Man in the Van: ESPN makes solid contact but fails to hit easy fastball out of the park

Man in the Van: ESPN makes solid contact but fails to hit easy fastball out of the park

Time flies.

Five years and roughly 675 posts ago, I made my GetReligion debut on March 8, 2010.

In my introductory post, I wrote:

For a faithful GetReligion reader such as myself, joining the team of contributors is like a baseball fan invited to sit in the press box and share his opinions during the World Series. Although it's not quite in the same league as my beloved Texas Rangers, I'm a big fan of this weblog and its endeavor to pinpoint and expose the religion ghosts in the secular news media.

During GetReligion's 10th anniversary celebration last year, I shared my list of "Five things they didn't tell me."

But for my own GR-versary, the boss man Terry Mattingly — aka tmatt — suggested that I critique ESPN The Magazine's recent "Man in the Van" feature as a tribute to all 10 of our readers who care about religion and sports.

"Sure thing," I replied, welcoming any excuse to write about baseball.

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Who says print is dead? Check out how much space this religion story got

Who says print is dead? Check out how much space this religion story got

Sorry, Carla.

I don't mean to embarrass you.

Just six days ago, my former colleague Carla Hinton — who succeeded me as religion editor of The Oklahoman in 2002 — drew GetReligion praise from James "Not The One Who Created Garfield" Davis.

Now I'm going to say more nice things about Carla and her newspaper. Actually, the story I want to highlight has been in my guilt file for a few weeks. (The guilt file is where we stash stories that we really want to mention but never seem to get around to.)

Before church on a recent Sunday, I was eating a quick breakfast at a fast-food joint when I noticed a giant photo on the front page of that day's Oklahoman. 

The photo (the one embedded with the tweet above) referred to a story by Carla on a "Midnight Basketball" outreach program:

Some youths show up in clusters of three or four, while others arrive alone on Friday nights during the summer.
For many onlookers, the young people’s destination is simply a church parking lot with a couple of basketball goals.
But to die-hard ballers like Jashean Taylor, 14, and Tywon Morton, 12, it’s a blacktop paradise.

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God, prayer and the winner of the Super Bowl

THIS WEEK, the question doesn’t come from a “Religion Q and A” reader but a headline in The Record, the daily newspaper in the New Jersey county that’s hosting a certain athletic event: Spiritual suffering, physical and mental illness, anxiety and loneliness, natural disasters, oppression, wars, terrorism, kidnapping, senseless murders, broken families, kids without dads, homelessness, addiction, materialism, privation, pestilence, prejudice, impossible decisions that must be made, and all manner of other woes and perplexities are abroad in the world. How could the Deity possibly be concerned about the outcome of a mere football game on Feb. 2, no matter how big the TV audience is?

Still. Though such claims of divine attention seem theologically suspect perhaps there’s more to be said about an underlying question: Is it proper to bother God with prayer about life’s trivialities like this? “Religion Q and A” wrestled with a few of the big issues concerning prayer in a Nov. 30, 2013 item, but what do religious figures think we’re supposed to do about “little” prayers?

Personal gridiron prayers are baked into American pop culture. In a January poll for the Public Religion Research Institute, 26 percent of Americans said they’ve prayed to God to help their favorite team, and 19 percent thought God actually plays a role in who wins.

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How should journalists fight back against sacred jargon?

Yesterday, CNN ran a feature highlighting the faith of members of a Bible group the meets on the PGA Tour. The article itself is well-done and provides an superb model for how to address religion in sports.

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