John Mcgrath: Is this the year that God sides with Seattle sports teams?

January 3, 2014 

Will 2014 turn out to be the year God finally gives Seattle sports fans a break?

As you might know, Seattle hasn’t won a championship in any of North America’s major sports leagues since 1979, when the SuperSonics ruled in the NBA.

As you also might know, the Mariners are one of only two major league baseball teams (out of 30) that have never been in a World Series, and Seattle is the only current MLB city that has never played host to a World Series game. The Seahawks are among 14 NFL teams (out of 32) never to have won a Super Bowl.

So how does any of this involve God? According to a 2013 survey conducted by the Public Religion Research Institute, 27 percent of U.S. adults believe “God plays a role in determining which team wins a sporting event.” Furthermore, a majority of U.S. adults — 53 percent — believe that athletes who have faith in God are rewarded with good health and success.

I don’t think God cares which teams win, or that athletes with faith in God are more apt to avoid injuries and participate in victory parades than those who don’t keep the faith. But that’s just a hunch, and I’m willing to consider an intriguing possibility:

What if 27 percent of Americans are correct?

It makes me wonder what God has against some cities that have suffered even longer than Seattle. For instance, Cleveland, where the last title — the Browns’ 27-0 victory over the Baltimore Colts in the NFL championship game — came in 1964. To make matters especially frustrating, the Browns

relocated to Baltimore, and the new franchise became the Ravens.

The, uh, defending Super Bowl champion Ravens also won it all in the 2000 season, a mere four years after leaving a Cleveland market that was forced to settle for a consistently inferior NFL expansion team.

Meanwhile, the Cleveland Indians last won the World Series in 1948. They were three outs away from clinching the Series against the Marlins in 1997, taking a one-run lead into the top of the ninth in Game 7, only to watch closer Jose Mesa melt down in the high-pressure air of a muggy Florida night.

Cleveland lost in 11 innings.

Was God punishing the Indians? Or was it more a matter of God favoring the Marlins, who’d go on to win their second World Series in 2003?

God has nothing against Detroit — at least nothing sports-related, anyway — where the NBA Pistons and NHL Red Wings have combined to earn seven world championships since 1989. God’s issue apparently is with the Lions, denied an NFL title since 1957. The Lions still are waiting to appear in a Super Bowl.

During the Lions’ stay in limbo, Tampa Bay has won a Super Bowl, and Tennessee and Carolina each have played in one.

God works in mysterious ways.

With 13 Stanley Cup trophies, the Toronto Maple Leafs rank as hockey blue-bloods. The most popular team in Canada’s largest city, the Maple Leafs are worth an estimated U.S. $1.15 billion, tops among NHL franchises.

And yet the Leafs not only haven’t hoisted a Stanley Cup since 1967, but they haven’t reached the Finals since then. Hall of Fame defenseman Allan Stanley was considered an indispensable piece of that ’67 team. Stanley died in October, at the age of 87.

Since Toronto’s most recent title, 11 Stanley Cup championships have gone to teams that didn’t belong to the NHL in 1967, including such hockey hotbeds — emphasis on the “hot” — as Dallas, Tampa Bay, Carolina and Los Angeles.

At least the Maple Leafs have claimed a championship since television sets were equipped to convey images in color, which is more than can be said of the Sacramento-and-sort-of-almost-to-Seattle Kings, whose last NBA title came in 1951, when the franchise was called the Royals and belonged to Rochester, N.Y.

Can the Kings’ 62-year futility streak be attributed to God’s eternal loyalty to ...

Rochester?

I am looking for patterns revealing God’s motives for determining who wins championships and who doesn’t, dots connecting dots, but how am I supposed to figure out God’s motives if I can’t figure out how to work my clock radio? (When I press the wrong button, I get the presumably soothing sounds of ocean waves, or raindrops falling in a forest, or thunder crackling in the distance.)

Patterns revealing God’s motives? Dunno. The Phoenix Suns haven’t won an NBA title in 45 years, but the Arizona Diamondbacks beat the New York Yankees in the 2001 World Series on Luis Gonzalez’s ninth-inning, opposite-field blooper off the great Mariano Rivera. What’s that about?

The Hawks were in St. Louis when they won their last NBA title in 1958. They moved to Atlanta in 1968, the same year the expansion St. Louis Blues played in the first of three consecutive Stanley Cup Finals. The Blues were swept from each series and haven’t returned.

Again, what’s that about? My guess: an attempt to balance that obvious affinity God has for the St. Louis Cardinals, traditional rivals of God’s least favorite team, the Chicago Cubs.

Fresh off their most recent World Series appearance — 1945, when they were beaten in seven games by the Detroit Tigers — the Cubs will begin 2014 entrenched in a 105-year championship drought. From the looks of their roster, it’ll take a miracle to keep the losing streak from reaching 106 years.

As much I want to see the team I grew up watching compete in a World Series, my hope is that God has no dogs in this hunt, or any other sports-related hunt. My hope is that all games are decided fair and square.

God gave us ocean waves and forest raindrops and thunder crackling in the distance. That’s enough.

But between us, God? Next time I’m challenged to listen to a game on a clock radio replete with buttons channeling sounds I don’t want to hear, will you help me make it through the night?

Oh, and one other thing. Whenever a team’s playoff elimination is at stake and the broadcasters insist “there is no tomorrow,” thanks for shrugging your shoulders.

john.mcgrath@ thenewstribune.com

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