My mother is a deeply, devoted spiritual person who understands the divisiveness of religious beliefs. Never shy to share hers, she also warned me this habit of hers could cause problems for a person.

Quoting the Bible, and her own mother, she warned that what one person holds sacred, another might see as ridiculous.

Which is why I cringe every time I hear an athlete talk about God in the context of athletic performances. I understand they believe their faith had something to do with whether or not they won, played well or did something they didn't know was possible.

It's just that sports is such an irreverent, rowdy region, in and of itself. If there is one place I think God might avoid, it would be sporting events. Sometimes I wonder why any peace-loving individual finds it logical to become a fan of any particular player or team. It certainly seems to violate more than a couple of the Ten Commandments — worshipping idols, taking the Lord's name in vain and coveting thy neighbor's quarterback.

Athletic competition, bars and freeways are about the only places you can watch normally intelligent, rational adults morph into out-of-control, foul-mouthed, hateful, judgmental creatures.

BYU receiver Austin Collie found out how incompatible faith and football are — at least publicly — when he responded to a question about a 49-yard catch that helped the Cougars win a thriller over Utah last November.

Asked if he thought the catch was lucky, Collie replied, "I wouldn't say it was lucky. We executed the play well. We should have had another one (TD). Obviously, if you do what's right on and off the field, I think the Lord steps in and plays a part in it. Magic happens."

The criticism, misrepresentation, misunderstanding and mockery was swift and painful to a young man just trying to express his spiritual belief that God had blessed him. He did not mean to infer that God was punishing the Utes by allowing him to do his best.

Still, religion is a delicate subject in any situation, let alone the holy war that is the BYU-Utah rivalry.

So I wasn't surprised when it was announced Saturday that Collie was sidelined with a stress fracture that the venom flowed again.

Our Web site contained dozens of comments questioning whether Collie was indeed "living right" because, after all, wouldn't the same God who helped him make that catch deliver him from any kind of injury?

Some fans attempted humor, while others were surprisingly mean-spirited. Some will defend their venom as the right of any loyal fan and another aspect of the games. It was, I have been told, Collie who brought this on himself by bringing God into the conversation.

I will admit that I don't know if God cares about the outcome of a football game. I sincerely hope He doesn't.

But I do know that bad things happen to some of the best human beings I know, and nasty people are the beneficiaries of good fortune all the time.

And while I have no idea which category Austin Collie fits into, I don't think it matters.

Mocking what others believe, whether it fits into your framework or not, is not a very fulfilling life-strategy, regardless of your religion — or lack thereof.

If you cherish the games, then celebrating the misfortune of someone else diminishes everyone and everything involved in athletics, including one of the games' most redeeming, sacred aspects — sportsmanship.


E-mail: adonaldson@desnews.com