Read Isaiah 2:6-16.
“They are full of superstitions from the East; . . . they bow down to the work of their hands” (vv. 6b, 8b).
The Sooners of 2004 went undefeated during the regular season, blasted Colorado 42-3 in the Big 12 Championship, and wound up in the BCS Championship. Talent had a lot to do with that, but there was something else at play: a whole bag of rituals.
Writer Carter Strickland said of the ‘04 Sooners, “Throughout the Oklahoma football team is an undercurrent of ritualistic behavior that sometimes borders on funny to freaky.” With a whole closet full of rituals, sophomore defensive end Larry Birdine visited both extremes. At least he was clean about it. Each night before a game, he shaved. “I just always want to have that clean feeling,” he said of his shaving ritual. “You look good. Clean. You play good.” During each game-day eve, a clean-shaven Birdine passed the hours watching cartoons, especially Tom and Jerry.
Offensive lineman Jammal Brown knew what Birdine meant when he talked about being clean. Before each game, Brown took a shower -- with Caress. “It has that sweet smell,” he said.
Food played an important part in the team’s pre-game preparations. Offensive lineman Chris Messner always made sure that the kitchen had plenty of Cinnamon Toast Crunch cereal for him to plough through before a game. Quarterback Jason White sat at the exact same spot for the team dinner each Friday just as defensive back Brandon Shelby always sat in the same seat on the team bus.
Defensive tackle Lynn McGruder revealed that some players threw up before every game. “I don’t know how they do it,” he said. “They just do it.” Not 312-lb. offensive lineman Davin Joseph, though. He never threw up because he never ate a bite the day of a game. Not even for the night games.
Superstitions – such as those of some of the ‘04 Sooners -- can be quite benign. Nothing in the Bible warns us about the dangers inherent in walking under ladders or not putting our clothes on a certain way.
God is quite concerned, however, about superstition of a more serious nature such as using the occult to predict the future. Its danger for us is that we allow something other than God to take precedence in our lives; we in effect worship idols.
While most of us scoff at palm readers and psychics, we nevertheless risk being idol worshippers of a different sort. Just watch the frenzied reaction of fans when a movie star or a star football player shows up. Or consider how we often compromise what we know is right merely to save face or to gain favor in the workplace.
Superstition is the stuff of nonsense. Idol worshipping, however, is as real for us today as it was for the Israelites. It is also just as dangerous.
We’re a superstitious team. -- Larry Birdine
Superstition in the form of idol worship is alive and well today, occurring anytime we venerate anything other than God.