June 4th, 2010
08:28 AM ET
CNN's Senior National Editor Dave Schechter has been gearing up for the World Cup, which kicks off June 11. He filed this report:
My wife has been known to say – sometimes in jest, sometimes ruefully – that there are two religions in our house; one associated with synagogue, the other with soccer.
Ours’ is hardly the only household around the globe where organized religion and organized football occasionally vie for primacy. [I will use the term “football” because that’s what the sport is called around the world. The game is, after all, played with feet.]
You can be an agnostic or an atheist when it comes to religion but it’s much more difficult when we’re talking about the World Cup. Even if the game does not interest you, you will not be able to escape the passion. You will encounter people in your day life – at work, shopping, out for a meal – who are engrossed in this sporting spectacle.
The greatest event in sports is about to captivate an audience numbered in the billions with displays of passion rivaling the most fervent among the religious faithful.
Prayers will be offered; some silently, some aloud with great fervor.
Curses will be uttered; directed at players, full teams and even entire nations.
Deities will be implored.
Sacrifices will be pledged, some even offered.
Hymns will be sung, some with lyrics a touch off-color.
Vestments will be worn, colors that designate allegiance to a particular national team, some adorned with the names of individual players.
For those who believe there is greater power in worshipping together evidence will be found in the masses who will pack football-friendly watering holes, standing shoulder-to-shoulder for hours at a time, rather than enjoying the comforts of their own living rooms.
As in many faiths there is a place considered the grail, a shrine that must be visited at least once in a lifetime. For the football worshipper that site moves every four years; this year South Africa.
I made that pilgrimage four years ago, taking my then 13-year-old son to Germany (beware the Bar Mitzvah presents you promise). It did not matter whether your first language was English. If you spoke “footie” you could converse with fans from any nations. My son found his way into pick-up games on a public plaza with adults and kids from Germany and the Czech Republic and conversations in stadiums with Italians and Spaniards.
Just as religion often divides or unites people, football can do the same.
About this blog
The CNN Belief Blog covers the faith angles of the day's biggest stories, from breaking news to politics to entertainment, fostering a global conversation about the role of religion and belief in readers' lives. It's edited by CNN's Daniel Burke with contributions from Eric Marrapodi and CNN's worldwide news gathering team.