Ted stared at me with complete sincerity as he asked me an odd question, one typical of our many conversations on the bench that year at our high school soccer matches. “Do you think God plays soccer?"

I laughed a little under my breath, then immediately felt bad for sounding so haughty. Ted’s face tightened slightly but remained focused on receiving an answer. “Well, I mean there’s just the one God, you know?” I said, to entertain the question, “and playing soccer alone isn’t really any fun.”
“He plays against angels,” Ted immediately replied, anticipating my response. “There’s plenty of folks in heaven to play against, I’m sure.”
“Okay, but it wouldn’t be much fun to play a sport if you’re infallible, would it? There’s no challenge. Let’s say God’s playing goalie in this hypothetical holy soccer match. If he takes a goal kick, he can just send it right in the other team’s net every time, can’t he? And who could score when God’s in goal? The dude’s everywhere, so he can stop every shot. Besides, God is too busy helping Tim Tebow win football games to play sports himself.” We both looked up from the bench as the crowd started to hum with excitement, but our team’s attack came to nothing. With about five minutes left in the first half and the score still tied, there was no chance our conversation would be interrupted by one of us actually being subbed into the game.
“What kind of life is that when you’re too good at everything to have any fun? Remind me to never become omnipotent.” As the words escaped Ted’s brain into the air, Bakersville High managed to head in a goal, and our team was getting on its way to an upset defeat. The coach cussed and pointed toward the bench. We looked up with excitement, but JR was the coach’s chosen one this time. He’d get to play winger for about five minutes while the coach talked strategy with the starter.
“Don’t think either of us is gonna need to worry about being too good at this, Ted.” He looked oddly disappointed when I said that, so I decided to return to pop theology. “You know, God must have some fun organizing all the sports in the world, though. I bet he really comes up with all of them. Maybe the Laws of Association Football are divine scripture. It must be great to invent everything and then just watch people mess around with it. Like an infinitely complex game of The Sims.”
“You know what I think?” Ted said, still uncharacteristically stern and sincere, “I think that God is the universe, and he created everything, including soccer. So we all play soccer, all around the world, an infinite number of new games spreading out forever and ever into the future, none like the last. Then, I think it goes deeper than that. I think bugs play soccer, or their own inscrutable variant of it. Ants must play soccer all the time, just as soon as the day’s work is more or less done. Then below that, I think our cells play soccer. Every single one can play against one another in their own little variant of this perfect game, winning and losing all the time without real consequence. Soccer is so great an idea that it is literally universal.” Ted looked around, suddenly embarrassed. “That’s... That’s what I think.”
I thought about what he said as the first half came to a close. Our team walked off the field, and I joined the bench warmers in standing up and clapping for them, though they were clearly having a bad match. Finally, while the starters were off getting water, I found something to say. “You know Ted, what if one team of our cells won the Body World Cup? There’d be a huge baby boom in the part of my body that won, wouldn’t there? I’d get like a million more cells, just unchecked growth all the time. You know what that’s called, Ted? Cancer. If my balls won the World Cup, then I’d have testicular cancer. So yeah, you’re right, maybe the cure for cancer is to stop everything from playing soccer.”
“And the Lord knows that’s not going to happen,” Ted said, finally showing a smile.

Nathaniel Edwards is a Chicago-area writer and former high school soccer supersub. He currently writes about basketball for NUChronicle.com.