Winner, winner, Rice-A-Roni dinner? Bishops bet on the Super Bowl


CNA Staff, Feb 10, 2024 / 06:00 am

It’s a tradition for the Catholic bishops from the two cities sending teams to the Super Bowl to make a friendly wager before the big game. 

With the Kansas City Chiefs back in their fourth Super Bowl in five years and the San Francisco 49ers making their first appearance since 2020, Diocese of Kansas City-St. Joseph Bishop James Johnston and San Francisco Archbishop Salvatore Cordileone made their friendly wager on “EWTN News in Depth” with Montse Alvarado on Friday. 

“I think we’ve got a good one. And the archbishop and I have agreed that it’s going to be a two-parter if we lose,” Johnston said. 

“If the Kansas City Chiefs lose, which is highly unlikely, but if we should, I’ll be sending Archbishop Cordileone a gift pack from our American Jazz Museum. We’re noted not only for barbecue but also jazz. And I understand the archbishop loves jazz,” Johnston said.

“And this is the second part. We’ve agreed to support the pregnancy care center of the winner’s choice in each diocese so that we can focus on the importance of the gift of human life,” Johnston said.

Cordileone said “we want to hold up our love for mother and child, for women in these crisis pregnancies and very difficult conditions,” noting that “each of our dioceses has outreach.”

“So we did not decide on an amount. I kind of think that might be determined by the final score, but I’m doubly looking forward to the 49ers win as a lifelong jazz aficionado and no more appropriate place for a jazz museum,” Cordileone said.

Cordileone added that the second part of the bet includes something San Francisco is “famous” for.

“However, in that unlikely event that I do have to give Bishop Johnston the other part of the gift… San Francisco is famous for many fun things, one of which is Rice-A-Roni. So he will be gifted with a case of Rice-A-Roni,” he said.

Rice-A-Roni, a rice and pasta mixture, was created by a California company and was well known for its commercial with San Francisco cable cars and a catchy jingle.

This year’s Super Bowl features several players who have been public about their Christian faith. One of the most outspoken is Chiefs kicker Harrison Butker, who kicked the winning field goal in last year’s Super Bowl.

Johnston spoke about the kicker’s Catholic faith in the interview.

“Well, Harrison is what we often refer to these days as a missionary disciple, in my opinion. He takes his faith seriously and strives to live it and is not hesitant to try to lead others to the good news of Jesus,” he said.

Johnston noted that Butker uses his platform “in a beautiful way” not only sharing the faith but also how to live as a “Catholic man.”

“So he’s done a great job with that,” he said.

The Chiefs beat the 49ers in a closely fought 31-20 game in 2020 during Super Bowl LIV, but Cordileone said that his team is “ready for a comeback.”

“Oh, there’s a lot of energy. We’re ready for a comeback. This is the comeback team. They’ve had brilliant, come-from-behind wins, and we’re ready to come back this time around,” he said.

Both bishops were asked if there was a particular saint they were praying for to aid their team. 

Johnston said he would turn to St. Joseph, his diocese’s namesake.

“I just don’t think you can go wrong with St. Joseph, who is the patron of the universal Church, the protector of the Holy Family and our patrons. So we’re going with St. Joseph,” he said.

Cordileone pointed to his archdiocese’s namesake, St. Francis of Assisi, the patron saint of peace.

“So we pray for peace, good sportsmanship, and that through sports, we can build up more goodwill and unity in the world,” he said.

The teams will face off at Allegiant Stadium in Las Vegas on Sunday at 6:30 p.m. EST. 

Joe Bukuras

Joseph Bukuras is a journalist at the Catholic News Agency.  Joe has prior experience working in state and federal government, in non-profits, and Catholic education. He has contributed to an array of publications and his reporting has been cited by leading news sources, including the New York Times and the Washington Post. He holds a bachelor’s degree in political science from the Catholic University of America. He is based out of the Boston area.


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