Sports,  Theology/Bible

Watching the Super Bowl to the Glory of God

C. J. Mahaney has written some instructions about how to watch the Super Bowl to the glory of God, and I have copied them below. His remarks in this regard comprise but a portion of a larger essay titled “Thoughts on Super Bowl XLII.” Except for his intolerably heterodox disdain for the Dallas Cowboys, the rest of the essay is well worth the read.


Here are four tips for watching the Super Bowl to the glory of God.

1. Strategically assign the remote.

The remote control needs to be specifically assigned to someone. This cannot be just anybody. Viewers are assaulted with lame commercials, immoral commercials, commercials that assault and offend one’s intelligence, and commercials that parade immodestly-dressed women. These are as much a part of the Super Bowl as the game itself.

Working the remote requires skill, coordination, and discernment. This person needs to be paying attention and anticipating commercial breaks. While everyone else enjoys the game, this person is working and always aware of what’s on the TV.

I recommend you establish on the remote an alternative channel that presents no temptation (C-SPAN for example). Turning to C-SPAN at appropriate moments also means conversation will take place.

For those assigned to this task I recommend further reading. I trained my sons-in-law in the art and craft of strategic clickery. One of them, Steve Whitacre (married to my daughter Nicole), has written up these notes and you can read his post here.

2. Don’t watch passively.

I encourage fathers to watch actively and discerningly, never passively and superficially. There is no doubt that throughout the game you will hear one superlative after another attributed to the skill of the athletes. The accent throughout the game will be on skill, not character.

In my book, Humility: True Greatness, I wrote,

Nowhere is the word great mentioned more often in our culture than in the context of professional sports. If you watch any game this weekend and listen to the announcer’s commentary, then like a mantra you’ll probably hear the word great repeated throughout—great, great, great. Yet it may well be that nowhere in our culture is the absence of true greatness more evident than in professional sports. So be careful about cultivating an excessive love for professional or collegiate athletics in your child. (pp. 161-162)

Without minimizing the skill as a gift from God, I want to direct my son’s attention to character as theologically defined and described. So as Chad and I watch the game, I will draw his attention to any evidence of humility or unselfishness I observe, as well as any expression of arrogance or selfishness. I will celebrate the former and ridicule the latter.

I don’t just watch the game with Chad; I seize it as a teaching moment to equip him with discernment about true greatness in the eyes of God. Watching sports actively is about imparting theologically informed discernment.

3. Foster fellowship.

We need to make sure a room full of people are not simply passively watching the Super Bowl. With the right leadership, and with a simple changing of the channel, commercial time can be time redeemed.

Don’t misunderstand. It’s perfectly legitimate to watch and enjoy the game. I’m not advocating that you invite those who have no interest in the game and who want to distract your attention from the game. Actually, I don’t recommend you invite those folks over for the game. You can arrange to meet with those people at another time.

In strategically inviting people to watch the game with us we should make sure we don’t neglect interacting with others for the sake of simply watching the game. Watching the game should involve building relationships.

4. Draw attention to the eternal.

Sometime after the game—that same evening or the next day—it’s helpful for a father to draw his child’s attention to the game in light of eternity. It’s also helpful for us as fathers to be reminded of an eternal perspective.

Apart from those few who listen excessively to sports talk radio, this game will be quickly forgotten. Let me ask you this—who won the Super Bowl even five years ago?

The day before the 1972 Super Bowl, Dallas Cowboy running back Duane Thomas said, “If it’s the ultimate game, how come they’re playing it again next year?” Some players seem to get it. Sadly, many fans don’t.

More recently Tom Brady—quarterback of three Super Bowl championships—is quoted in a 60 Minutes interview saying,

Why do I have three Super Bowl rings and still think there’s something greater out there for me? I mean, maybe a lot of people would say, ‘Hey man, this is what is.’ I reached my goal, my dream, my life. I think, ‘God, it’s got to be more than this.’ I mean this isn’t, this can’t be, what it’s all cracked up to be.

I would anticipate that a week or two from now, even if the Patriots win and complete a perfect season, Brady will still experience the same dissatisfaction in his soul. As Augustine said, “You [God] made us for yourself, and our hearts find no peace till they rest in you.”

We must impart this eternal perspective to our children.


  • Jeff Lash

    Dr. V…I thought better of you. If I recall, prior to the two Manning Super Bowls, that the SEC hadn’t seen a victorious Super Bowl quarterback in a long time. And I believe the Big Ten was 3 for 5 prior to the Mannings. Now, I am by no means a Brady or Pats fan (Go Colts!). And I’m not an OSU fan either (Go Fighting Irish…which could be worse). I will concede that the SEC is generally stronger in football (though I am hoping that Michigan will redeem itself soon). But, being a Hoosier, I can always count on basketball (example: Indiana’s easy win over Kentucky this year). But for the record, I am glad Eli got everyone off of his back and the Pats went down. All is well in the NFL once again.

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