Roy Exum: Faith & Super Bowl XLVIII

Sunday, February 2, 2014 - by Roy Exum
Roy Exum
Roy Exum

The starting quarterbacks in tonight’s Super Bowl XLVIII have been compared and dissected in almost every possible way and we know that the wise men of Las Vegas have decreed that the showcase game at MetLife Stadium in East Rutherford, N.J. will be close, the Broncos with just a two-point edge. That is a living testament to the sensational ability of Denver’s Peyton Manning and also that of his Seattle counterpart, Russell Wilson.

But an area where the nation’s top sports writers and broadcasters dare not venture is what is laughingly called the “C word” by the proponents and critics alike. Although we know there were 247 million who proclaimed Christianity in our 2010 census, faith is rarely mentioned – and studiously avoided -- in all the hype and microscopic reporting that annually leads up to our 6:30 p.m. kickoff on the Fox network.

There just so happens to be a blog called, “Minding The Truth, On the Christian Revelation” on WoldPress.com. There a writer who is identified as Michael took a hard look at the Christian faith of Manning and Wilson this week and, by using autobiographies on the two, did ample research.

It is a bit peculiar that we never ask, with Christianity such a part of lifestyle in America. According to multiple sources, when Baltimore won a 34-31 victory over San Francisco last year, the game was watched by 108 million across the world. There was hardly as much notice that on the same day an estimated 118 million Christians attended worship churches in the United States.

So, for those of us who will enjoy both going to church and watching the game, here is what Michael wrote on his blog, “Minding The Truth: On the Christian Revelation” about the two guys who will have leading roles.

HERE IS WHAT MICHAEL WROTE ABOUT PEYTON MANNING:

“Peyton’s performance in this year’s NFL playoffs has been a continuation of his performance in the regular season, which amounts to the greatest statistical regular season at the quarterback position in the 94-year history of the National Football League.

“This regular season saw Manning set records in yards passed in a season (5,477) and touchdowns thrown in a season (55), and he led his team to accumulate more points (606) in a regular season than had ever been done before. Manning also tied the record for touchdowns thrown in a game (7) in the Broncos Week 1 win over the defending Super Bowl Champions, the Baltimore Ravens.

“Any fan of Peyton Manning or the NFL generally knows that Manning is the consummate professional. He treats the fans, media personnel, teammates, and opponents with respect. He works as hard—and probably harder—at his craft than any other player in the league. And he produces one fun, family-friendly commercial after another, showing his sense of humor and a humble assessment of his own importance. But what many fans of Manning and the NFL may not be aware of is Manning’s Christian faith.

“In Peyton’s book MANNING (available on Amazon), which he co-wrote with his father Archie Manning in 2001, the record-setting quarterback gives a rare description of his faith and its importance to him. The description is a rare one, not because Peyton’s faith is an insignificant part of his life, but because, as Peyton explains, he has intentionally chosen to speak more by his actions than by his words.

The following is a direct excerpt from the book in Peyton’s own words:

“For me generally it had always been the big four: faith, family, friends, and football. . . . as important as football is to me, it can never be higher than fourth. My faith has been number one since I was thirteen years old.

“Some players get more vocal about it . . . and some point to Heaven after scoring a touchdown and praise God after games. I have no problem with that. But I don’t do it, and don’t think it makes me any less a Christian. I just want my actions to speak louder, and I don’t want to be more of a target for criticism.

“My faith doesn’t make me perfect, it makes me forgiven, and provides me the assurance I looked for half my life ago.

“I’ve been blessed—having so little go wrong in my life, and being given so much. I pray every night, sometimes long prayers about a lot of things and a lot of people, but I don’t talk about it or brag about it because that’s between God and me, and I’m no better than anybody else in God’s sight.

“But I consider myself fortunate to be able to go to Him for guidance, and I hope (and pray) I don’t do too many things that displease Him. . . . I believe, too, that life is much better and freer when you’re committed to God in that way.”

HERE IS WHAT MICHAEL WROTE ABOUT RUSSELL WILSON:

“According to the book, ‘The Inspirational Story of Football Superstar Russell Wilson’ (available on Amazon Kindle), it reads, ‘Wilson is a devout Christian and has considered faith as an important part of his life.’ The book goes on to describe Wilson’s conversion to Christianity at the age of 14, and it points out that Wilson posts Bible verses daily to his Twitter account.

“In contrast to Peyton Manning, Wilson is very open about his Christian faith. In fact, Russell recently sat down with some teammates and coaches for an interview about their shared Christian faith, and when he was asked to tell a little bit about his story, Wilson said this about his faith:

“I wouldn’t be where I am today without Jesus. Jesus is my all. He’s my everything. I’m not perfect by any means. I try to do things the right way. I try to live righteous. But I’m a constant work-in-progress. We all are. Nobody’s perfect. That’s the amazing thing about Jesus. He takes you for who you are. For me, it’s just (about) giving him all the glory.”

“We (my Christian teammates and I) talk about playing for an Audience of One,” Wilson continued, “An Audience of One truly is playing for the Lord, playing for Jesus Christ. People always ask me, ‘Russell, do you ever get nervous for games? Do you worry or anything like that?’

“No. Not at all. When I step out on the field, (I believe) God’s put me on that field for a reason, in front of 80,000 people for a reason. I truly believe that through my play, hopefully, that I change people’s lives.

“Later, Russell was asked to sum up what Jesus means to him.

“He answered, ‘Jesus is love. At the end of the day, we are all looking for someone to comfort us, somebody to be there for us at all times. When we are at the worst times of our lives, when we are battling with something, or struggles, whatever it may be, when we are at our highest point as well, when things are going really well, we want somebody to comfort us and be there for us and to say, ‘Well done.’ That’s Jesus. Jesus has always been there. He’ll never leave you, never forsake you.’”

* * *

For some reason I find the faith of Peyton Manning and Russell Wilson delightfully refreshing on this, Super Sunday, and thank the blogger Michael for making it available.

Now, has anybody seen a groundhog today?

royexum@aol.com


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