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Why the NFL Has Become a Religion

Bobby Brooks@BrooksBetsAnalyst IIIAugust 17, 2010

Have a special ritual on Sundays? Get dressed up in teams colors? Go to the game to worship your team? You may be in the fastest growing religion and not even realize it.

As the NFL regular season nears, passion for the sport is at an all-time high. One look at the ratings will tell you that the NFL is king in the sports atmosphere. 

For millions of people, September ninth is like Christmas Day while the entire month of August feels like Christmas Eve.  

So with fan fever approaching a frenzied state, I ask the question—is the NFL a religion?   Below I outline why I believe it is.


Language

Attend a game or eavesdrop by the water cooler and you will hear many of the same words and phrases used by fans as you hear in church. Examples include:

"I have faith"
"I worship Peyton Manning"
"I have to do my game-day ritual"
"I'm a dedicated Steeler fan"
"I've suffered for years"
"I pray they win"
"I am committed to the Bears"

The language of a specific sub-culture is directly linked to the identity and knowledge of that group and if you belong to this organized chaos, you know what I am talking about.


Ceremonies and Celebrations

Ceremonies are a yearly tradition to recognize and honor the team, city, and the group of followers for reaching their goals. At the centerpiece of the NFL religion is the idol of worship—the Vince Lombardi Trophy.

Whether it is handing out Super Bowls or a trip to the White House, these ceremonies often follow a script and mark the significance of the ultimate achievement in the NFL.

Winning a Super Bowl is also followed by a massive celebration where thousands of faithful followers get together to commemorate the event.


Stadiums

Stadiums resemble a place of worship much in the same way as a church or cathedral. Devoted fans come together to pray for a win and cheer on their heroes.

These spectators also display a deep glorification for players, their achievements, and the teams they belong to.  


Behavior

The behavior of NFL fans often has striking parallels with religious traditions.  

Singing of the national anthem is similar to singing at church. Spectators will wear team colors, jerseys, carry banners and flags. Teams use icons and mascots. Collectively, fans will chant in unison—such as booing or cheering, do the wave, or clap.   


Transformative experiences

Attending an NFL game can have the same emotional and influential affect seen at religious gatherings.  It is a great escape from normal life as people dress up, paint their face, and make signs to identify with a team.  

With the power of mass communications such as television and radio, one can experience this every Sunday as millions of people break away from regular matters or problems.

For many, the NFL has become a religion of its own as people all over the country and the world continue to establish a growing community of fans.

As a fan myself, I can only pray my team does well this year.

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