Does God Root for the Patriots? ; Father Time Catches a Tiger

God Exists and He Roots for Patriots


Benjamin Franklin supposedly observed that beer is proof that God loves us and wants us to be happy. Super Bowl XLIX is proof that God exists and roots for the Patriots.

We can now close the book on “Deflategate,” the non-scandal about the supposed under-inflation of the footballs used by the New England Patriots in their Jan. 18 victory over the Indianapolis Colts. For we now know the cause of the reduced air pressure.

It was not Tom Brady. It was not Bill Belichick. It was not the anonymous locker room guy. It was not even Ben Affleck or Matt Damon or the many others who bravely stepped forward to take responsibility.

God deflated the footballs.

God sucked out about 2 pounds per square inch of air pressure from the footballs on the sidelines of the AFC Championship Game, and exhaled that same divine breath a fortnight later into the ear of Seattle coach Pete Carroll, whispering: “Behold the defensive line. Thou can’t runneth over. Therefore, choose pass.”

That explains why the Seahawks, on the Patriots’ 1-yard line with 30 seconds left to play and one time out left, called a pass play. And not just any pass play. A pass play up the middle during a goal-line stand, into an area more densely populated than Mumbai or Hong Kong — or Mumbai compressed tightly enough to fit into the center of Hong Kong. And Carroll called the play when Marshawn Lynch, who had already rushed for 102 yards, four of them on the previous play, was available to take the ball one yard farther into the endzone. If not on that play, then on the next, or possibly the next after that.

Instead, the Seahawks passed, and Malcolm Butler, an undrafted rookie out of West Alabama, a school which had never previously sent a football player to the Super Bowl, jumped the route and intercepted the ball, and saved the Patriots.

Some might ask: Why would the Lord support New England? God is supposed to love all His children, and not play favorites. Sure, fine. But New England from its very birth has enjoyed a special connection to the Divine. In 1630, before the Puritans went ashore in what would become Boston, John Winthrop told them: “Wee must Consider that wee shall be as a Citty upon a Hill, the eies of all people are uppon us.” Winthrop may not have actually foreseen that Super Bowl XLIX would be the most watched program in U.S. television history, but he did understand that millions of prime-time eyes would always be upon New England.

But doesn’t the notion of divine intervention conflict with the idea of free will, to say nothing of free safeties? If God participates, and if He, not mortals, controls the outcome, doesn’t that mean that there are no heroes and no goats in football? Doesn’t that mean that players are mere pawns?

These same questions have troubled theologians analyzing the flight of the Israelites out of Egypt. In the Book of Exodus, we read that God “hardened Pharaoh’s heart,” so that he would not let His people go. That suggests that God, not Pharaoh, was responsible for the enslavement imposed upon the Hebrews, and for the disaster that befell the Egyptian charioteers when they rode out to intercept them.

But an alternative view holds that “hardening” Pharaoh’s heart actually allowed him to exercise free will. Remember that Pharaoh was rocked by plague after plague. His confidence was shaken. By “hardening” his heart, God gave Paraoh the resolve to resist the horror of the plagues, and to defy rather than capitulate to Moses. Thus fortified, Pharaoh could actually exercise free choice.

Something similar may have been at work on the sidelines when Carroll made the fateful choice to pass. His team was less than a yard away from victory, and Lynch was ready. A large contingent of Seahawk fans were chanting “Beast Mode! Beast Mode!” Carroll was under intense pressure to take the safe option.

But Carroll is as constitutionally averse to playing it safe as Pharaoh was to letting his nation’s workforce depart. Just 30 minutes of playing time earlier, as the first half was winding down, the Seahawks, behind 14–7, were on the Patriots’ 11-yard line with six seconds left. The safe course would have been to kick a field goal: to take the sure 3 points and start the second half with possession. Instead, Carroll went for the end zone, and risked the danger of running out of time. The risk paid off. Wide receiver Chris Matthews made a beautiful catch on the left sideline, and the Seahawks ended the half tied with New England, and with momentum very much on their side.

So when God used the air from the deflated footballs to whisper into Carroll’s ear, He was not controlling the Seahawks coach. Rather, he was fortifying him. He was enabling Carroll to resist the “Beast Mode! Beast Mode!” chants, to defy conventional wisdom, and to exercise his free will. The outcome was not predestined.

But if God limited his role to enabling Carroll to exercise his free will in Super Bowl XLIX, why would he have interfered in the AFC Championship Game by deflating the balls? There too, the divine intervention was more circumscribed than it might appear.

The NFL investigators have contacted the Columbia University physics department for assistance on “matters relating to gas physics and environmental impacts on inflated football.” Scientific evidence is mounting that exonerates the Patriots. The evidence stems from what physicists call “the ideal gas law,” which holds that for an ideal gas in a container, the absolute pressure times the container volume is proportional to the number of gas molecules in the container times the absolute temperature. In other words, temperature drops cause gas pressure drops.

A graduate student at Carnegie Mellon University conducted an experiment, which showed that the amount of deflation involved in moving a football from a room at 75 degrees to a room at 50 degrees (the temperature on the sidelines at the Colts game), and when the football is moistened to imitate the rainy weather of that day, the pressure reduction is close to 2 pounds per square inch, about the same deflation found by the NFL.

This demonstrates that the laws of physics, not the Lord, are responsible for the deflation of the footballs, just as Pete Carroll, not the Lord, called the pass play.

But He that whispered into Carroll’s ear also authored the laws of physics. The bond tying God to New England seems as strong as it was in 1630.

In the final analysis, Deflategate and the Carroll Call prove much and little at the same time. They prove that God exists, and that He roots for the Patriots. But they also show that God acts in mysterious ways, allowing free will and the laws of physics to accomplish His purposes.

These are profound enigmas, difficult for mortals, or even Tom Brady, to grasp.

Lawrence Siskind is a San Francisco-based lawyer. This post was originally published in his blog To Put It Bluntly.


old tiger
Father Time catches Woods in race to Jack’s record

By Joe Posnanski
So I have a friend, a smart guy, who still thinks Tiger Woods will tie Jack Nicklaus’ record.

Well, I don’t know if he still thinks that after Thursday’s sad turn when Tiger again withdrew from a tournament and said something about how he couldn’t get his glutes activated.

Yeah. But even after last week’s fiasco, where Woods shot an 82 and chipped like a weekend hacker, my friend insisted that Woods still had one more great run in him and that, before he was done, he would win four more major championships to give him 18, just like Nicklaus had.

I will concede there is some movement in my friend’s position because until recently he’d been insisting that Woods would break Nicklaus’ record and now only thinks that Woods will tie the record … but the point remains the same. The point is: My friend is delusional.

Then, we’re all just a little bit delusional when it comes to age.

I’ve written at length about how golfers age. It’s not so different from how baseball players age. There’s a temptation to believe golfers play great in their 40s because Phil Mickelson won a British Open at 43, and Nicklaus won a Masters at 46, and Ray Floyd, Lee Trevino, Darren Clarke, Hale Irwin had moments of glory in their 40s, and because Fred Couples, Tom Watson, Sam Snead and others have contended even in their 50s.

This is anecdotal stuff, though, much like thinking that pitchers must be good in their 40s because Roger Clemens, Phil Niekro, Jamie Moyer and Nolan Ryan had great seasons in their 40s.

Meryl Streep and Helen Mirren still get good parts in their 60s. That doesn’t mean it’s like that for most actresses.

The golf numbers are plain – I put them in that story. Here are three statistics:

The median age for major champion winners since 1960 is 32.

Only 20 of the 220 winners since 1960 (9%) were 40 or over.

Since 2000, only four of 60 (7%) major winners were 40 or over, and three of those four won the Open Championship. No 40-year-old has won the Masters or the U.S. Open in the 21st century.

Golfers don’t age as obviously as, say, tennis players do. But the theme is the same. Roger Federer, after losing at the Australian Open, said he had a bad day. Chris Evert responded to that with one of the smartest things I’ve heard about athletes aging. She said that the thing about getting older is that you just have more bad days.

That’s pretty profound, if you think about it. There are times when Federer, Derek Jeter, Peyton Manning, Tiger Woods are as great as they were young. No question. But then there’s tomorrow. And the day after that. And the day after that. And while the bad days used to happen rarely, like a weird 24-hour virus that comes out of nowhere, the viruses pop up more and more often as you get old. Maybe you have one bad day for every three good ones. Then it’s one bad day for every two good ones. Then you have one bad day for every good one.

Woods’ career will always be divided in golf fans’ minds by the personal scandal. Before the scandal he won 14 major championships, one of those on one leg, and played more perfect golf than anyone – including Nicklaus, Hogan and Jones – ever played.

After the scandal, of course, he has won zero major championships, really never coming all that close to winning one and has gone two and a half years without winning any tournaments. He did win three tournaments in 2012, five more in 2013, and worked his way back up to No. 1 in the world … but golf greatness is measured in majors. Woods knows this better than anyone.

I don’t think the scandal, though, is the right dividing line for Woods. I don’t believe that it has been the decisive factor in his decline. I think injuries have been a bigger part of things. And I think age is a bigger part than most want to admit.

Woods won his last major when he was 32. That’s not really so out of line with other good golfers. Fred Couples won his only major at 32. Johnny Miller won his last at 29. Seve Ballesteros won his last at 31. Tom Watson was 33. Palmer was 34. Curtis Strange was 34. And so on.

Woods has been playing this game since he was a toddler. It’s hard to imagine that anyone has swung the club as hard and as often as he did. There was never a good reason to believe his body would hold up. There was never a particularly good reason to believe he would age well, just as there isn’t really a reason to believe Miguel Cabrera will age well or LeBron James.

We just want to believe it. We want to believe that their mental toughness will translate in longevity. We want to believe that can overcome time. We always want to believe.

I have not believed for years that Tiger would break or tie Nicklaus’ record, but I did believe that he would win another major championship or two. He certainly played well enough in the last couple of years to win one. And, sure, he might play well enough again. But right now we are seeing a 39-year-old man whose body cannot sustain the violence of a golf swing hit again and again. We are seeing a 39-year-old man whose swing is so far gone that even a know-nothing like me can look at him on the Konica Minolta swing-whiz-fizz-les-miz-gryzz-showbiz-ol’-diz-pop-quiz-nothing-beats-the-wiz camera and say, “Yuck.” We are seeing a remarkable athlete rage against the dying of the light – and like with all athletes, the light dies anyway.

Dale Murphy, one of my favorite athletes and people, hit 398 home runs in his career. I think he probably wanted 400. That’s a round number. That used to be a Hall of Fame qualifier, too — until the 1980s, every player with 400 homers was elected to the Hall. I don’t know how much that number 400 mattered to him, but I do know that in 1992, at age 36, he played 18 games with Philadelphia. He hit .161 with two home runs. He didn’t want it to end like that so in 1993, he went to Colorado for its inaugural season and played for the minimum salary. Like I say, he needed only two home runs. He could not get even one of them. He got in 26 games, came to the plate 49 times, and hit .141 with one extra base hit.

It had ended for him so suddenly. At 31, he hit 44 home runs and was an MVP candidate. At 37, he couldn’t lift one fly ball into the mountain air and over the wall. That’s not baseball. That’s life.

And now, it’s Tiger Woods. He was the No. 1 golfer in the world just months ago. Just last week, during his dreadful two days at the Phoenix Open, he managed to get his club-head speed up to almost 125 mph, which is remarkable stuff. If only he can harness his swing again, if only he can get back to chipping with confidence, if only he can stay healthy, if only he can … the declining years have a lot of “if onlys.”

That’s not Tiger Woods. That’s life.

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