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Religion and the NFL

Are you ready for some football?! On this episode of Research on Religion we invite Prof. Eric Carter (Georgetown College, Sociology) to discuss his work about the various troubles that professional football players face and how religion may help to mediate these problems. Eric has conducted over 100 interviews with NFL players, some who have led happy and well-adjusted lives but also with many who have not. We talk about the typical pressures that a professional player faces, coming into sudden fame and fortune. Prof. Carter brings the research ideas of Emile Durkheim, particularly “social anomie,” to bear on what a number of these athletes face when moving into the professional ranks. The sudden change in lifestyle combined with intense pressures to perform often leave many of them unhappy, confused and susceptible to all sorts of deviant behavior (some of which makes the news). We talk then about the role of religion in helping players cope with these changes. Our discussion looks at what factors might help players make adjustments to their new environments, including: a religious upbringing; the support networks they have access to at college; and religious role models in the locker room. Eric notes that the current regime of “free agency” in the NFL makes it difficult for players to develop tight relationships and may limit the effect that positive role models like Chris Carter or Kurt Warner may play. At the very end of the podcast, Tony reveals his Super Bowl XLV picks. Eric hedges his bets a bit more.