From the Cheap Seats: Mountaineers & Religion - WVU Football, WVU Basketball, News - Mountaineer Sports

From the Cheap Seats: Mountaineers & Religion

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As I have a few times in the past, I feel as though I should start with a disclaimer because I'm going to do something dicey this week: talk about religion. Please know that I am not any kind of religious expert. Also know that nothing you read below is intended to insult any religion or denigrate anyone's religious beliefs. By no means will I suggest that sports, or anything about them, is more important that religion. If you dare, please read on.

Earlier this week, I was in one of our TV studios for the taping of a talk show for another arm of our company. Its topic, in honor of Easter and Passover, was religion. During the discussion, one of the panelists mentioned that love and devotion for things like sports take away from many peoples' interest in religion. For some, that probably is true. Think about it, we all know that guy whose only house of worship is a football stadium. Then I got to thinking about all of the ways religion and sports are intertwined or similar. The Mountaineers, and their fans, provide some great examples of this.

Let's start with the similarities. Both religion and sports have regularly-scheduled meetings. You trade your metal stadium bench on Saturday for a pew on Sunday. Both have high holidays: Christmas, Easter, Yom Kippur, Passover, Ramadan, bowl games, the NCAA Tournament. Many religions have hymns and songs that all the followers know. So do Mountaineer fans(the fight song and Country Roads). If you've ever been to a Catholic Mass, you know there's a lot of sitting, standing and kneeling. The same can be said for an afternoon at the stadium or an evening at the Coliseum. Religion and sports both have foods that are special to them. Think of the Jewish tradition of matzo, the Eucharistic wafer of Catholicism and the stadium hot dog. The similarities continue with beverages. Some religions celebrate a Holy Communion, while thanks to Oliver Luck, thousands of Mountaineer fans celebrate, repeatedly, a much un-holier communion.

Whether you're devoutly religious, or a hardcore sports fan, you have certain holy spots that you're drawn to. It might be Mecca if you're Muslim, Jerusalem if you're or Christian, Jewish, or Milan Puskar Stadium, if you're a Mountaineer fan. Catholic football fans can make a pilgrimage to Notre Dame and kill two birds with one stone. Imagine if someone unfamiliar with our football traditions were dropped in Morgantown on a game day. You couldn't blame them for thinking some kind of cult was having a convention. I can think of three places you might find someone standing up, waving their arms, practically speaking in tongues: a sports arena, a High Street dance club and a church.

Then there's how you dress. You've got your Sunday-go-to-meeting clothes and your lucky jersey with the numbers starting to wear off. People turn to both religion and sports to share something in common with others. When you're feeling down or have had a bad week, you turn to your faith and your Mountaineers to lift you up. Sports and religion can be a source of comfort and an escape from the stresses of daily life.

We can't forget about the collection plate. I'm not sure who passes it with more vigor, your pastor or the Mountaineer Athletic Club. On the other end of the spectrum there's charity. Most religious groups perform many acts of charity. On the same note, have you the seen the hauls campus groups come away with when they ask Mountaineer fans to bring canned foods or toys for the needy?

Both religions and the Mountaineers have followers who are more devout than others. We all know these people. They're the ones who can quote you Bible verses or name the third-leading tackler from the 1987 team. Then there's the guy who claims to live by the Good Book, but can't distinguish Mark from Matthew, just as there's the WVU fan who can't tell Kevin Jones from K.J. Harris. Just like sports(think Pitt, Marshall, officials), religions have their heroes and their villains. I could go on, but I think you get the point.

Now let's look at some of the ways sports and religion are woven together. How many times have you heard a coach or player use the Lord's name in postgame interviews, as though the deity had nothing better to do than help one team triumph over another, or help a particular player break a record. You've certainly seen players of opposing teams, but similar faiths, moments after trying to knock each others heads off, kneel together to pray.

How many times have you looked to a higher power to help your team win? Have you ever promised to be more faithful to your religion if only the ‘Eers can land a top recruit, make a BCS game, beat Pitt, etc.? We've talked about religious holidays. Tell me you've never thought of dying an Easter egg gold and blue? How many ornaments adorned with "flying WV's" do you put on your Christmas tree?

Unfortunately, religion can sometimes keep people apart. Religious differences seem to be the driving force behind most of the wars around the globe. People who will never see eye to eye, when it comes to religion, are often brought together by sports. I've got to think that there've been times when Jews, Christians, Muslims, Hindus, Buddhists, Atheists and others, have stood as one, in stands, united by their common faith in the Mountaineers. I'll leave you with that thought and wish you a Happy Easter, Passover, any other holiday you may celebrate, or just Sunday. Let me know if I missed anything, by commenting below.

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