FAN poses in front of a New England Patriots logo 390.
(photo credit: REUTERS)
This Sunday, an epic battle will take place when the New York Giants meet the
New England Patriots in Indianapolis in Super Bowl XLVI, American football’s
annual championship game.
Each year, there is an inescapable buzz leading
up to the event, as countless fans gear up for the drama on the field.
get a sense of just how compelling the Super Bowl is in American pop culture,
consider the following: last year’s game was the most-watched television program
in the country’s history, reportedly drawing an audience that averaged 111
million people. That means that one out of every three American men,
women and children tuned in at some point.
As a result, advertisers are
prepared to fork over huge sums to hawk their products, with a 30-second spot on
this year’s broadcast costing a record $3.5 million, or more than $110,000 per
Even from thousands of miles away, here in Israel, there is a
palpable sense of excitement among US immigrants, with many planning to stay up
into the wee hours of the night to follow the action as it unfolds.
year’s contest is a rematch of Super Bowl XLII, which took place on February 3,
2008, when the Giants came from behind to defeat the heavilyfavored Patriots
with a dramatic drive down the field with just two minutes and 39 seconds
I attended that memorable game, which was held in Glendale,
Arizona, together with my brother John, and I will forever remember the tension,
the elation and the sheer electricity that surged through the crowd. It was a
festival of escapist delight, at least for those of us rooting for the Giants,
one that brought into sharp relief the extent to which sports can evoke absolute
amusement and unbounded passion.
With so many investing so much in this
sporting event, an interesting philosophical and theological question comes to
mind: does the Creator care about the Super Bowl? Does He take an interest in
At first glance, the question might sound silly. After all, in
a world replete with hunger, poverty and disease, not to mention war and
displacement, one could argue that God has more pressing matters to deal with
than a bunch of grown men tossing around a ball and tackling each
Hall of Fame quarterback Fran Tarkenton made precisely this point
in an article in The Wall Street Journal
last month when he wrote, “As a player,
though, I never understood why God would care who won a game between my team and
another. It seemed like there were many far more important things going on in
And yet, as persuasive as this logic might appear to be, I
find it to be utterly wrong and even sacrilegious. To begin with, it
implies that God has to focus on the “far more important things” while putting
aside more mundane pursuits. But God is the ultimate multi-tasker. He is not
bound by man’s limitations, which require us to concentrate on some things while
overlooking others. He has the ability to contemplate everything and anything
simultaneously, however difficult to grasp this concept might be to
Moreover, Jewish tradition tells us that the Deity is not a passive
observer of our world. He is active and involved in our lives, both as
individuals and as nations (and yes, also as teams). This fundamental belief was
articulated by Rambam (Maimonides), in the Thirteen Principles of Faith, the
first of which says, “I believe with perfect faith that the Creator, blessed be
His Name, is the Creator and Guide of all that has been created.”
the Rambam’s use of the word “Guide,” which clearly suggests dynamic
participation and interest. God’s providence is neither limited nor partial, and
to suggest otherwise is basically profane. The great Rabbi Yerucham
Levovitz of pre-war Poland’s Mir yeshiva highlighted this idea when he expounded
on the opening verse of the Torah.
He said that when one contemplates the
words “In the beginning, God created the heavens and the earth,” it leads to an
awareness and realization that the world and everything in it does have meaning
and purpose. Indeed, who are we to say that an event that brings joy to hundreds
of millions of God’s creations, one which creates jobs and provides people with
livelihoods, is of no ultimate consequence or importance?
So yes, I firmly
believe that God does care about the Super Bowl. He cares about everyone and
everything on this planet, even if at times it is hard for us to understand why
things happen the way they do. And just as a father takes pleasure in
watching his children play, I’d like to believe that our Father in Heaven will
also take delight in this Sunday’s drama on the field.
Let’s go Giants!!