separation of church and sport

I consider myself a spiritually-minded man, even if I’m only occasionally religious. Now I believe that God CAN be everywhere, but I’m not sure God SHOULD be everywhere. Or wants to be. Sometimes I think it’s useful to think of the universe as a big company, with God as more of a…chief executive officer. Makes sure things are running in the black, but kinda removed from day-to-day operations. When I look at the universe this way, I’m struck by a profound realization–people pray way too much.

Just as you wouldn’t constantly pester your CEO with suggestions and special requests (do office employees at Apple constantly call Steve Jobs’ direct line with requests for more paper clips?), I don’t think humans should be bothering God with every detail of their own lives. I’m pretty sure God, if there is one, is too busy with the big picture stuff to address a lot of the things we’re calling about.

C’mon, you know there must be times when God thinks “Stop bugging me. Handle it.” In my conception of the universe, God wants us to at least try to handle our own shit. Or at least go through middle management first (not sure who ‘middle management’ is in my metaphor, but it’s my metaphor, so indulge me). What I’m saying is, we need to stop annoying God.

Which brings me to the Super Bowl (dizzying how I got there, isn’t it?) Apparently, during one Super Bowl, millions of drunk, Doritos-engorged football fans had to endure a thirty-second ad from a Christian organization called…not sure if I have the name right…Focus On (An Incredibly Narrow Homophobic Misogynistic Definition Of)  The Family.

One of their ads a couple of Roman numerals ago featured Tim Tebow, wunderkind quarterback from Florida. Now Tim is really into the whole God thing, to the point of inscribing Bible verses in his eye-black (and seriously Tim—if someone is close enough to you to read what’s written under your eyes, they’re probably planning to tackle you, and aren’t really gonna take the time to reflect on whatever wisdom might be found in Paul’s letter to the Ephesians).

Another interesting thing about Tebow, and I guess the point of the ad, is that he wasn’t aborted. Well…congratulations? Me neither, Tim! We’re like…related! My point (and yes, I’m a little winded with how long it took to get there too) is that EVEN IF your God tells you the issue needs to be addressed, you’re not gonna change a lot of minds during the third quarter of the biggest sporting event in the western world!!! When that game goes to commercial, I’m probably gonna be grabbing another beer and swearing about the refs—I’m not in the most philosophical place!

American culture has cruised along just fine for decades because of one fundamental understanding–that on Sunday, you either went to church OR you watched sports on TV. Why risk tearing apart our cultural fabric? God does not care who wins a football game.

The players are as much at fault as the fans. It’s nothing new—Sandy Koufax was an observant Jew and wouldn’t play on the Sabbath. But it’s not like he had ‘Shema Yisrael’ written on the bill of his cap, and he didn’t try to convert anyone. I don’t mind the occasional prayer in the end zone, because it’s like a touchdown dance—silly, pointless, but it doesn’t last long. It’s the post-game interviews that bother me.

Kurt Warner of the Arizona Cardinals used to refer to God so often after games it didn’t’t look like reverence, it just looked like he’s sucking up. Mercifully, God commanded him to retire. And by the way–if you’re gonna give God credit for what goes right during a game, why don’t players ever blame God for bad games? “I wouldn’t have thrown that interception if God hadn’t wanted my team to lose a playoff game.”

As a sports fan, I don’t WANT players on my team to be really ‘religious.’ Football used to be filled with tough sons of bitches like Lombardi. I’m sure away from the field, he was a deeply spiritual guy, but I can’t imagine Vince Lombardi praying during the game. I don’t want my middle linebacker to be particularly Christian—what if he has some epiphany and decides to forgive the nose tackle for blocking him? Christianity is about peace and love and a lot of admirable, but kinda…squishy, feelings. Nowhere does Scripture say ‘the meek shall inherit the Super Bowl trophy.’

I watched my Vikings play the Packers at Green Bay this year, and there was that guy. Big foam block of cheese on his head, no shirt, and scrawled on his chest was ‘John 3:16.’ Is this guy really the kind of messenger God wants? True enough, God created Wisconsin. God even created the ‘frozen tundra of Lambeau Field.’ And then God left and moved on to bigger things.

All I’m saying is that religion and the average sports fan have different agendas. As a fan, I want to be able to yell “Kill that bastard–and then rip his head off!” without being confronted with moral dilemmas, and I don’t want my cleanup batter to suddenly love his enemy, the pitcher. I leave my soul at the stadium gate–and my God is O.K. with this. I’m pretty sure My God actually wants to smite the people who hold up signs that say ‘John 3:16’—it sorta trivializes the message if the messenger takes the form of a fat guy in a rainbow-colored wig trying to do the wave without dropping his bratwurst.

So if you’re an athlete or a fan, do take the time to go to the church or synagogue of your choice. Sign up for missionary work in Zaire. Donate your entire salary to the Sisters of Mercy. But do me and God a favor–once the whistle blows, just play the fucking game and let me enjoy a three hour break from the brutal things in the real world that actually warrant calling on God.

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god’s press conference

I had a vision recently. I had been meditating, focus my energies on spiritual things, purging all thoughts of self and embracing the cosmos, and…smoking a little weed. Anyway, what came to me in this vision was the transcript of a sort of ‘press conference’ held by God. As God’s vessel, I was asked in this vision to relay the comments therein to all major media outlets (yes, God actually used the phrase ‘major media outlets’). What follows is what I remembered from this mystical communication…

“Before I take your questions, I have an opening statement and some new policies to announce, and I’d like to clear up some misconceptions. First let’s talk about what you call the ‘ten commandments’. Just so ya know, I drafted 613 of these, but most of you thought that was too many, so fine, I thought to myself, let’s focus on ten of them (but give it up to the Orthodox Jews for committing to all of them).

Now I thought you could handle ten, but clearly that was too much to ask, so if you’ll get out My book, we’ll cut the list down to some basics you might be able to handle. Hmmm…adultery—I can’t seem to stop that one; graven images—well, frankly there’s not as much of that going on as I thought there’d be—guess it was just the one time; My name in vain—hmmm…I suppose I’m over that one—even I swear—you should have heard Me after I created Limbaugh…look—how ‘bout we just say don’t kill, steal or lie and move on. And try not to lie about killing or stealing—that’s just pushing it.

Next—how did the universe start. Now Me, I figured you had more important things to worry about, but if you must know, here’s the deal. Your Earth rests on the back of a giant tortoise—kidding! If you must know, I was, metaphorically, sitting around one day, and I thought, sure I’m all-powerful and all-knowing, but what does that mean exactly? So, I created a life form that would question my existence, hoping that you would come up with some creative answers—I get kinda bored sometimes, and thought I’d see what you guys came up with. Oh sure I can keep creating things, destroying things, creating, destroying, blah blah blah…but you’re the only creation of mine that seems to like talking to me. I think it’s cute, and I feel a little less…alone.

Again—don’t push it. You don’t have to talk to Me about everything. And specifically—professional athletes—stop thanking Me for winning games—that’s all on you. if I’m the reason you won, doesn’t that mean that when you lose, you’ve let Me down? You really want to deal with that? And come on, if I were a sports fan, the Cubs would have won what you call the ‘World Series’ at least once in the last hundred years.

And I do NOT single people out and tell them to do things. And I certainly don’t tell people to kill people (duh—see above)! If one of you decides to, for instance, shoot a doctor at a clinic because you don’t believe in abortion, I had nothing to do with it–it’s all on you. Don’t tell people it’s My will. Please. If anything is gonna make Me come back and bring down some celestial whup-ass, it’s that. I’m just sayin’.

Now I’ve selected some questions from the many you have submitted—

  • Can You create something so large that You can’t move it?

Yes, but that would be stupid.

  • On Bewitched, who was the better Darren?

Obviously, Dick York.

  • When I do laundry, I always seem to lose one sock. Where does it go?

Unfortunately, you’re not really advanced enough beings to understand, but I will say that those missing socks all return to the laundry room–in some form.

  • Was there a Big Bang?

Not really. When I made everything, I did notice a sound, but it was more of a “whoosh” than a bang. I have no idea what caused it.

  • Is there anything You wish You hadn’t created?

Oh sure…Want the short list? Those little gnats that fly around all summer… Kansas…Charlie Sheen…and I have no idea what I was thinking with Ann Coulter.

  • Why do You allow innocent people to suffer?

That is an excellent question. I’m glad to have the chance to address it. You see, no one is more aware than I am of how many innocent people suffer. But what you don’t realize is the meaning behind all the needless suffering, the whole point, for example, of good people being killed and whatnot is that to really understand the background to this issue you have to look at the underlying issues, and–I’m sorry, but that’s all the time I’ve got—I hope I’ve answered some of your questions, and I’ll talk to you all again very soon. Thank you. Peace out.”

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what’s in a name?

Sometimes when I’m creatively blocked I just start randomly typing things into Google. This time I wasn’t as random. Being a spiritual seeker, I searched for ‘God.’ Turns out, that search yielded 497,000,000 results, which I think explains why we can’t get along. Then, just to balance things out, I searched for the ‘Devil.’ Great news–only 160,000,000 results–clearly the Creator has a better handle on Search Engine Optimization. Now I’m figuring that the reason I’m not finding anything definitive is that I’m tied to archaic mythology, so I widened my search. For ‘evil,’ Google gave me 213,000,000 results, which means that there are at least 53,000,000 instances of evil for which the Devil is not responsible. This theology stuff is easy! But I wanted, at the very least, to have incontrovertible proof that is more good than evil in the world, and–voila! ‘ Good’ yields 2,060,000,000 hits! Good defeats evil! I’m a philosopher genius!

All that philosophizing took my mind off my piddling worries, but not for long. I’m just not sure where I fit in the grand scheme of things, and I’m just not feeling I’ve accomplished as much as I should. Granted I have nearly TEN regular readers of my blog, and as a standup comic, I am HUGE in Berwyn, Illinois. And Crest Hill. But I needed some perspective, so it was time to consult the Great Wireless Oracle once again.

It’s called ‘ego-surfing,’ and it involves simply typing your own name (in quotation marks) into your favorite search engine. According to the magical Google, 9,700 pages on the internet have at least one reference to ‘Michael Dane.’ So to boost my self-esteem, I decided to see how my life’s work stacks up against that of some the other Michael Danes. Instead of comparing myself to everyone on the planet, or even everyone in show business, let’s just see if I’m one of the most successful people named ‘Michael Dane.’

The first result I found was for a karaoke singer in Spokane, Washington. You can see a video here. Pleasant enough fellow, but I’m way funnier. Next I found a guy in Mooresville, North Carolina. Now he does own his own company, Dane Construction, but federal campaign records show he donated $1000 to both Kay Hagen AND Elizabeth Dole in their senate race, so that tells me he’s wishy-washy and not to be trusted. Take a stand, pal! Then, rounding out the first fifty, I get worried, because there’s a Michael Dane who’s listed as a ‘voice talent.’  But I went to his website, and first of all, he’s based in Athens, Texas, which is isn’t even the hippest Athens in the U.S. And his bio says that he was a DJ at a club called ‘Toppless,’ so I actually feel o.k. about doing comedy at Bada Brew in Crest Hill. At least I was the headliner.

The next result led me to one of the most fun time-wasting sites I’ve found in ages. Iit gives you statistical information on how your name (first, last or both as a combination) ranks in popularity, and it tells you where people with your name live. Indescribable nerd fun. There are 33 ‘Michael Dane’ listings in the entire country (making it the 613,590th most popular name), and I/we can be found in 20 states (with five of me/us in Massachusettes!).

Back to the search for my doppleganger. There’s a link to the MySpace page of a twenty-one year old girl in Lorain, Ohio, but I didn’t like the looks of her friends. She could do better. Then I think I might have real competition–an actor, and he’s actually listed on IMDB. But here’s his entire resume: in the 1985 film ‘A Certain Sacrifice,’ he played ‘Transvestite Steve,’ and in the 1987 movie ‘Hangman’ he is credited as…’Bad Guy.’ I feel much better. No disrespect, Mike, but neither of your characters had last names.

Still in the field of entertainment, Canadian singer Michael Dane apparently had a minor hit with the 12″ disco single “Let’s Make Love” (the flip side, as we all remember, was “The Dead Are Making Love), but that was in 1981, and I’ve seen no evidence of a comeback. Or a resurgence of Canadian disco.

The next contender was fun to read about. An English professor at two colleges in Hawaii, he’s listed on ratemyprofessors.com . Here’s a few quotes about Professor Dane (overall rating–4.6 out of 10):

Sometimes he seems like he’s weird but he’s very helpful.

We don’t seem to do much in class at all. He is entertaining to listen to, but jokes can be repetitive.

First impression make Dane seem intimidating. He has a strange sense of humor.

Finishing the top 100 ‘Michael Dane’ results, there’s:

a goth kid who takes pictures of himself

a lawyer in Kirtland, Ohio who in 37 years of practice has never had an instance of professional misconduct (and has apparently never left Kirtland Ohio),

a guy who owns an ‘architectural products’ company in Phoenix with a sharp-looking website where twelve of the sixteen links say ‘Coming Soon.’

a guy credited on the album “A Victorian Christmas For Brass” who didn’t play any brass–he’s listed as ‘bellringer’

So, all in all, I think I represent the Michael Danes of the world quite well.  In fact, two results of the first hundred actually quote a joke of mine, and my calendar from my website is result #104. But my favorite result actually referred to a character named ‘Michael Dane.’ In the 1923 John Ford silent film “North of Hudson Bay,”  legendary cowboy Tom Mix played a rancher named Michael Dane, and check out this synopsis from the book  “John Ford” by Tag Gallagher:

Rancher Michael Dane falls in love with Estelle while en route to Northern California where his brother Peter had struck gold. But there he finds his brother dead and his partner MacKenzie sentenced to walk the ‘death trail’…Dane tries to help MacKenzie, earns the same sentence but both excape, battling wolves, and meet Estelle, pursued by her uncle, the real murderer, who dies after a canoe chase over a waterfall.

Now that would beat the hell out of telling jokes in bars. But I am having trouble imagining the pitch meeting for that movie–it’s not exactly what you’d call ‘high concept.’ Sadly, according to the book, ‘only portions’ of the film survive, ‘with titles in Czech.’ No idea why.

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