Another easter Sunday in the Cathedral. Hushed voices. Amens. People holding hands and praying. At the end, all of them rising as one and screaming, "My God, it's a miracle!"
Hell, no. Augusta National. It was Phil Mickelson's win at the Masters.
Sports has nearly swallowed Sunday whole. Every pro sport plays on Sunday. The big day in pro golf and tennis is Sunday. College football started playing bowl games on Sunday. Here's March Madness: 10 NCAA tournament games were played on Sunday. Now more and more youth sports teams are playing on Sunday, when the fields are easier to get and parents are available to drive.
It's that kind of stuff that has really torqued off Pope John Paul II lately. In March he decried the fact that Sundays are losing their "fundamental meaning" to "such things as entertainment and sport." It's not as if he's antijock. The pope was a goalkeeper, skier and kayaker in his day. Hey, he just blessed New England Patriots quarterback Tom Brady's right arm. He's just hacked at the way sport is crowding God right off the list of Sunday passions.
The first people he might want to crack down on are the Christians themselves. Think he knows that the Santa Clarita ( Calif.) YMCA has youth hoops on Sundays? Think the pope would be down on Notre Dame if he knew its softball team will play more games on Sundays in May than on any other day of the week?
He's not the only one who's chapped about sports becoming this country's main religion. Priests and pastors across the country have noticed something lately: God is competing more and more with Sunday sports—and losing. Especially with youth sports.
"It's only happened the last two years," says Rich Cizik of the National Association of Evangelicals. "Coaches never used to schedule games on Sunday."
Says the Reverend Julie Yarborough of Summit ( N.J.) Christ Church, "You see kids coming to Sunday school late and their parents coming early to get them for games—if they come at all. Sports is really eating into our time."
Her colleague at Christ Church, the Reverend Charles Rush, knew there was a problem the other day when his 12-year-old acolyte lit the candles at the front of the church wearing his soccer cleats.