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Of Principalities and Powers ~ “Doesn’t the Pope Realize It’s Football Season?”

By tonyrussell - Posted on 03 September 2013

  “A person could perish of entertainment....”     - Garrison Keillor


“Did you see that the Pope has called for people around the world to get together for a day of prayer and fasting this Saturday?” asked my neighbor Harmon, looking up from his newspaper.


“Guess I missed that,” I said.  “What’s that about?  On Saturday, you said?” 


“Looks as if it’s in response to the fighting in Syria, and maybe to Obama’s wanting to launch an attack against Assad.”  


“Doesn’t the Pope realize it’s football season?”


“According to this, Francis says that you don’t build peace with a culture of confrontation or a culture of conflict.  He says we have to promote a culture of encounter and dialogue instead.”


“You won’t win many games that way, Harmon,” I said, shaking my head.  “A team has to have an edge to it.  A bit of a nasty streak.  Play smash-mouth football.  Say, when you’re finished reading that, could I see the sports section?”


“Sure,” he said, continuing to scan the article.  “One of the comments here says Francis is acting as the ‘pontiff’--it means ‘bridge.’  He’s trying to bridge the gaps between people, to bring us together.”


“The tailgate party is before the game, Harmon, not after the whistle blows.”


“I think he has something different in mind, Ace.  He’s calling for a gathering in Saint Peter’s Square, from 7 PM to midnight, to ask God for the gift of peace, not just in Syria, but everywhere there’s conflict and violence.”


“From 7 PM to midnight?  That’s a five hour time slot.  And I thought it was bad when TV turned an hour-long football game into a three-and-a-half-hour marathon of commercials.  How’s he going to keep people entertained for that long?” 


“Five hours to focus the world’s attention on preventing the pain and suffering of an expanded war doesn’t seem like that much to ask.”


“You’ve got to keep things in perspective, Harmon,” I said.   “He’s getting some bad advice on his scheduling.  The evening games on Saturday are the big headliners. West Virginia has a road game at Oklahoma that starts at 7, and Notre Dame plays Michigan at 8.  That’s really going to cut into his audience.”


“Rome’s in a different time zone, Ace.  There’s a... let’s see, six hour difference, so midnight there will be 6 PM here.  The event in Rome will be over before those games begin.” 


“Thank God for that,” I said, breathing a sigh of relief.  “Notre Dame and Michigan are both ranked in the Top Twenty.  Do you think this rally in Rome will distract Notre Dame?”


“Funny you should mention Notre Dame.  Saturday is the vigil of the birth of Mary.  He calls her the Queen of Peace.  And ‘rally’ isn’t quite the right word, Ace.  This event he’s called for isn’t a pep rally for one side or the other.  He wants people to approach the gathering in a spirit of penance.”


“Isn’t he afraid that will hurt the tailgating experience?  And cut into beer sales?”


“Not when he’s trying to get people to focus on the fact that an expanded war will mean more kidnapping and torturing, more shooting and bombing, more widows and orphans.  It’s a reminder of our own responsibility to help shape a more peaceful world.”


I was still thinking about the scheduling.  “You know,” I said, “UVA plays Oregon at 3:30, and Oregon is ranked third in the country.  If he’s starting at 1 PM our time, he’s going to run well into the second half of that game.”


“Maybe people can record it and watch it later, Ace.  Besides, let’s face it, there are plenty of games on a zillion channels from noon to midnight.  Plus there’s Monday night football, Thursday night football, Friday night football, all day Saturday football, and the pros all day Sunday.  The stations run replays of a lot of the best games.  You can even watch them with an app on your iPhone.  And if you miss one game, there are plenty more.”


“It’s not the same as watching a team you care about while it’s happening, Harmon.  You just don’t get the same tension, the same excitement as when you’re watching live.  Then every play matters, the outcome is in doubt, and you’re waiting to see if somebody can step up, make a play, and turn the whole game around.”


© Tony Russell, 2013

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