhaps that is where we find ourselves as a region. Our hopes are aligning around this one event. For this one night – from Chester to Pottstown and Kennett Square to Quakertown, from South Philly to Doylestown and Kensington to Coatesville – most of us will be hoping for the same outcome (unless you have the gall to put on red and gold).

For one night, this united hope will in at least one way transcend class, race, gender, location, citizenship status, native language, ability, and every other differentiator. This unified, transcendent Super Bowl hope serves as practice for us as Christians. (It is still just a game, right??) What others consider the pinnacle sport engages us in the practice of understanding what it is to be in sync with our neighbor. We run the drills of dreaming for something better than the status quo. We study the playbook for pursuing peace with one another. Our synchronized hopes cause us to wonder, what if we lived in sync with our neighbor all the time? What if we all shared this energy of hope all the time? What if we hoped for God’s love to transcend whatever keeps us apart all the time?

Like all things in sports, a Super Bowl win will last but only a season. Eventually, it will fade. But hope for something awesome, for God’s transcendent love does not have to end. Even if the Super Bowl does not end in the outcome for which we are all hoping, we know hope can outlast any season, transcend any difference, and unify even the greatest chasm.

…hope does not disappoint us, because God’s love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit that has been given to us. (Romans 5:5 NRSV)

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Pastor Sadowy serves at Grace Lutheran Church in Broomall.