This week’s inductee into the “Overrated Hall of Fame” is … athletes thanking God.
It’s a muggy August night in Pittsburgh. The last-place Pittsburgh Pirates are up on the last-place Colorado Rockies by six runs in the eighth inning of another meaningless game for both teams. With two outs and no one on base, the backup second baseman for the Rockies squibs an eight-bounce, seeing-eye grounder into right field for a single. After rounding the bag, he returns to his hard-won base and is greeted by the backslapping coach, who is secretly pissed that this .230-hitting, horseshit schlub has prolonged this horseshit game on such a miserably warm horseshit night with his lucky horseshit single. And what does our hero do now? He thumps his chest, looks up to the sky and points to God in thanks for his epic one-bagger. In the meantime, starvation, disease and civil war still ravage parts of the planet. But at least God was on top of that wicked 1-2 curveball.
When an athlete pulls that pathetic stunt, it’s not about his giving thanks to God. It’s one more “Look at me” moment for this winner of the cosmic lottery. It’s not enough that this incredible physical specimen, this freak of nature, this sculpted, living, breathing adonis, has just scored a touchdown at Lambeau Field, or hit a home run at Yankee Stadium, or drained a crucial three-pointer against the Celtics. Now he has to call even more attention to himself by pretending to try to move the focus off of himself. “With this finger-point skyward, I am showing that I am humble and religious and thankful. So look at me!”
What exactly does the finger-point signify? That God made an interception happen? If that’s how God operates, by meddling in the play by play of NFL games, then maybe the quarterback who just threw the interception should walk off the field giving the finger to the sky. “Fuck you, Jesus! I knew you bet large on the Seahawks!” If he’s helping one player, that means he must be sticking it to someone on the other team.
I know that most of these phony balonies will say that they are expressing humble thanks for the ability they were blessed with. I can buy that, and I admire the ability to retain some humility in a life that has been filled since childhood with adoration for the incredible feats they are able to perform. Pro athletes still awe me. But they should do their props to God in private, after the game but before they head out for another evening of guzzling Grey Goose, pulling a gun on a bouncer and tag-teaming two coked out strippers.
Besides, if you’re really showing respect to God, I don’t think thumping your chest, kissing the cross on your necklace, kissing your fingers and thrusting them upward is really the way to go. How about three seconds of private thanks. Why do they have to look up, anyway? Do they have so little faith in their deity that they think he’ll miss the show of gratitude if they just do it in their heart? (And if God is up there, then he must not get to see any of the domed games, which might explain why Peyton Manning looks like such an ungrateful heathen.) I guess they gotta make sure God sees the appreciation, as he’s no doubt got his hands full with the other games he’s micro-managing. He might have his eye on another game and think, “Shit, I helped Rodriguez dink that double down the left field line, and that ungrateful prick just stood on second checking out a honey in the stands. I’ll make sure Clemens strikes him out looking next time … Oh shit, Pujols just popped out and I meant to give him a triple this time. I can’t watch every game at once. Jesus, how about a little help here, for Your sake!”
Another reason this gesture smacks of complete self centeredness is that these Jesus Thankers never pull this move during the rest of the game. If they really believe God influences the game, then why aren’t they chest-thumping and pointing skyward from the bench when a teammate does well? Sending a shout out to God only when you do well must mean that you aren’t a team player.
Finally, this gesture, which is supposed to be a public show of thanks and respect, is really a blatant display of irreverence to The Man Upstairs. If he’s affecting the outcome of sports games, then he must be really into sports, which means he’s not too divine at all. He’s not much different from you, Mr. Tight End. (Come to think of it, maybe that explains 9-11. Instead of thwarting the attacks, maybe God was sneaking a peak at a Patriots practice to check out what new passing scheme they were putting in that week.) I guess these athletes are praying to a God that is kicked back in His recliner in His divine den, resting comfortably on the Sabbath, which He’s apparently big on, if you watch Charleton Heston movies. You know He’s got the high-def plasma, and He ain’t watching no small screen. God goes large when it comes to electronics. He’s sipping a “Light” beer (arr arr), He’s wearing his Saints Jersey (arr arr arr) and He’s showing off to the other deities by changing the channels without using the remote. He’s got chili dog juice running through His beard. (Because everyone pictures Him with a beard, for some reason. And long hair. I like to picture Him clean-shaven with a combover.) His fingers are orange from Doritos, and he and Jesus are talking some serious shit about the Redskins and Cowboys. After Jesus taunts him with a “Oh yeah, well what about all that noise about how the First shall be Last,” He arranges a fourth quarter touchdown pass for the shitass Arizona Cardinals, then, when the receiver gives the Big Ups to the Big Man gesture, He kicks back in his chair and says, “That’s right! That’s ALL me. Eat it, Buddha!”
Sacrilegious? Not any more than some idiot thanking God seconds after telling a free safety he’s going to shit down his mother’s throat. Maybe that’s why I watch so much hockey. That’s one sport where the Jesus Finger has yet to catch on. But I almost wish it would, just so I could see what would happen if Miroslav Satan ever scored a goal for the New Jersey Devils.
Ned Bitters is, in fact, overrated. You can contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org.