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I’ll never forget the day I saw a football game. It was on my bucket list anyway. Thought I may as well make it the one that split our house asunder like a Viking ax, Philadelphia transplants from a Boston bedroom community that we are. I plunked right down near my dad and learned about downs and such and was a little surprised at how infrequently the foot is actually used, considering. No one was much interested in this keen insight, so I stifled it and joined the collective lean toward the tube.
Through the miracle of HD video lenses with Super 16 mm film you can see the whites in the players’ eyes, and when they zoomed in on the man who did all the talking in the Eagles’ huddle, there was something about him. He looked pleasant, different from the spikers and boasters and knee-takers, and on a hunch I inquired in the room about his name and googled “Nick Foles,” and sure enough, scrolling down to the Wikipedia Personal section confirmed he was a Christian.
Come to find out moments after the Super Bowl that all three interviewees onstage for the Vince Lombardi Trophy presentation were Christians—coach Doug Pederson, tight end Zach Ertz, and my new buddy Nick Foles. All in turn gave glory to God, Pederson being very specific that he meant by God “my Lord and Savior Jesus Christ” and not some doorknob “higher power.”
This was red meat for the media, but they had to bite their tongues till they could find targets less untouchable than Foles and company are at the moment (until they’re bums again). Outpouring of outrage must await a safer target, and one came walking by when NBC sports analyst Tony Dungy publicly commented on Foles’ attribution of his success to the Christian God, who evidently is the only hated God left in America, as they leave Tom Brady alone with his hybrid TB12 spirituality.
The Eagles have changed the meaning of ‘locker room talk.’ The team reportedly prayed the Lord’s Prayer after the win.
All of which made me wonder if what I had watched on Sunday was not a contest between NFC and AFC champions but between Jezebel’s gods and Elijah’s on Mount Carmel. Nah, I must be imagining things; God doesn’t care about football, right? Then again, God can care about whatever He wants to, and it’s not as if He says “Mine” about everything but football. That other dragon-slayer David said of Him, “For by you I can run against a troop, and by my God I can leap over a wall” (Psalm 18:29). He might have leaped a goal line just as well.
I am as psyched about the Dungy flap as the Clements end-zone catch that turned the tide of LII. Would I feel better if Christian persecution would tone down? Yes and no. Yes because I’m not a masochist; no because persecution is confirmation I can use. “All who desire to live a godly life in Christ Jesus will be persecuted,” says Paul, so we won’t be surprised (2 Timothy 3:12). “If the world hates you, know that it has hated me before it hated you. ... If they persecuted me, they will also persecute you,” said Jesus (John 15:18, 20). Things are on track for Christ coming II.
Meanwhile the Eagles have changed the meaning of “locker room talk.” One hears of discussions of future Bible school and youth group ministry opportunities; the team reportedly prayed the Lord’s Prayer after the win. When brother Stephen talked like that 2,000 years ago in public the pack was "enraged and they ground their teeth at him. ... [T]hey cried out with a loud voice and stopped their ears and rushed together at him”(Acts 7:54, 57). Sort of like they do now.
That just gets Christians pumped to hang in there. Like The Big Lead blog lecture to coach Dungy, the apostles’ attackers “beat them and charged them not to speak in the name of Jesus” (Acts 5:40). Peter’s response was the Jamesian reaction to “count it all joy” (James 1). Stephen’s face shone like an angel as they picked up stones. It’s the same spirit that I spotted right away inside the huddle on the face of Mr. Foles.