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Tag: Cincinnati Bengals

Evangelical NFL Analyst Dan Orlovsky’s Prayer for Damar Hamlin Should Be Offensive to Christians and Atheists Alike

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Last Monday, the Cincinnati Bengals played the Buffalo Bills in a game with playoff implications for not only the Bengals and Bills, but other teams in the league. Everyone expected a fast-paced, high-scoring affair, a shootout between rising stars Joe Burrow and Josh Allen. Partway through the first quarter, Bengals quarterback Burrows threw a pass to Tee Higgins, leading to a collision between Higgins, who held onto the ball, and Damar Hamlin. The hit was ordinary, one played out countless times every Sunday on NFL fields. The difference this time is that Hamlin immediately dropped to the ground as if he had been knocked unconscious. What actually happened was Hamlin’s heart stopped from the blow to his chest.

Dr. David Gorski explained the injury this way:

Monday night, I was flipping channels—mainly because I’m old and often, rather than streaming my content, I actually still flip channels—when I came across a shocking and disturbing scene. Actually, what I saw wasn’t so much shocking at first as it was puzzling. It was an NFL football game, with the action stopped and a player apparently injured. However, the tableau struck me immediately as odd and disturbing because there were so many players milling around on the field, seemingly all of both teams. This sort of thing usually doesn’t happen if the injury is a run-of-the-mill sprain; it usually only happens when the injury is very, very bad. And so it was, as it quickly became apparent to me that CPR was being administered to a player on the field, with the shocked announcers commenting on what was happening in hushed and horrified voices, not knowing how to discuss what was happening. I soon learned that the player was Buffalo Bills safety Damar Hamlin, who had gotten up after a tackle but then collapsed. As the CPR on Hamlin continued for what seemed like an interminable amount of time, I had two thoughts. First, I—like the millions watching—wondered if Hamlin had died and was saddened, even though I didn’t know who he was.

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The first thought that came to mind among emergency room doctors, and trauma surgeons on social media was that the most likely cause of Hamlin’s collapse was commotio cordis.

This is a phenomenon when a blow to the chest can result in disruption of the heart rhythm and ventricular fibrillation and cardiac arrest. It’s not common, but it is a described phenomenon. As is the case with any cardiac arrest, survival is inversely proportional to how quickly effective CPR and electrical cardioversion are administered, and because commotio cordis happens outside of the hospital, like other cardiac arrests in the community, it has a high mortality rate.

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One common misconception about commotio cordis is that it requires a blow hard enough to damage the heart muscle and cause a cardiac contusion, something that I used to see not infrequently in victims of vehicular trauma back in the 1990s when I still did trauma surgery. Timing is likely more important, as commotio cordis is much more likely to happen if the blow lands at a specific point in the cardiac electrical cycle.

Hamlin remains in critical condition at a Cincinnati hospital. He is on a ventilator. Immediately after Hamlin was injured, TV channels such as ESPN, CNN, and MSNBC thought it wise to assess blame for the injury. I heard every absurd explanation for Hamlin’s cardiac arrest except the fact that he was playing a violent sport, got hit in the chest as a result of a violent collision with another player, and his heart stopped. Dr. Gorski’s post was a response to anti-vaxxers who, within minutes, were saying Hamlin’s heart stopped beating because he had received a COVID-19 vaccination!

I had to stop watching the news. I can only tolerate so much ignorance and stupidity before I say ENOUGH and turn on Yellowstone, 1923, Tulsa, or some other program. I also found myself increasingly perturbed by the “thoughts and prayers.” crowd. Any time there’s a tragedy, out come the calls for prayers — as if prayer had anything to with saving Hamlin’s life. As Dr. Gorski makes clear, what saved Hamlin’s life was the proximity of medical professionals and equipment. Had Hamlin suffered cardiac arrest at the grocery, a restaurant, or at home, it is likely he would have died. If we want to offer up thanks to anyone, let’s thank science, doctors, and medical professionals. God had nothing to do with what happened, nor will he have anything to do with, hopefully, Hamlin’s recovery.

Evangelicals, the public masturbators that they are, have been quick to praise God for Hamlin surviving cardiac arrest. Of course, what is not mentioned is that this very same God is responsible for Hamlin dropping dead to start with. According to Evangelicals, God created everything. He is the sovereign ruler over all, including what happens on football fields. God could have kept Hamlin’s heart from stopping. He could have kept the collision from happening. Yet, after medical professionals heroically saved Hamlin’s life, the Evangelicals rushed in, saying, PRAISE JESUS! LOOK WHAT GOD DID. Recognizing that God is a part-time employee, Evangelicals implored people to keep praying. One NFL analyst, Dan Orlovsky, pompously stated that “we know that prayer works.”

On Tuesday, Orlovsky, an Evangelical Christian, decided to use his position of authority on ESPN’s NFL Live — a program I watched every day at 4:00 pm — to subject viewers to his prayer.

Before publicly praying, Orlovsky said:

This is a little bit different. I’ve heard it all day. ‘Thoughts and prayers. Maybe this is not the right thing to do but it’s just on my heart that I wanna pray for Damar Hamlin right now. I’m gonna do it out loud, I’m gonna close my eyes, I’m gonna bow my head and I’m just gonna pray for him.

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Here’s what Orlovsky prayed:

God, we come to you in these moments that we don’t understand, that are hard, because we believe that you’re God, and coming to you and praying to you has impact.

We’re sad, we’re angry, and we want answers, but some things are unanswerable. We just want to pray, truly come to you and pray for strength for Damar, for healing for Damar, for comfort for Damar, to be with his family, to give them peace. If we didn’t believe that prayer didn’t work, we wouldn’t ask this of you, God. I believe in prayer, we believe in prayer. We lift up Damar Hamlin’s name in your name. Amen.

Orlovsky rhetorically asked, “maybe this is not the right thing to do.” Dan, that was the Holy Spirit telling you to keep your prayers to yourself. Surely you remember the words of Jesus where he said this about praying on NFL Live:

Beware of practicing your righteousness before other people in order to be seen by them, for then you will have no reward from your Father who is in heaven.

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And when you pray, you must not be like the hypocrites. For they love to stand and pray in the synagogues and at the street corners, that they may be seen by others. Truly, I say to you, they have received their reward.  But when you pray, go into your room and shut the door and pray to your Father who is in secret. And your Father who sees in secret will reward you. (Matthew 6:1,5,6)

Orlovsky evidently thought everyone watching NFL Live was a Christian, so they wouldn’t mind his public prayer. That’s what Christian privilege looks like. Orlovsky seems unaware of the fact many watchers of NFL Live are NOT Christians, and many of them who are people of faith don’t like shallow public displays of religiosity. When viewers tune into ESPN, they are looking for games, scores, news, and highlights, not public displays of affection for the Christian God or prayers to Jesus. If I wanted religion, I would change the channel and watch one of the many Christian channels that are available these days. What I want from ESPN is sports.

Further, does anyone doubt what ESPN’s response would be if a Muslim analyst offered up a prayer to Allah or any other deity except the Christian God? OMG, the outrage would immediately pour forth. I suspect ESPN might even suspend the analyst. But, because Orlovsky prayed to the tribal God of most Americans, his prayer will be deemed acceptable. I am here to tell you it is not.

As I prepared to write this post, I searched in vain for one news report or blog post that questioned the appropriateness of Orlovsky’s prayer. Every story praised Orlovsky for putting words to his “thoughts and prayers,” leaving me to be a lonely voice in the stands voicing opposition to his prayer. Orlovsky could have prayed privately, as Jesus commanded. He could have privately gathered his fellow analysts together and had a prayer circle. Instead, he subjected Christian and non-Christian viewers alike to his peculiar deity and prayer.

I am sure that some of you might say, “Bruce, this is no big deal. It’s just a prayer.” On one hand, I agree. Orlovsky’s prayer is fifty seconds of public masturbation to the Christian deity. Who cares, right? On the other hand, as an atheist and a secularist, I am increasingly tired of the Orlovskys of the world shoving their religion in my space. If we don’t speak up, how will we ever put an end to these things? Religion is a private matter. Evangelicals wrongly think they have a right to shove their religion in our faces, and I, for one, am tired of it. There are millions upon millions of Americans — many of whom watch NFL football — who don’t believe, as Orlovsky does, that prayer works. What we do believe is that science works, and it is to the doctors and medical professionals who cared for Hamlin we offer up our “prayers” of thanksgiving.

Bruce Gerencser, 66, lives in rural Northwest Ohio with his wife of 45 years. He and his wife have six grown children and thirteen grandchildren. Bruce pastored Evangelical churches for twenty-five years in Ohio, Texas, and Michigan. Bruce left the ministry in 2005, and in 2008 he left Christianity. Bruce is now a humanist and an atheist.

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Who Dey: Will Bruce Finally Admit There’s a God?

jesus football

Over the years, I have snarkily listed evidence that might change my mind about the existence of God. You know, like the Cincinnati Bengals winning the Super Bowl. I figured this ask would never come to pass. After all, the Bengals have been to the Super Bowl twice in franchise history and hadn’t won a playoff game in thirty years. What I didn’t count on is the Messiah showing up; his name is Joe Burrow.

Well, here we are. In two weeks, my Cincinnati Bengals will play the Los Angeles Rams for all the marbles! After Evan McPherson kicked the game-winning field goal, my granddaughter turned to me and said, “Grandpa, why are you crying?” Polly and my sons knew why I was crying — a seminal moment in my life, a moment I shall never forget. Win or lose the Super Bowl, these Bungles-turned-Bengals have warmed and thrilled this old man’s heart. Sure, it’s just a game, but there are moments in the life of a long-suffering fan, that the “game” is much more than just another game.

If the Bengals do indeed win the Super Bowl, I will keep my word and consider their win over the Rams as evidence for the existence of God. The problem, however, will be ascertaining WHICH God is a Bengals fan? Jesus? Allah? Jehovah? Apollo? Anu? Buddha? Or maybe Satan/Lucifer is behind the Bengals’ win, his way of thwarting the Rams?

Regardless, I will praise the football gods for the Bengals and their magical, thrilling 2022 season. And if it’s not too much to ask, God, it’s been over thirty years since the Cincinnati Reds have won the World Series. Pretty please? I really will “believe” if you deliver on this one. 🙂

Bruce Gerencser, 66, lives in rural Northwest Ohio with his wife of 45 years. He and his wife have six grown children and thirteen grandchildren. Bruce pastored Evangelical churches for twenty-five years in Ohio, Texas, and Michigan. Bruce left the ministry in 2005, and in 2008 he left Christianity. Bruce is now a humanist and an atheist.

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Your comments are welcome and appreciated. All first-time comments are moderated. Please read the commenting rules before commenting.

You can email Bruce via the Contact Form.

Bruce Gerencser