According to a new study, most Americans perceive sports as
having a greater influence than professional clergy or other faith
Super Bowl XLVII not only featured
some of football's best players, but it also fielded a number of
openly Christian men, including Ray Lewis, veteran linebacker for
the Ravens, and
Colin Kaepernick, the tattooed quarterback of the 49ers
Clint Jenkins, vice president of research for the Barna Group, was
not surprised to learn that two-thirds of Americans say pro athletes have more
influence on society than faith leaders.
"I don't think it is surprising, and I don't think it's anything
new," he comments. "Actually, I was thinking back to the times of
when baseball and racing ruled, and Seabiscuit ... in 1936 had
more newspaper coverage than Adolf Hitler, who was taking over
Jenkins believes average, everyday people live vicariously
through talented athletes.
"When you've got a physical
activity that somebody is excelling at, then I think there's more
admiration for that than an intellectual activity that somebody is
excelling at," the researcher poses. "So John Piper, who would be a
very influential preacher right now, he does amazing things with
words; but that's not as flashy, it's not as noticeable as Tim
Tebow, who can do amazing things with a football."
The research explored awareness of seven prominent athletes by
asking adults if they are aware of these athletic performers and
whether they are aware of the athlete's public discussion of faith.
Tebow, who held a spot on the New York Jets' roster this past NFL
season, emerged at the top of the pile. Eight-three (83) percent of
Americans are aware of Tebow; 73 percent feel favorably about his
public discussion of faith.
Other recognized athletes: