praying at sporting events

as i settled into the couch to watch the utah jazz take on the oklahoma city thunder last night, there was a minister saying a prayer. i double checked to see if i got the wrong channel. then, the national anthem came on, then the nba game.

i felt uneasy. i love the nba. i love prayer. but the two of them together does not settle well with me. {full disclosure: i have a chip on my shoulder against anything okc thunder related since they stole my childhood team– the seattle supersonics}

i have been to high school and college athletic events that had prayer. in the context of a catholic school, i support prayer before games since it i consistent with the mission of the organization. in communities where the vast majority of the population are church-goers, i understand the openness and even a desire to have prayer to begin high school sports. when i lived in texas, they used to pray before high school games.

but i have been to numerous san antonio spurs games and they never prayed before their games. i would have had a similar uneasy feeling if i heard a prayer at a spurs game. the majority of folks in texas are open to public prayer. texas is very different from seattle (austin notwithstanding!)

for me, it goes beyond inclusivity too. if prayer is done, are the local rabbis and imans invited to pray at games? if there was an iman giving the prayer last night, i think i would have still been uneasy. being involved with community organizing events over the years, i enjoy inclusive interfaith pray-ers at events. at these events, it was appropriate to the gathering.

for me, pro basketball is not where we enter in unity with the Great Mystery of God.

i totally believe that God is in all things and works through all things. i am a critique of the compartmentalization of our lives and do strive to unity of life. but prayer before nba games just does not feel right.

perhaps it is an extension behind the idea of separation of church and state. when the two are wed, the state co-opts the church and uses it for the state’s advantage. whether that is imperialistic take over of a new world or for ultra nationalism in order to go to war, people of faith can throw out our values and line up for state sponsored sin.

perhaps capitalism nba-style works the same way.

the nba has a public relations program called nba cares. commercials show nba players going into the local community doing good works– visiting children in hospitals, giving out turkeys and toys at thanksgiving and christmas etc. when i first saw it, the smart aleck in me thought, “the nba cares about itself its reputation.” while i do not question the sincerity of a player doing good deeds for people, i do question the ultimate reason the nba shows it on national tv for the world to see: it helps their “brand” and its related sales.

perhaps praying at games is just good public relations in oklahoma. perhaps inviting a local charismatic pastor of a 10,000 seat congregation will being in an additional few thousand in ticket sales from his/her followers. perhaps, the hobnobbing among pastors is needed in okc for a good business connections. praying at thunder games is good public relations– which can translate into more $$$$.

i could be wrong about all of this. maybe i am just mad because with the prayer, God might be helping the thunder win the game. that goes against my nature in hoping that the thunder get blown out of the game.

so, give me my nba at nba time and my prayer at prayer time. that makes me happy.


  1. DC says:

    But some times your team needs a prayer.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. frarthurcmf says:

      LOL, once again our lady comes through with the “hail mary”


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