Perhaps there’s a reason why the Super Bowl is played on Sunday. According to 25 percent of Americans, God will play a role in deciding the winner, a recent survey found.
The survey, conducted by public opinion researchers PRRI, said the most devout believers that God is a vested sports fan are non-white Protestants, of which 41 percent believe God will intervene in the outcome. White evangelical Protestants, meanwhile, are not too far behind, with 36 percent believing God plays an active role in determining the Super Bowl winner.
Other religious groups also believe, but not quite at those numbers: 25 percent of mainline Protestants and Catholics also believe God determines the Super Bowl’s outcome, while 9 percent of religiously unaffiliated Americans think so.
Among those believers appear to be a few football players, including Seattle Seahawks quarterback Russell Wilson, who suffered a devastating loss in the Super Bowl in 2015 when he threw an interception against the New England Patriots. He later blamed God.
“The play happens, and they pick the ball off. And I take three steps,” Wilson recalled some months later in 2015 (via NESN.com). “And on the third step God says to me, ‘I’m using you … I want to see how you respond. But most importantly, I want them to see how you respond.’ ”
So, while God might help determine the winner, according to some Americans, it appears His motives aren’t always straightforward. Don’t tell that to the nearly 50 percent of Americans who believe God favors athletes who are more devout.
Yes, according to this same PRRI poll, 49 percent of Americans believe God grants good health and success to athletes with stronger senses of faith. The percentage of people who believe that rises to 65 for non-white Protestants, 62 percent for white evangelical Protestants, 59 percent for white mainline protestants and 48 percent for Catholics. Meanwhile, just 29 percent of religiously unaffiliated Americans believe God blesses devout athletes more than those who aren’t.
Wilson, who regularly attends a nondenominational, evangelical church in Seattle, is not in the Super Bowl this year. (What’s up with that, God?) But Tom Brady, the quarterback of the team that beat him that year, is.
If the Pats quarterback can take home a fifth Super Bowl ring on Sunday, the nearly 50 percent of Americans who believe God rewards more devout athletes might need to reevaluate their stance. Brady, who was raised Catholic, is less religious and more generically spiritual.
” … I think we’re into everything,” he told the New York Times in 2015. “I don’t know what I believe. I think there’s a belief system, I’m just not sure what it is.”
Brady and the Patriots will face the Atlanta Falcons, led by quarterback Matt Ryan, who was raised Catholic and attended a private high school affiliated with the Quaker faith.
The tenets he learned there, including that no individual is more important than the community, still shape Ryan’s belief system today, according to his father, Mike.
“You don’t have to be a Quaker for the Quaker practices and beliefs to make sense. It’s a good way to live,” he told the Times this week.
God will have His chance to weigh in (or not — 73 percent of Americans don’t believe God cares one way or the other, the survey found) when Super Bowl LI kicks off at 6:30 p.m. ET.