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NEW YORK – When Cincinnati Bengals kicker Evan McPherson sent his team to the Super Bowl with a 31-yard field goal on Jan. 30, Sister Mary Mediatrix of All Grace threw up her hands, leapt up, and high-fived everyone in the room as they all cheered.
“I just couldn’t believe it,” Mediatrix, of the Sisters of the Society of Our Lady of the Most Holy Trinity told Crux. “I was a little bit in shock, like, ‘Is this is really happening?’”
Mediatrix is a lifelong Bengals fan from Lebanon, Ohio, just northeast of Cincinnati. She’s suffered alongside all Bengals fans for decades, since the team’s never won a Super Bowl, hasn’t even been to the big game since 1988, and hadn’t won a playoff game of any sort since 1990 prior to this season.
Mediatrix is now cheering for the Bengals from afar at the missionary community’s headquarters in Corpus Christi, Texas. She’s been preparing for tomorrow’s game with her “Sr. Mary’s Super Bowl Week checklist,” which entails a workout to build up endurance to sustain intense cheering at the nuns’ Super Bowl party, having a Bengals-inspired rosary blessed, creating and consuming a kale smoothie for extra strength to pray and cheer, and studying game footage to help the Bengals beat the Los Angeles Ram.
Yesterday, to round out the Super Bowl week checklist, she sat in a leather recliner facing a Bengals banner, fist under chin, visualizing a Bengals victory tomorrow night.
“If the Bengals win it would give a good boost and hope,” Mediatrix said. “It’d give me a lot of pride that these are my people. I feel a bond with the team, and I think there’s this real connection that we feel with the players and that sort of brings us community spirit.”
Mediatrix’s Super Bowl week checklist is documented on Sister Miriam James Heidland’s Twitter account. James also live-tweeted the AFC Championship game against the Kansas City Chiefs, including a video of the moment the Bengals won, and of Mediatrix’s reaction to the Bengals overtime interception that led to the game-winning field goal. The video, posted in the form of a GIF – a short video on loop – shows Mediatrix jumping and yelling with excitement right in front of the TV as Bengals safety Von Bell tries to score on the interception.
“It was pure joy for me just to watch her watch them,” James told Crux. “It’s so much fun. When you love your friends, you want them to be happy and to see her love it and to see her team come all the way to the Super Bowl, you can’t make this stuff up. It’s wonderful.”
What wasn’t captured on camera was the confidence Mediatrix maintained after the Chiefs won the overtime coin toss and got the ball first, which meant if their high-powered offense scored a touchdown the game would’ve been over. Mediatrix said she remembers that the Chiefs crowd “went crazy” after winning the coin toss, but she never thought the game was over.
She did, though, say a prayer.
“I was praying towards the end of the game for their angels to step in and help them out,” Mediatrix said. “And so I was like, ‘OK, Padre Pio, send your angel,’ and then there was that interception in overtime and the rest is history.”
The game aside, Mediatrix noted that this team is different from Bengals teams of old in their steadiness and living in the present moment. She attributes a lot of that to the Bengals’ young quarterback Joe Burrow – whose T-shirt she had on over her habit during the AFC championship – as the Ohio native has defied the odds time and time again in his second year.
“I was thinking about some of the virtues of the Bengals that I can learn from even in my spiritual life like taking it just one day at a time,” Mediatrix said. “I’m walking towards the kingdom of God by doing my daily duty one day at a time and just living in that present moment and that’s so key to what God the Father wants us to do and I’m like, ‘Well, Joe’s doing it.’”
One thing Mediatrix looks forward to most on Sunday is the camaraderie that comes with watching the game and cheering with the other nuns. As for a prediction of how things will turn out, she just said she hopes for a Bengals win and an all-around good game.
“We hope they win,” Mediatrix said. “We just cheer for them, pray for them. I’ll keep my prayers up not only for a win, but just to keep everyone safe and just that it’s a great experience, that the other players play well and may the best team win.”
Follow John Lavenburg on Twitter: @johnlavenburg