“First of all, I’d like to blame God,” says a football player in a recent New Yorker cartoon, “for causing us to lose this game.”

I may be paraphrasing, but the point is obvious: if athletes attribute their victories to God, shouldn’t they attribute losses to God too? But you never hear them doing that. Hence, these athletes who are always thanking the Almighty for their successes, like Tim Tebow and Jeremy Lin, are, at the very least, misguided, and very likely hypocritical. (“God’s fingerprints are all over the place,” Lin says about his unlikely rise to NBA stardom.)

But wait a minute. Maybe they do blame God when they lose. Maybe they just don’t talk about it, because it’d seem ridiculous, like the guy in the cartoon. That’s why the cartoon is funny: not because real athletes are hypocrites, but because no real athlete would actually indulge in a “why have you forsaken me?” moment out loud.

If you believe God has a personal hand in how your life turns out, it only makes sense that you should and would apply that belief to both the ups and downs. God wants you to succeed here but not there. God wants you to win today and lose tomorrow. God wants this team to win and that team to lose. The flip side of thanking God for good things is taking comfort in the idea that when things go bad, it’s part of a beneficent cosmic plan. It’s all logically consistent.

So what makes the effusions of these God-boys so bothersome and obnoxious? I count myself among those who shiver with distaste when a Tebow or a Lin evokes God in this way.

I think mostly it’s the apparent hubris of it. Most of us go through life in anonymity, believing or not believing in God, and if we believe, asking or thanking in the privacy of our own brains, families, or churches. Making our perceived relationship with God public in front of millions of spectators, especially in the context of something recreational like sports, is like a flagrant foul. It comes across as arrogant and distasteful, even though it isn’t meant that way; heard spoken, the statements usually sound sincere and even humble. But read onscreen, with their meaning displayed raw, they grate.

Sadly, we can’t expect these things to stop. These people sound humble and grateful when they say these things because they feel humble and grateful. The urge to say them, however misguided, comes from a generous part of the spirit.

So I, for one, am going to try to be more understanding when I hear gridiron God-boy spewings. Even if they stick in my craw.