KANSAS CITY, Mo. (OSV News) — The Catholic leadership of both Philadelphia and Kansas City, Missouri, are going the whole nine yards with their Super Bowl wager this year.
In what has become a tradition between bishops when their hometown teams face off at the Super Bowl, Bishop James V. Johnston Jr. of Kansas City-St. Joseph and Archbishop Nelson J. Pérez of Philadelphia kicked off the weekend with a friendly wager.
Depending on the outcome of the game, the losing city’s bishop will make a $500 donation to the winning city’s Catholic Charities or Catholic social services. The two clergy exchanged banter about the game on the weekly EWTN News “In Depth” TV program Feb.10, with Archbishop Pérez warning his brother bishop to get the checkbook ready.
The archbishop also said there are life lessons to be drawn from the game. Archbishop Pérez noted that the Super Bowl is a time to step away from everyday life and rally as a community and as a family.
“People are passionate about their sports teams, and that’s a wonderful thing, right?” said the archbishop. “It celebrates life, and it celebrates achievement and it celebrates teamwork … that’s why both of them have gotten to the Super Bowl. So our families also have to work as a team because a team that doesn’t work that way doesn’t win.”
Bishop Johnston also gave some prayerful advice.
“It’s OK to pray for your own team to play to the best of their ability so they can be victorious,” he shared. “I never advise people to pray for bad things to happen to other people. So we just pray, focus on our own team and their excelling to the best of their abilities.”
For the past several Big Games, bishops have made wagers of food and/or charitable donations on the outcome of the Super Bowl.
For the 2022 Super Bowl, Archbishop José H. Gomez of Los Angeles and Archbishop Dennis M. Schnurr of Cincinnati made a friendly wager over the outcome of the gridiron faceoff between the Los Angeles Rams and the Cincinnati Bengals.
The Rams won Super Bowl LVI, but students in Catholic schools in both archdioceses were winners as well. Donors contributed more than $22,000 for tuition assistance scholarships to each archdiocese’s Catholic Education Foundation. The archbishops invited supporters to become involved in their good-gesture wager through the Bishops Big Game challenge.
For Super Bowl LV in 2021, Bishop Johnston was again in the spotlight for a wager with the Chiefs’ competitor that year: the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, home team for Bishop Gregory L. Parkes of St. Petersburg, Florida.
Schools in their respective dioceses — St. Elizabeth’s in Kansas City and St. Paul’s in St. Petersburg — collected cans of soup for a Souper Bowl food drive for local food pantries and made a wager to contribute to each other’s efforts. The outcome of the games meant St. Elizabeth’s sent barbecue to their Florida counterpart.
The Kansas City Chiefs and the Philadelphia Eagles will face each other in Super Bowl LVII at 6:30 p.m. (EST) Feb. 12 at State Farm Stadium in Glendale, Ariz. This year’s game is expected to be a close one; both teams are evenly matched in win-loss totals (16-3) and number of points over the regular season and postseason (546), and both teams have been in the Super Bowl within the past five years. The Eagles are considered to have the defensive edge, while the Chiefs’ usually strong offense may be hampered by quarterback Patrick Mahomes’ recent ankle injury.
However, “we’re kind of living through the golden age of Kansas City Chiefs football here in Kansas City, and they’re going to their third Super Bowl in four years,” Johnston said. “So we’re hoping to bring home another one back and hoping we can stand up to that good Philadelphia defense.”
Megan Marley is digital editor for OSV News. Follow her on Twitter @mnmarley. Contributing to this story was Julie Asher, senior editor for OSV News. Follow her on Twitter @jlasher.