Mr. Rodgers’ Kingdom of God

Russell Wilson knows for a fact that God is heavily involved in NFL games. Yet Tim Tebow can’t get a roster spot. Something doesn’t add up here, and it doesn’t take a Berkeley-educated quarterback in Aaron Rodgers to point that out. It’s a lot more fun coming from him though.

Wilson routinely divulges that God speaks directly to him. He should be very grateful that he is an NFL quarterback rather than a Burger King temp — otherwise some might call that schizophrenia rather than #blessed.

He attributed his win over Rodgers to God; Rodgers said God doesn’t care about the outcomes of games; Rodgers beat Wilson and deadpanned that God must have been a Packers fan that night. This was just some light trolling rather than a superstar feud, exaggerated by everyone’s need to make football more entertaining than it inherently is (see exhibit A, fantasy football).

I am nonetheless intrigued by the disagreement and think it’s important because athletes have this great platform on which to speak, and some choose to extend God’s reach into the box score. This is, of course, perfectly within their right.

But it’s kind of mean. If I’m on the losing end of a game proclaimed as part of God’s will, my self-esteem drops a few notches knowing that my all-wise Creator deemed me unfit for success. If I am a child with cancer or a refugee being pelted by white supremacists, I might be downright offended that the all-powerful Savior chose the NFC championship game over me.

Like any decent, educated human being in the 21st century, my view on religion is simply freedom contingent on tolerance. Believe, say, and do what you want as long as you’re not a jerk about it. Being a jerk can amount to something as absurd as a terrorist beheading or as subtle as an elected representative legislating morality based on a personal interpretation of a book with — let’s be real — some crazy stories in it that maybe shouldn’t be taken too literally.

In general, the two most sensible applications of religion are to love everyone or just mind your own business. Then I will support whatever gets you through the day, or even better, what gets you up for the day. Whether it’s God or science or the freakin’ tooth fairy is immaterial.

Now, if I had to bet based on my media-based perception of Russell Wilson, I would guess he’s a nice guy whose faith is a genuine, positive inspiration rather than a hypocritical front. One of my coworkers briefly greeted him on the street and said he was pleasant. If he draws strength and character from a perceived higher power and wants to show gratitude, anyone would be a jerk to deny him that right.

By the same token, anyone would be a jerk to deny the right to call him out on that opinion. That’s where being a public figure comes into play. If a reporter asks a football question and Wilson answers by talking about God orchestrating the game, he is putting it out there and opening up his faith for commentary. He is in a position where people care about what he says, or at the very least will listen. And he chooses to interject religion when given that powerful mic:

“That’s God setting it up, to make it so dramatic, so rewarding, so special,” Wilson said of the Seahawks’ comeback after his four interceptions in the conference championship game against the Packers.

Again, this is his Constitutional right to express in a free country, and it’s easy to forget that there are somehow places in 2015 human civilization where it is not. What is also easily forgotten is the right to express disagreement on the topic. I am certainly not the only one who rolls my eyes every time a reporter is trying to get some insight into the game, and the athlete goes off on a God tangent. I mean, check out this gem from Lions safety Glover Quin on Jordy Nelson’s injury:

“I hated Jordy got hurt, but my beliefs and the way that I believe, it was God had meant for Jordy to get hurt. So if he wouldn’t have got hurt today, if he wouldn’t have played in that game, if he wouldn’t have practiced anymore and, the next time he would have walked on the field would have been opening day, I feel like he would have got hurt opening day.”

First of all… what? Second, you know what the question was? His opinion on whether the preseason should be shortened. That was a little aggressive to be dragging out the pulpit in that situation. The man just shredded his knee, which is kind of important when your livelihood depends on planting and accelerating. I’m sure the first thing he wants to hear is your explanation through your God.

If you’re going to answer a non-God question with God, then others who feel differently should be able to do the same. Rodgers thought what Wilson said was silly, and he took the opportunity during his own postgame interview to respond in kind. He answered a football question by poking a little fun at the idea of God wearing a Seahawks cap. And I love him for it. Because the everyday guy watching in his living room is thinking the same thing but doesn’t have the same volume on his mic.

Rodgers, on the other hand, can say whatever the heck he wants and everyone will hear. He is the best quarterback on Earth, holding football deflation constant. He has a $110 million contract, Super Bowl MVP and Olivia Munn. There is not really much incentive for him to stir the pot.

Yet he felt compelled to show some backbone, nerve, just a touch of humor and personality rather than cruising along with the monotonous God-speak in sports. This is admirable.

Competitive sports are, by definition, a zero-sum game. So are many aspects of life. A God who helps you in such situations would be simultaneously neglecting if not sabotaging someone else. Either poor Tony Romo was slacking off in Sunday school, or maybe Mr. Rodgers has a point. The universe, much like the way the ball bounces, is quite random.