God, Magic, Football, and Collie

For those of who living outside of Utah or may have had your collective heads under a rock for the past week, I couldn't help but talk about this little nugget that has been rubbing between the state's fore-finger and thumb.
Here's the background: BYU beat Utah last week in a hard-fought, mostly mediocre football game, 17-10. In order to defeat the Utes, BYU needed a miracle 4th and 18 throw from Max Hall to wide receiver Austin Collie, which led to the final touchdown scored by BYU with only seconds left in the game.
When asked about the divine reception, Collie gave AM 1320 reporter Patrick Kinahan the following gem, which destroys any faith I had in the ability of football players to think:
"I wouldn't say [the catch] was lucky. We executed the play well. We should have had another [TD]. Obviously, if you do what's right on and off the field, I think the Lord steps in and plays a part. Magic Happens."
(As reported by the Deseret News, at http://deseretnews.com/article/1,5143,695231106,00.html)
This has been replayed, rehashed, and ridiculed for the past week or so. Upset Utes and rational people are generally stupefied, wondering "Why is another Cougar citing their affiliation with God as the reason for succeeding/winning?"
On the Cougar side, arguments in Collie's defense have been as follows:
1. Collie's comments were taken out of context
2. He didn't mean what he said
3. Collie was only talking about his individual ability to make magic happen with the Lord's help.
4. Austin Collie even defended himself later, saying "I just think it's absolutely ridiculous that people take something like that and blow it up. I really think it's because I'm a Mormon white kid from Brigham Young University. Anybody else says that from any other team and it's just 'how spiritual that guy is.'"
He continued, stating his belief that God blesses all his children, all the time:
"You can see that around the world, God cares about his children and that he's going to bless them whether it's on the football field or or any other area of their lives. I think if you're doing the things you should do on and off the field, things are going to come together for you. To tell you I got here on my own and that the Lord hasn't had a hand in my success and our team's success and every other athlete's success in this world is just B.S., because he's had a hand in every person's life."
In a final show of the charity and altruism that his faith has taught him, Collie blessed his allies and enemies by explaining that those people who criticized his comments "need to get a life. It's just ridiculous. People have to get a life. That's all."
Thank you, Austin. We obviously need to get a life. This from the person who is convinced that the Almighty is so concerned with sporting events that He will actually choose to favor one of His children over another. Thank that's not what Collie said? Let me show you why that's EXACTLY what he said.
Unfortunately, Collie can't escape the logic of his statement like he did the Utah secondary on 4th and 18.
Essentially, Collie formulated the following logical statements:
1. If you do what's right on and off the field, the Lord is with you.
2. If the Lord is with you, magic happens.
So, if you combine the two statements, you can make a third, which is:
3. If you do what is right on and off the field, magic happens.
I don't think anyone really cares about someone giving thanks to a supreme being for helping them to do their best. The trouble that Collie has run into is when you take the flipside of his logic (which is just as true as his outright statements).
The "flipside" of any logical statement is what philosophers call the "contra-positive." It essentially looks like this:
Original Statement:
If X, then Y
If you're in New York, then you're also in the US
If not Y, then not X
If you're not in the US, then you're not in New York
Thus, if you take the contra-positive of those three original Collie statements, you get the following:
1. If the Lord is not with you, then you aren't doing what's right on and off the field.
2. If Magic doesn't happen, then the Lord is not with you.
3. If Magic doesn't happen, then you aren't doing what's right on and off the field.
Herein lies the problem-- according to Collie's logic, if the "magic" doesn't happen, then the Lord isn't with that person or team. And if the Lord isn't with that person or team, then they aren't doing what's right on and off the field.
Therefore, any team that loses to BYU for lack of magic (read--Utah) has done so because the Lord is not with them, and the Lord is not with them because they don't do what's right on and off the field.
So, when fans get upset that Collie is saying that their team is not as righteous as his, they are SPOT ON. Logically, that is perfect contra-positive formulation of his argument. Now, the question being begged is "Does that mean that Tulsa was doing more right on and off the field, and therefore had more of the Lord's help, which in turn led to more magic in their defeat of the righteous Cougars?"
What about those years when BYU lost so many games under Gary Crowton?
Don't you think he was praying to do a good job?
Weren't the players?
Honestly, let's stop second-guessing the Lord. I'm sure that if He is involved with sporting events, it's more like a father watching two sons compete against each other. No matter how involved He is, though, I'm certain that the heartache, grief, suffering, and other pains that plague His children throughout this war-torn earth occupy His attention and priorities much more than whether one kid on one football field made one play to help win one game.
Is God involved in our daily lives? You bet. But to the extent that he'll favor one child to the detriment of others? Never.
I'd love to hear your opinions on the matter.


It's just me... said...

First and foremost, God does favor me above all others - even to the detriment of others. Just ask my children.

Secondly, step away from Kaplan. Just back away. Slowly, ever so gently....

On a more serious note (I was serious above, this is just a new level), I was saddened by the news that the Y beat my U. Now that might contradict my first statement...shoot.

I agree with you though - God has a lot of other things to worry about than the outcome of a football game. Actually, with my Grandpa up there he might just have pulled up the HDTV and sat God down for the game....

Andrew McKnight said...

Great argument. Unless of course you consider the "Angels in the Outfield" argument. Perhaps some little boy needed the mighty Cougars to win so he could leave his foster home and join the family of Danny Glover (or maybe even Bronco Mendenhall)? Some angel may have flapped his wings (because I'm an unrighteous Utah fan who probably doesn't know that angels don't have wings) to give the ball the miracle amount of lift. I think next time in order to leave no doubt as to the veracity of their claims to divine assistance the Cougs should start flapping their arms. (I hope you've seen "Angels in the Outfield" or none of this will make any sense.)

shjacobsen said...

So was you punching me in the gut because of my defaming the signed football rightous indignation? Further, would you have laid into me knowing what you know now about the cougs. I tell ya i was ahead of my time!

Jordan said...

Lame. Quit being so bitter you lost and move on. Remember how finals are looming? I'm sorry you had to dye your hair blue. Not really.

madelyn said...

Am I the only one who noticed the kid tackling Jesus in the figurine? That kid is going to have some issues.

Mel said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Mel said...

Eric, I loved this post. You are totally spot on, my friend. And Mads- I agree... you can't tackle Jesus!!

Steven said...

Hey Eric. great blog.
And yes UCLA is way more righteous on and off the field than BYU.

Simone said...

I just stumbled upon your blog while searching for images to illustrate my own blog pot regarding matters of faith. I actually have a half written blog from a long time ago on he subject of God taking sides in sports.

I really enjoyed this but, as an atheist, I feel like you are half way to our argument. Of course it is ludicrous for Kinahan to suggest that God worked his magic for BYU, but I think that he's copping more flack because it was something as frivolous and straightforward as a football game. In regular life, people claim God is with them when they achieve success in their jobs, narrowly miss being in an accident, or get the last of their favourite cupcake at the bakery. In all these cases, for these successes, someone else fails. So much like defeating Utah, are those who don't get the promotion, severely injured in accidents or miss out on their cupcake NOT worthy of God's assistance?

The fact is, there is no way to know what God is or isn't doing. So while this football example is indeed entertaining, taking another step back makes it appear no different to any other claim that God is in your life.

Dunn said...

He's right. you do need to get a life. You spent your time examining his statement and trying to be all philosophical with your pathetic answer. all he said is God helped. who cares? football players thank God all the time. The solution to this problem is plain and simple. Get a life

Eric Vogeler said...

Dear Dunn: I apologize for coming off as a bit too philosophical or over-your-head. I was simply trying to point out WHY people had a problem with what Collie said.

We (you and I) disagree fundamentally about what he said--not his words, but what he really meant. You have your opinion, I have mine. If you believe that God REALLY helps one of his children over the other because of personal righteousness, well, then, go ahead. I only pointed it out because it seems to go against a lot of what Collie preached as a missionary.

As for a life...well, surfing the internet for year-old posts about year-old topics...and then posting about them. Well, you get the picture.