Supernatural Super Bowl Infographic courtesy of Public Religion Research Institute.

Fans rely on God, rituals to boost favorite team


Supernatural Super Bowl Infographic courtesy of Public Religion Research Institute.

Supernatural Super Bowl infographic courtesy of Public Religion Research Institute.

 This image is available for web publication. For questions, contact Sally Morrow.

(RNS) Most Americans don’t think God or the devil will be picking the NFL playoff winners this weekend or any other sports champions. 

But some will pray nonetheless, and a few will “religiously” perform little game-day rituals just in case.

A survey by Public Religion Research Institute, released Thursday (Jan. 16), probes  the crossover between team spirit and spirituality.

Most Americans (60 percent) call themselves fans of a particular team. Among this group, several will do a little dance or say a little prayer to help the team along: 

  • 21 percent (including one in four football fans) will wear special clothes or do special rituals. Donning a team jersey leads the way (66 percent). But some admit they get a little funky with their underwear. One fan wears dirty undershorts on top of his jeans.  (No word if these are boxers or briefs.)
  • 25 percent (including 31 percent of football fans) have sometimes felt their team has been cursed. (No word on how many are Red Sox fans.)
  • 26 percent (including one in three football fans) say they pray to God to help their team. White evangelicals are most likely to lean on the Lord on this: 38 percent will pray, more than any other religious group.
  • Football fans are also more likely than other fans to admit praying for their team (33 percent to 21 percent), performing pre-game or game-time rituals (25 percent to 18 percent), or to believe that their team has been cursed (31 percent to 18 percent).

Although three-quarters of respondents said God plays no role in who wins, Americans are evenly divided on whether God rewards faith-filled athletes with good health and success, with 48 percent saying yes and 47 percent saying no. 

Football is by far American’s favorite sport (39 percent) with nearly four times the fan base of basketball (10 percent) or baseball (9 percent) or soccer (7 percent). And 72 percent of Americans say they are likely to watch the Super Bowl.

PRRI surveyed 1,011 people in English and Spanish between Jan. 8 and Jan. 12. The survey has a margin of error of plus or minus 3.1 percentage points.



  1. Those who believe that God plays a roll in the outcome of a sports event must necessarily believe that he rewards one team. That means that he punishes the other. Why would God punish a team?

  2. To say that God doesn’t care who wins a football game is to deny that God loves and cares about every part of our life. To me, the key point is that “winning” and “losing” mean something very different to Him than to us. As CS Lewis said, “we learn things through pain that we could learn in no other way.”

  3. Do you think God cares that people chose to blantly abuse/destroy their bodies in a violent sport? Do you think He cares about the millions who contribute to this abuse by actively watching and passively participating?

    What’s the difference between this and other forms of abuse that are considered “bad” or “illegal”?

  4. If these believers are so convinced that God answers their prayers, how morally bankrupt must they be to waste their prayers on issues of so little consequence as a game, when so many horrible things occur in the world that they could prevent through intercession with God.

    Religion poisons everything!

  5. Stories like this only convince me more that Atheism is the only honest way to deal with claims that God exists.
    Honestly! The preening selfishness of religion and solipsism at its core is disgusting.

  6. To conceive of a god who would teach people lessons through the “pain” of losing a game makes a mockery of the real pain people suffer every day – starvation, rape, war, etc. But come to think of it, to conceive of a god who would use starvation, rape, war, or other horrible pain to teach someone a lesson makes a mockery of my (admittedly average) intelligence.

  7. hah what people need to realize is that each sports city/team has a god. People’s teams lose when they pray to the wrong god or bench the wrong fantasy football player.

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