The only thing sports television hates more than total silence
is the genuine expression of religious faith. Statements of
personal belief, a quick shout out to the deity after a big
game, create awkward moments that leave our beloved network
reporters hemming, hawing and staring down at their tassled
loafers. Thanking the Divine for athletic victory, while well
meant, conjures an uncomfortable picture of God or Allah or
Yahweh picking winners in a heaven that looks like the Mirage
The overworked Almighty, accountable for the fall of every
sparrow, is probably too busy to pay attention to anything but
the playoffs anyhow. So why not borrow from the pantheists and
create a convenient set of sports-only subdeities? The ancient
Aztecs, for example, turned responsibility over to Xolotl
Nanahuatl, god of ballplaying and executions. In Japan sumo
wrestlers have a patron saint all their own, Nomi-no-Sukune. You
get the idea.
Herewith, then, a short list of suggested alternatives to a
single deity, household gods whose invocation keeps everybody
Lamonica, god of play-action 17 Dive-Right Post Zip on two, god
of offense. Patron of the Hail Mary Lou (newly named in honor of
the toothy muse of cheerful outcomes).
Nitschke, god of defense, of war, of game-day windchill. Patron
of the smash-mouth, of the clothesline, of the greenstick
Zaharias, goddess of excellence in all things. Patron of the
disenfranchised, of those without endorsements. In lore was
condemned to toil in the cold, chaotic darkness before women's
sports were invented, by ABC, in the summer of 1999.
Costas, god of statistical accuracy and bygone authenticity.
Patron of documentarians and the dead ball.
Blair and Heiden, twin gods of speed. Co-patrons of the
quadriceps and glutes.
Lupica, god of guest bookings. Patron of the sound bite and
studio-bound Town Car. Paired with Schaap, god of Kinescope and
Thorpe, god of the undervalued. Struggles eternally with the god
of long ball and highball, Ruth, who in mythology tried to lift
Thorpe's mighty jockstrap but could not, until the arrival on
earth of ESPN, trickster god of restored newsreels, Internet
polling and invidious comparison.
Brundage, oppressor god of the status quo. Patron of patronage,
the greased palm, the comped upgrade. Travels with Samaranch,
patron of ward heelers and stolen hotel towels.
Mike, six-ringed god of hardwood and the perpetual title. Patron
of the fadeaway and the slam, he is scourged and purified by the
Gump, god of wet woolens, jock itch and scar tissue. Patron of
emergency dental X-ray and first-visit co-payment.
Yaz, tricrowned god of Fenway. Patron of the near miss. Forever
depicted rolling his teammates uphill.
LT and Straw, minor deities of poor judgment, urinalysis and the
sprinkling of cash on undercover officers.
Teddy Effing Ballgame, unquotable god of the postgame interview.
Patron of bonefish, fighter pilots and the deleted expletive.
Paired with his minion, Bobby Effing Knight, is thought to
organize Sportwriters Appreciation Day in the poorly catered
Seventh Ring of Hell.
Thus armed with a new lexicon of sporting subdeities, athletes
of every creed can fearlessly respond to TV's endless questions,
e.g.: "What happened out there today?"
"Well, Lamonica was on our side, is all I can say. I give thanks
to Blair and Heiden that I was able to outrun my opponents. All
glory to Gump that we had the strength to go on."
"About those felony charges.... "
"LT and Straw teach forgiveness. Or forgetfulness. I forget
which. But by Teddy, I'll kick your effing ass before I respond
Jim Gray need never be embarrassed again.
COLOR ILLUSTRATION: DAN PICASSO