In response to the above question, posed on social media and in our email newsletter, only 23 percent said they prayed for their favorite team or athlete to win. Mike Maiale of Blue Bell, Pa., explained: “I pray about what is on my mind. I do not imagine that God is that concerned with the outcome of most sporting events, but we are, and I believe that God likes us to go to him with our hopes. Plus, it can’t hurt!”
Many respondents told America that their prayers include petitions for the safety of athletes. “I hope my team wins, and I do pray, but I do not believe it is important in itself who wins. I do pray sincerely that no one gets hurt,” wrote Cecelia J. Cavanaugh, S.S.J.
Seventy-seven percent of respondents gave a resounding “no” when asked if they pray for sports success. Ryan Hamedy of Boston, Mass., said: “While I respect people that do pray for their teams, I feel as though I should not waste prayers that might really do someone good. I do not want God to think I am spiritually crying wolf.” Jen Roblez of Emporia, Kan., gave a similar response: “It is O.K. to pray for sports outcomes, but I think there are much more important situations that deserve my earnest prayers.”
America also asked readers about whether or not they saw sports as a force for social good.
Sixty-six percent answered “yes” in the context of professional sports (e.g., N.F.L., M.L.B., the World Cup), and 92 percent told us that they saw community sports like Little League as a force for social good.
Shruti Kulkarni of New York City offered a perspective that was shared by many other respondents: “Sports can be a force for social good, for teaching community, cooperation, discipline, hard work, losing with grace and other good values,” said Ms. Kulkarni. “Sports teams also might provide an opportunity to do other kinds of good, such as acts of service within a community or raising their voices for a particular justice issue. However, whether or not they are forces for social good depends on the leadership and the players.”