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Is God indifferent to sports or a fan of cosmic justice?

Many cringes and laughs have resulted from the silly if guileless remark recently by one of the new assistant football coaches at the University of Connecticut. “Jesus Christ should be in the center of our huddle,” the assistant coach was quoted as saying. “If you want to be successful and you want to win — get championships — you better understand that this didn’t happen because of you. This happened because of our Lord and Savior.”

So is Christ really taking sides in every game now?

Since in some circles football passes for religion, a remark like the assistant coach’s shouldn’t be all that surprising, inappropriate as it was for an employee of a public university, and he was quickly rebuked by the university’s president, Susan Herbst, and by women’s basketball coach Geno Auriemma. God, Auriemma said, doesn’t care about individual performance in sports.

The assistant football coach’s thinking was also repudiated by the sort of religion that preceded football, since, according to Ecclesiastes, “The race is not to the swift, nor the battle to the strong, neither yet bread to the wise, nor yet riches to men of understanding, nor yet favor to men of skill; but time and chance happeneth to them all.”

And yet regardless of whether man and his desire for justice are God’s creations, a desire for a sort of justice often does creep into sports and sometimes coincides with the most astounding deeds and improbable outcomes on the playing field, deeds and outcomes duly reflected in art.

For example, could a just God really have been indifferent to the effort of Jackie Robinson and the Brooklyn Dodgers to integrate baseball in 1947, or indifferent to working-class Brooklyn’s long subjugation by the pinstriped dynasty from the Bronx until the day of deliverance, Oct. 4, 1955?

UConn’s new head football coach is from a Catholic university, Notre Dame in Indiana, but Catholics are not the only ones who have seen something just and miraculous in the story from Notre Dame football told by the beloved movie “Rudy.”

Indiana produced another sports miracle tinged with justice when the basketball team of a tiny high school won the state championship in 1954, a story celebrated by another beloved movie, “Hoosiers.”

Many Americans root for success for the underdogs and disadvantaged in many endeavors, from sports to business to politics, out of a perfectly admirable egalitarianism. On that basis many people right now, though few in Connecticut, are probably rooting against Auriemma’s team, the damn Yankees of women’s college basketball. Indeed, if any team defeats Auriemma’s this year, even agnostics may have a hard time not perceiving the hand of God in it.

Chris Powell is managing editor of the Journal Inquirer in Manchester.