Just days later, I attended a three day silent retreat in a Trappist Monastery. I watched as the robed monks led their services, chanted their verses, repeated their prayers, begged for mercy, ate and drank the Eucharist, proclaimed their loyalties and demonstrated their passion.
The symbols, rituals and celebrations are eerily similar to those of a football fan wearing burgundy and gold, watching cheerleaders in costumes, praying for a touchdown, drinking a ceremonious beer, chanting cheers and proclaiming this passion and his fealty. They are part of the pageantry and the event, the show. And every religion must have someone, something to worship. How much better to have an RGIII than to have nobody one can identify with?
And Griffin fits his role: a seemingly perfect young man with a perfect background; a Heisman Trophy winner with sterling grades; a devout Christian who went to a religious school, has a bumper sticker with the name of his church on it, who crosses himself after a touchdown and thanks God at the end of the game. He is kind and gentle, friendly and humble. He does charity work for the poor. His teammates follow him and his fans pray for him. He has all the markings of a savior to a team that hasn’t had a prayer for over 20 years.
In a town as dispirited as Washington, D.C., never has anyone given so many such hope. He was too good to be true. It was too good to be true.
When The Post’s David Sheinin wrote a laudatory profile of RGIII, one reader complained that Sheinin made RGIII sound like the second coming. Well? It was apt, if a little overstated. He was being treated almost as a sacred figure.
What is it about the game of football, particularly in this country, that evokes similarities to religion?
“Spirituality is about ‘me,’” says Tim Shriver, Director of Special Olympics and a religion scholar. “Religion is about ‘we.’ Everyone is looking for the ‘we.’ Even in a monastery where they commit to solitary lives. We live in a lonely world, oriented toward the personal, the digital. We live in a ‘My Space’ world. Sports takes you out of yourself into the ‘we’. People are participating in something bigger than themselves.”
If the quarterback is the Jesus figure (who can forget the near religious hysteria around Tebow as a person and his Tebowing?) then the other players are the disciples.
And what about the saints of old, the Larry Browns and the Sonny Jurgensens, the St. Benedicts and the St.Francises of their field, whom we venerate even today? We seem to want, to need those people in our lives to reassure us of the glories that have been and the glories that will be to come and to serve as an inspiration to us in difficult times.