The Church of Football

churchsign.jpgThe South is a curious amalgam of fried food and sweet tea, trashy trailer park tragedy, dark gothic tales, hell, fire and brimstone and, of course, the ever-present, all-consuming, life-giving Church of Football.

Oh sure, there’s football in other parts of the country, but does anyone else come close to matching the faithful fanaticism of a Deep South Game Day? The Church of Football has it’s own liturgy–the parking lot fellowship meal, the processional to the house of worship, the gathering of the congregation, colorful vestments and the common chants and cheers. Touchdowns, of course, are the holiest sacrament, and in the ecstasy of celebrating another six points, congregants, if only for a few transcendent moments, forget their troubles and woes and are transported into high, heavenly places.

For better or worse, The Church of Football predominates the magnolia-dotted Southern landscape during this time of year. Even at real church, football analogy-filled sermons and pigskin banter fill the air, and if one is not careful, talk of yesterday’s big game can sometimes overshadow the Savior himself. And as the recent uproar over the MTV reality show “Two-a-Days” amply shows, there is a dark side to football fever that threatens to skew priorities to the point that First Things such as education take a backseat to backfields in motion.

But it’s not easy to dismiss the Church of Football as a mere “distraction” or designate it as the source of all of the South’s woes and cellar-dweller rankings.Football has sustained the South through some lean times and served as a point of pride when, frankly, there wasn’t much else of which to be proud. One has to ask: would things be better without football, minus the community bonds and team spirit engendered beneath the glow of Friday night lights and mixed together in mammoth, concrete and steel bowls on crisp, sunny Saturday afternoons?

I suspect not. Football is a cornerstone of Southern culture and will not so easily pass away. It will remain, no doubt, a font of refreshment and hope for legions of Southerners who don their Saturday best and make the weekly trek to the Church of Football. Until Kingdom Come, there will always be thirsty pilgrims who long to once again sing heavenly hallelujahs and catch a glimpse of a glory train a’comin’–a broad shouldered fullback busting through the line and crossing over into The Promised Land.


What’s that you say? What about the “scandalous tidbit” you promised?

Ah yes, I was hoping you would ask. Well, here it is, true confession time: I am a closet Notre Dame fan.

I know, it’s shameful admitting that I root secretly for the most over-exposed team in college football history, especially considering that I recently pledged allegiance to the Tide, but like many things in life, it’s complicated.

It all started in the 1970 Cotton Bowl when Notre Dame’s Joe Theismann and his gold-helmeted teammates lost 21-17 to then #1 Texas. That had been The Fighting Irish’s first bowl game in 44 years, and for many in America, including an impressionable 9-year-old boy like me, it was their first exposure to the storied traditions at Notre Dame. I remember being enthralled by “The Four Horseman,” Knute Rockne, “The Gipper,” and let’s face it, that fight song of theirs is a real toe-tapper. Of course, as if all that weren’t enough, along came Rudy.touchdown_jesus_1.jpg

And then there’s “Touchdown Jesus,” the large mural of the resurrected Savior–arms raised enternally, signaling yet another Irish 6 points–located on the side of Hesburgh Library and within sight of Notre Dame Stadium. If football is truly a church (and I think I’ve made a compelling case that it is), then one must ask: WTWJRF? (Which Team Would Jesus Root For?).

I think the answer is obvious, don’t you?

  1. Jeff Slater

    Of course. It is the Harding University Bisons.

  2. Mike the Eyeguy


    Are you sure? I watched Harding lose to the University of North Alabama 41-14 on TV last night (Number One Son was at the game in Florence).

    Maybe they’re being perfected through suffering.

  3. Chris Field

    Wow…I can’t believe that church’s sign says that. I am all about football but that is a little bit too much for me.

    And I dig Notre Dame myself. I really like Charlie Weis.

  4. Mike the Eyeguy

    Heh. It could be that you’re using some very subtle humor here, but I’m going to take your comment at face value and assume that you don’t know about the Church Sign Generator (click here).

    And, ahem, I’m the one who “wrote” that sign! 🙂

    Thanks for stopping by Chris. Go Irish! Roll Tide!

  5. Doug Mendenhall

    For more than a decade I’ve avoided the ultimate question asked of Alabama residents — Auburn or Bama? — by declaring that I am a fan of the No. 1 team in the nation . . . alphabetically. That is, of course, Abilene Christian University, whose might Wildcats are 1-0 after winning the home opener for the first time in about a decade. And they have a new coach, too; the old one was Gary Gaines, made famous as the subject of “Friday Night Lights,” who resigned to return to Odessa as the county school system’s athletic director. Go Wildcats.

  6. Mike the Eyeguy


    It’s a honor, thanks for stopping by.

    I put it off a long time too, but Numbers One and Three finally wore me down. Number Two is still true to his Rocky Top roots.

    That’s an interesting tidbit about Gary Gaines and ACU; I wasn’t aware of that. But then again, I don’t root for the #1 alphabetical team in the nation.

    Another piece of ACU trivia–the father of current UT-Longhorn QB Colt McCoy played there (see post from earlier this week).

  7. DAVID u

    Great post Mike! Surely Jesus is a Bison fan! Just teasing.



  8. Mike the Eyeguy


    Maybe the real question should be: Was Jesus Protestant, Catholic or Church of Christ? 🙂

    I hope the Tide gets to rolling a little stronger soon before they end up embarrassing themselves!

  9. Jason Bybee

    Finally, a blog about “real” football. Just kidding. (Insert emoticon here.)

    Notre Dame? Mike, I hardly know you. Tssk, tsk.

  10. Jason Bybee

    By the way, remind me to tell you the story about the time my friends and I snuck out onto the ND football field and got our pic taken with TD Jesus in the background.

  11. Mike the Eyeguy

    Tssk, tsk? Is that all? I was hoping someone would let me have it with both barrels. You see, even when I try to be controversial, I just can’t pull it off.

    Can’t wait to hear the TD Jesus story.

  12. scott

    As my dad used to tell me “Notre Dame is nothing but a bunch of Catholics and Atheists.”

  13. Mike the Eyeguy

    Ok, good, good that’s progress. That comment even got caught in moderation–must have been the word “atheist.”

    Any other anti-Catholic, anti-atheist, anti-ND vitriol and bile that needs venting? Anyone?

  14. Jason Bybee

    Sorry about the Irish, Mike. I’m watching…it isn’t pretty.

  15. Mike the Eyeguy

    The Curse of the Eyeguy…

  16. ed

    Bunch of us we’re coming over to watch the Tenn game on your big screen, but decided against it after the Irish got wiped. Tenn might be in the same boat 😮

  17. Mike the Eyeguy

    Ed, after today, no team is going to want my allegiance.

  18. darlene

    I know you don’t know me and that’s ok. I found the link to your blog thru Patrick Mead. I have really enjoyed reading your blogs in the past, but this one really hurt me deeply. But that’s ok… I got back atcha.. 47 – 21 back atcha! Yesterday was a beautiful day in Michigan… simply beautiful. We got really tired of hearing ND talk trash about Michigan all week long and listen to the silence of Lloyd Carr. Truely, the meek shall inherit the National Championship! Have a nice day! ; )

  19. Mike the Eyeguy

    This is going better than expected. Now Darlene delurks and emerges from the shadows to talk some trash and rag me about ND–I’m lovin’ it!

    Yes, the Wolverines put a good ol’ fashion whuppin on the Irish yesterday. And I would never begrudge a Michigander a beautiful day, even under these less-than-ideal circmumstances.

    But you should know this: you were no doubt more happy than I was sad. Yes, I slept well last night, unlike those nights when my beloved Duke Blue Devils lose in basketball. I save my histrionics and lower-brain irrationality exclusively for Duke basketball.

    A National Championship? Michigan meek? Look to the South, Darlene–trouble is brewing in Columbus. Did I ever mention that I was a big fan of Archie Griffin growing up? 🙂

  20. darlene

    I am so glad that I could make your day! Columbus… ewwwwwww. I admit, it is early in the season and alot can happen. OSU could fall right on their faces, who knows.

    Next year, I will have to become a Harding Bison fan, my daughter and step-daughter will both be freshmen. But I will ALWAYS be true to the maize and blue!

    Something to consider….how many Superbowl rings does Archie Griffin have? How many Superbowl rings does Tom Brady have? ; )

  21. Mike the Eyeguy

    Tom Brady is a great quarterback and a class act…

    But here’s another way to phrase those questions:
    1) How many Heisman’s does Brady have?
    2) Would Brady have those Superbowl rings were it not for ex-Pat OC Charlie Weiss, now HC at ND?

    My wife and I both graduated from Harding. Harding has a lot to offer, but unlike Bama and Michigan, they do not have a bona fide Game Day. My oldest son has been accepted at both Bama and Harding, and he saw both their football teams play this week. Care to guess which game he enjoyed more?

    Harding does have a near-Cameron Crazie group called the Rhodes Rowdies. I have seen them in action first hand, and it is a bona fide college basketball experience.

    Of course, there’s more reasons to pick a college than sports, but it does factor into the decision at some level.

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