By Chad Gibbs
$12.99, Paper; $9.99, eBook; $13.99, audio download
Reviewed by John Gruenewald
College football and spirituality are alive and well in the Deep South, where they compete for people’s hearts and minds. Statistics from the book God & Football by Chad Gibbs state that some six million people attend Southeastern Conference football games every year, along with tens of millions more watching on TV, and polls have shown that more than 80% of the people in this region consider themselves Christians.
Author Chad Gibbs is a diehard Auburn football fan who loves and participates in everything connected with the college football scene. He is also a devout Christian. He wonders if he, like many others who love and follow college football, spends too much time and effort following his football passion than attending to his faith.
In his book, he seeks answers. “But surely," he writes, "somewhere out there a Christian has figured out how to keep his or her fanaticism from hindering faith. I just have to find that person and find how it’s done.” This quest results in his attendance at twelve college football games on the campuses of SEC schools during the 2009 football season. Along the way, he befriends Christian football fans from each school on Saturday and worships at a local church on Sunday.
The following anecdotes depict the humorous, down-to-earth fashion of this writer along his journey:
From Columbia, S.C., for example, he remarks that the menu of a group of fans tailgating near the stadium includes barbecued chicken. In his book, he humorously wonders if eating chicken seems a little cannibalistic because their mascot is the Gamecock. He notices that while at Neyland Stadium in Knoxville, Tenn., more than 200 boats dock in the Tennessee River on game day. In Gainesville, Fla., he meets a Pentecostal preacher who tells him that on Sunday following a Gators game he tells his members 1) to be as loud as football fans, (2) to give $50 to the church, the price of the cheapest ticket, and (3) to spend four hours at church.
This book, written light-heartedly in the genres of sports and religion, will have particular appeal for college football fans who are devout Christians. Although written about a subject that cannot yield any absolute answers, it provides ample food for thought for those who feel a need to strike a balance between their sports passions and their worship needs. As the author says, he is "thankful this game, fantastic as it is, is not my god." Jan. 2011
Anniston resident John Gruenewald is an assistant district attorney for Calhoun and Cleburne Counties.