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Finding the true religion at a Broncos football game

Rich Mayfield

So there I was at the Broncos-Colts game last Monday wondering what I was doing amidst all manner of folks united by their amazing willingness to go out in public dressed in the curious combination of orange and blue.

Some friends offered their season tickets and, much in the manner of smiling at pictures of ugly babies, I feigned my deepest gratitude and utter indebtedness. I admit that in my arrogance I had no idea their act of generosity would provide more than a little fodder for theological reflection.

Had I known that one day I would be attending a gathering of sixty-some-thousand true believers who shouted their faith from the far-reaches of the sanctuary and swooned in spiritual ecstasy over the ritual acts of their priesthood, I would have paid more attention in my Psychology of Religion class.

Actually, it wasn’t near that dramatic – except for the moment, half-way through the second quarter, when an inebriated fan tried to find his way back to his seat and dropped a freshly acquired mound of cheese-encrusted nachos directly atop the head of a devotee sitting a few rows below.

I had heard accounts of similar incidents at Broncos games that had served as the source of semi-crazed activity in the aisles and so I was more than a little interested in what would transpire next between these two worshippers.

Quite truthfully, there was such an outpouring of compassion and kindness from others gathered in the pews that were I not already religiously aligned, I might have considered signing up with these blue and orange believers.

Unconcerned as I was by the activity on the field and more than a little concerned about who was sitting behind me and what they might be eating, I pulled my cap tighter down on my head and mused a bit more on the power this particular religious expression had upon a good many of the gathered faithful.

Recently, I have been reading Thomas Friedman’s authoritative examination of globalization, “The Lexus and The Olive Tree.” Sitting in my seat, not completely comfortable with the liturgical rubrics but surrounded by a congregation happily singing its spirited songs and occasionally engaging in repetitive chants, I recalled a passage in Friedman’s book where he compares the salary of one NBA basketball player, Juwan Howard, and that of an average elementary school teacher.

It worked out that Howard’s $98 million over seven years would pay the teacher’s salary for 3,267 years! Even though the NBA is a different denomination than the NFL, I still assumed that the players, whether on a basketball court or a gridiron, represented the priesthood in these wildly successful religions. I struggled with the disparity and then wondered if these parishioners, not unlike my own, felt they were getting their money’s worth.

Judging from the attendance in the church and the enthusiasm of the flock, I could only surmise all was well between priests and people in this seemingly sacred place. I briefly considered contacting my bishop to discuss renegotiating my own contract.

Examining my heart, which is something Christians are compelled to do with frequency, I had to admit that it was filled with envy. If only I could find such dedicated parishioners to shout encouragement as I performed our own ceremonial rituals – and at $48 a seat and up!

Much like the folks who sneak out of our church before the offering, I carefully climbed down from my perch just as the cheerleaders began their half-time performance. I had had enough spirituality for one night.

But then I stopped short. I had never before realized the importance this choir of young women served in worship. Their outfits were intriguing to say the least. As they bent over in apparent supplication and engaged in what appeared to me to be a kind of ecstatic dance, I found myself mesmerized by their obvious fervor.

Other men of the congregation also seemed to be caught up in the cheerleaders’ inspiring charisma. We stared at the 12-story, big-screen TV, grateful for the rapid advance in video technology. I wondered if I shouldn’t stay and study this religious phenomenon more thoroughly.

An elbow to the ribs brought me out of my temporary trance and I sweetly thanked my spouse for saving me from the later embarrassment of an impetuous conversion.

Still, I was grateful that I had been exposed to a different world view and a wider understanding of other religious cultures that night. I knew that it would help me in my own ministry.

I’m going to start by ordering new outfits for the choir.

Rich Mayfield is a Lutheran pastor and a regular Saturday columnist for the Summit Daily News. When he gets his choir refitted, we see a photo op.


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