Skip to content

One in four Americans think God helps decide the outcome of football games

Jan 31, 2013, 9:00 AM EDT

Denver Broncos v Oakland Raiders Getty Images

More than half of all Americans believe that God rewards athletes who have faith in Him, according to a recent poll by the Public Religion Research Institute, and isn’t that what Tim Tebow has been telling us all along?

That number is 53 percent, and isn’t really that shocking. But this one is, at least to me: according to the poll, 27 percent of Americans believe that God actually plays a role in determining which team wins a sporting event. Yes, God is waving that ball fair or foul, like an omnipotent Carlton Fisk. Or to put it another way, God spends all day playing Madden NFL 12 with real players.

Which means that David Akers must have really done something wrong in his life recently. God seems to be steamed at him.

The poll, conducted on Jan. 16, consisted of random telephone interviews with 1,033 subjects.

The percentage jumps even higher if you’re a white evangelical Protestant from the South.

Roughly 4-in-10 minority Christians (40%) and white evangelical Protestants (38%) agree that God does play a role in the outcome of a sporting event, compared to less than 3-in-10 (29%) Catholics, less than 1-in-5 (19%) white mainline Protestants, and approximately 1-in-10 (12%) religiously unaffiliated Americans.

More than one-third (36%) of Americans who live in the South agree that God plays a role in determining which team wins a sporting event, compared to nearly 3-in-10 (28%) Americans who live in the Midwest, 1-in-5 (20%) Americans who live in the Northeast, and 15% of Americans who live in the West.

That low percentage for the West is not surprising: that’s where Chargers and Raiders fans live.

But Democrats (28 percent) are slightly more likely to think that God is manipulating box scores than Republicans (25 percent) or independents (26 percent).

And try this on for size:

More than three-quarters (76%) of Americans agree that public high schools should be allowed to sponsor prayer before football games.

Wow. May God have mercy on us all.

UPDATE: Best reader comment so far:

Goodell needs to ban prayer before games. That’s a performance enhancer.

106 Comments (Feed for Comments)
  1. froiland77 - Jan 31, 2013 at 3:59 PM

    Aside form the fact that there is no such thing as a god, I’m so glad to know that a 0.0003% sampling size of our country is something we can hang our hat on and is enough to write an article about on NBC. Who are these people hiring?! Is there really nothing else they have for these people to do over there? Please learn something about sample size determination and statistics before you ever post irrelevant crap like this again.

    • myopinionisrighterthanyours - Jan 31, 2013 at 4:03 PM

      Aside form the fact that there is no such thing as a god


      No, that is an opinion. I point out the same thing to people who try to convince me that their version of god is the one true god.

      • froiland77 - Jan 31, 2013 at 4:06 PM

        There is no god. When you, you die. End of story.

        • myopinionisrighterthanyours - Jan 31, 2013 at 4:09 PM

          Really? I’ve taken it you’ve died before and have since come back to point out this fact to the rest of us then? P.S., their are religions out there that agree with you. Still an OPINION, though.

          • vikingquest1988 - Jan 31, 2013 at 4:19 PM

            I hope you enjoy hell!

          • bleu1waffle - Jan 31, 2013 at 4:20 PM

            i’m sorry the burden of proof for a god is on the person that claims there is one. now the flying spaghetti monster, his noodly appendages are real. praise be on him, Ramen

            • myopinionisrighterthanyours - Jan 31, 2013 at 4:23 PM

              There is no such proof. I’m sorry people can’t wake up to the fact that ALL religions, agnostism and atheism included, are OPINIONS!!!!!!!!!!

              • myopinionisrighterthanyours - Jan 31, 2013 at 4:24 PM

                P.S. It is a lack of this fundamental understanding as to why there is so much hate and violence in the world.

              • bleu1waffle - Jan 31, 2013 at 4:27 PM

                The Flying Spaghetti Monster is the truth my friend. Perhaps his noodly appendages have been knocking at the door to your heart, but you have been so clouded in disillusionment you haven’t heard him.


              • samsjmail - Jan 31, 2013 at 6:17 PM


                “There is no such thing as Santa Claus”…is just an opinion?
                “There is no easter bunny who hides eggs”…is just an opinion?
                “There is no tooth fairy that pays you for baby teeth”…is just an opinion?

          • cat0325 - Feb 1, 2013 at 7:39 AM

            I actually HAVE died and came back. And it was in the hospital ER where they had an EKG hooked up to me and they had disconnected the leads because my heart stopped. I believe that we have spirits/souls and that they are truly who we are – not these shells that we inhabit. Didn’t meet a “god” after I died, but I did go someplace beautiful where I was told I had children to raise in THIS life before I could move on.

        • Rick Chandler - Jan 31, 2013 at 6:38 PM

          Are you available for children’s parties?

        • Voices in the Rain - Feb 1, 2013 at 4:58 AM

          Have you been there…did you come back…no one knows for certain. Empirically there is absolutely no way of knowing one way or the other: If there is anything afterwards. If we can be born into the physical world out of stardust why is it not possible that why can die and evolve into another existence. The man whom Rain Man was based on died last year He was a Savant. His two hemispheres were separate. They did not have a Cerebral Cortex connecting them. And yet he could function. He was brilliant. And he had consciousness and awareness. The left and write brain have to communicate with each other for a person to function. Is the soul something beyond intelligence. Is awareness the soul and could he have a consciousness that existed beyond the scope of the physical that was able to correlate the two spheres of his brain. I understand Agnostics. But Atheism confuses me. I think Atheist should at least be open to religion. And I believe religion should be open to the realities of science.

          • Michael Simpson - Feb 1, 2013 at 2:27 PM

            Argument from Ignorance, a typical logical fallacy. If you are making the assertion that some god exists, then you are responsible to providing convincing evidence thereof. I am not responsible for proving that something doesn’t exist, when I cannot see evidence that it does exist. That’s why it’s a logical fallacy.

            An atheist is openminded to the possibility that a god exists if evidence is provided. We just know none has been provided, even when we’ve gone looking.

            So, go along with your logical fallacies. They amuse me.

            • myopinionisrighterthanyours - Feb 1, 2013 at 3:39 PM

              Speaking of amusing and logical fallacies, it amuses me that you have those of your own while accurately pointing out those of others.

              • myopinionisrighterthanyours - Feb 1, 2013 at 6:26 PM

                Okay, since somebody out there obviously didn’t get what I was talking about, let me take you back to Logic 101, my little chick-a-dees. Mr. Simpson’s argument is, if there is proof, then there is a god. Okay, fair enough. Now where his (and most atheists) logic fallacy is is that they go “There is no proof. A ha!!!!! There is no god.” Too bad that is logically incorrect. The inverse of a conditional statement is not the logical equivalent, and it is something advertisers use all the time. They’ll say something like “If you use Crest, you’ll have clean teeth and fresh breath.” They WANT you do believe, “Oh crap. I don’t use Crest, therefore I have plaque covered yellow teeth and halitosis.” And by the way, Mr. open minded Simpson, anyone that places limits upon his “open mindedness” is not open minded at all.

              • Michael Simpson - Feb 2, 2013 at 6:22 PM

                Ummm. You flunked logical fallacy 101. Sorry dude. You also have no clue what open-mindedness means. It does not mean that I should be open minded to illogical beliefs. It means, I am open minded to evidence, not rantings and mythical books and nonsense.

                So, other than personal attacks, strawman arguments, and logical fallacies, what have you got? it appears like nothing else. You can only attack people. You are incapable of bringing evidence of gods.

                I’m glad I live a happy life without believing nonsense.

  2. amniculi - Jan 31, 2013 at 4:32 PM

    All this means is that one in four Americans are idiots.

  3. dabbindan - Jan 31, 2013 at 4:32 PM

    i firmly believe on super bowl sunday, god will be frying fish. and all the fish god will be frying will be immeasurably larger than the super bowl ever thought of being.

    just my thoughts.

  4. vette7274 - Jan 31, 2013 at 4:41 PM

    Sounds about right. 25% of Americans ARE crazy.

  5. jwamd1959 - Jan 31, 2013 at 4:42 PM

    This means that 1 in 4 Americans is a blithering idiot. And these morons actually VOTE. And MOST of them voted for NOBAMA.

    • bleu1waffle - Jan 31, 2013 at 4:51 PM

      This makes absolutely no sense whatsoever. what the hell does Obama have to do with it?

    • monk3yspank - Jan 31, 2013 at 5:32 PM

      Wow. You win “Stupidest Comment of the Month” for that one. Anyone but the most witless moron knows that ALL the hardcore bible-bangers and uber-evagelical creationists did NOT vote for Obama. Romney was a magic-underwearing Mormon.. remember? What a d0uche you are..

    • sarasotan - Jan 31, 2013 at 6:20 PM

      jwamd–you couldn’t be more wrong. Virtually NONE of them voted for Obama. Romney won a huge–overwhelming–percentage of the evangelical vote.

    • samsjmail - Jan 31, 2013 at 6:20 PM

      Actully (1 in 4) pretty much matches Fox News audience size. That’s also close to the number of Americans who thought that Sarah Palin was qualified to be president, and that the earth is flat.

      • skids003 - Feb 1, 2013 at 7:53 AM

        And I bet you believe everything you see on MSNBC, don’t you?

  6. philliephaninva - Jan 31, 2013 at 6:32 PM

    Yet more proof that Americans are idiots!

  7. Haruko Haruhara - Jan 31, 2013 at 6:51 PM


    If God truly cared about football, the Dallas Cowboys would go 0-16 every year.

    • retief1954 - Jan 31, 2013 at 9:54 PM

      liked :)

  8. statslady - Jan 31, 2013 at 7:49 PM

    If 25% of Americans think that any deity of any ilk cares one whit about the decision in any sports match, then the world as a whole is in deep doo-doo.

  9. dennycraneesq - Jan 31, 2013 at 8:01 PM

    How does He pick which team will win? If we knew the answer, it would make betting a lot easier. ;-)
    Seriously. They think a supreme being affects the outcome of football games. Makes me nervous to drive home among these idiots.

  10. crappygovernment - Jan 31, 2013 at 8:41 PM

    What would red diaper babies know about Christianity or QB skills anyway, Tebowhaters?

    • retief1954 - Jan 31, 2013 at 9:53 PM

      your color is red. the lib side is blue.

  11. crappygovernment - Jan 31, 2013 at 8:43 PM

    Shame on the Neocon Football League for their degradation of #15 for being the first, authentic, Christian role model in decades!

    • retief1954 - Jan 31, 2013 at 9:51 PM

      btw dude, neocons are on YOUR side.

  12. crappygovernment - Jan 31, 2013 at 9:00 PM

    The best advertisement for Christianity is the rotten, soulless, God-forsaken rat faces of atheists themselves!

    • guypatsfan - Feb 1, 2013 at 8:22 AM

      The best advertisement for atheism is the fire-breathing, bible-thumping pains in the ass that Christians are.

  13. retief1954 - Jan 31, 2013 at 9:48 PM

    1 in 4! Really! Probably much better than it used to be, though. And why would that 25% (much higher in the South) think that God would favor one team of his children over the other? Aren’t they ALL asking and praying for God’s favor while they play in this game? Why would God choose one or two players to succeed over all the others every year? Are you saying the entire thing’s nothing more than a crapshoot subject to the whims of God? Is God pissed off on Mondays? If he’s in a really bad mood that day, it pretty much doesn’t matter what you do? Help me understand.

  14. retief1954 - Jan 31, 2013 at 9:50 PM

    Wow, “crappygovernment”!…, entertaining posts! Keep it going, man! You’re on a freakin’ ROLL, bruthuh!

    • crappygovernment - Feb 1, 2013 at 9:29 AM

      Click my name for 2 excellent historical blogs about criminal Tebowphobics and their schemes!

  15. mojoquasi - Jan 31, 2013 at 9:54 PM

    And people wonder why we’re 37th in the world in just about everything instead of 1st like we used to be. What else can you expect from a country that can actually elect to a responsible government office someone who believes in “legitimate rape”? How about Michelle Bachmann? We have become a country of morons and religion is a large part of the reason.

  16. crappygovernment - Jan 31, 2013 at 11:10 PM

    Jay Fiedler and Sage Rosenfels would never have been treated this way! If Ray Lewis is/was a real Christian he would speak up for the blacklisted #15!

  17. cat0325 - Feb 1, 2013 at 7:35 AM

    Really? There are 25% of the nation that believes that a deity is concerned about a sporting event? Doesn’t ANY deity have more important things to worry about? I mean, come on people … surely y’all are not that STUPID?

  18. myopinionisrighterthanyours - Feb 1, 2013 at 9:11 AM

    Wow, this story just proves to me why our country is in such a sad state as it is. The extremism on both sides is disappointing, to say the least. Arguing religion is a waste of time, as no matter what you believe, you have no facts to present. It amuses me all of the closed minded atheists getting all thumbs up, who don’t realize they are no better than poor old crappygovernment. I can’t believe that someone actually compared arguing whether there is a supreme being to the easter bunny. If you can’t see the falicy in that arguement, then you are beyond hope. Is there a god? Who knows. I won’t try to tell you there is one for sure. Don’t try to tell somebody else there is not one, however, because fact remains, nobody knows for sure (never will). I’m a very logical, scentific based person, but face it, stuff happens every day that quite simply cannot be explained. As much as I can’t stand skids ultra-conservative rhetoric, I will grant him one point. I have quickly learned that the vast majority of those that preach tolerance are those that are most intolerant of others who do not share their beliefs. And it’s the refusal of one to try to understand the other side, that leads to fear, and ultimately hatred. I realize I’m going to receive NUMEROUS thumbs down, as I have effectively managed to piss off both sides at the same time, but if I get just one person to step back, and open their mind to what the other side might be seeing, then I’ve accomplished something. Point is, as an agnostic, I would never attempt to take one’s own beliefs from them. Please do not insult me by trying to force yours upon me. Okay, I’ll get off my soapbox for now.

  19. Michael Simpson - Feb 1, 2013 at 2:31 PM

    So this worthless god apparently has time for football games, but has no time for cancer, wars, and insane people shooting kids in schools. Well, if this god does exist, he’s a sociopath, and I don’t want to have anything to do with his insanity. But I find this is one of those things that just proves how uneducated people need to believe in things like gods controlling football games, rather than discovering how science cures disease and that the earth is 4.5 billion years old.