Excerpt from this article about the “coming out” of the NFL star running back , Arian Foster, as a non-theist.
So what does football look and sound like to the nonbeliever? Foster sits at his locker before every game, facing the wall, the music in his headphones internalizing his preparation. At some point before the Texans come together to take the field, he can feel the men behind him congregating to form a circle. There is no tap on the shoulder or invitation to join. Through the headphones he can hear the low murmur of a teammate asking Jesus to keep them safe from harm, and afterward the collective hum of the group reciting the Lord’s Prayer. Before the game, he nods along to the ubiquitous God-bless-yous that register as white noise to everyone but him, and afterward he hears the postgame shoutouts to God, a standard reflex in most interviews with the triumphant.
But if God is helping you win, Foster wonders, isn’t he by definition ensuring that the other guy loses? As is the case with Foster’s street, the water must choose a side. “If there is a God and he’s watching football, there are so many other things he could be doing,” he says. “There are hungry children and diseases and famine and so much important stuff going on in the world, and he’s really blessed your team? It’s just weird to me.”
The separation of church and football — not to mention church and public education — blurred at Tennessee, Foster says. Coaches, led by head coach Phil Fulmer, scheduled trips to Sunday church services as team-building exercises. Foster asked to be excused. He was denied. (The school confirmed that these team-building exercises to churches took place.) Word spread: Foster was arrogant, selfish, difficult to coach. “They just thought I was being a rebel and didn’t want to participate in the team activities,” Foster says.
“I was like, ‘No, that’s not it. Church doesn’t do anything for me. I’m not a Christian.’ I said, ‘We can do other team-bonding activities and I’ll gladly go, but this doesn’t do anything for me.’