One in four Americans believe God will choose the winner of the Super Bowl

With the Super Bowl coming up this weekend it seems time to remind everyone of a survey conducted by the Public Religion Research Institute around this time last year that found over a quarter of Americans—27%—think God actually chooses the outcome of football games.

It’s not clear from the study whether Americans think God weighs in just on the really important games or whether he’s there weighing the righteousness of every Pop Warner junior high player and picking the final scores as a moral judgement. But if he’s weighing in at all, he’s definitely tuning at the Super Bowl—football’s most important game—which would mean he’d be factoring heavily into Sunday’s game.

The study also found that 53% of Americans also believe that if God isn’t personally picking the winners, then he at least “rewards religious athletes” for their moral superiority.

Now, there are a few obvious holes in this theory: First, the most overtly religious (ostentatiously, even) football player maybe ever was Tim Tebow. Tebow rose to fame like a winged angel of the NFL, praying all over the field constantly and pulling off miraculous wins despite an apparent dearth of talent.

Tebow’s gushing faith should have earned him serious kudos with the big man upstairs, but his star fell as quickly as it rose. He stopped winning games, got traded from the Broncos and after doing nothing at the New York Jets he was briefly signed as free agent by the Patriots only to get dropped altogether a few months later. Last month he finally relented and took a job with ESPN as a college football analyst.

Ah, but you see, the believers will have a counter theory: Tebow, it could be argued, in his egregious displays of faith, was doing it for the attention and committing the cardinal sin of vanity. Peyton Manning, for whom Denver dropped Tebow, has been described as a “quiet Christian” who would prefer for his “actions to speak louder” than his words and who doesn’t “think it makes me any less a Christian.”

Far from being disheartened by Tim Tebow’s fate, if the Denver Broncos win on Sunday the quarter of America that believes God chose Manning for the W will see it as a perfectly poetic expression of His grand plan: God will have rewarded the quiet, humble Christian while casting out the flashy attention whore.

But wait—not so fast! What about Seattle Seahawks’ Russell Wilson?

In a 14-minute video called “The Making of a Champion: Seattle Seahawks,” Wilson says:

“I had a dream that my dad passed away and that Jesus came into the room and he was basically knocking on my door, saying, ‘Hey, you need to find out more about me. So that Sunday morning I ended up going to church and that’s when I got saved.”

Oh man. I would not want to be God on Sunday—this sounds like a tough choice.