Gotta have faith

faithCleveland Plain Dealer reporter Mary Kay Cabot wrote up an interesting profile about Browns kicker Phil Dawson. Last Sunday the Browns had an amazing 33-30 overtime victory over the Baltimore Ravens. Dawson had kicked the game-winning field goal as well as a 51-yarder to send the game into overtime. Turns out Dawson has been through hell and back in the last couple of years with his wife's life-threatening pregnancy as well as additional worry over the health of their infant, Sophiann. Clearly the type of story that brings added meaning to the sports we follow. Cabot describes Dawson, his wife Shannon and son Dru embracing on the field after the game and explains:

Just 17 months earlier, in June 2006, Shannon was preparing to deliver the couple's third child back home in Dallas when doctors discovered a cantaloupe-sized mass growing inside her uterus. The diagnosis: low-lying placenta with accreta, a condition whereby the placenta attaches itself abnormally to the uterine wall.

Because the mass had wrapped itself around both of her main arteries, Shannon's condition was life threatening. "It literally brought us to our knees," she said.

What's more, unbeknownst to her, doctors told Dawson he would have to make a choice between his wife and his baby, because only one would emerge from the delivery room alive.

Dawson thought about his two young sons, Dru, then 5 and Beau, then 3. He thought about Shannon and what an amazing wife and mother she was, his rock and his inspiration. And then he did what he always does: he prayed. "We relied heavily on our faith," said Shannon.

It turns out that the Dawsons' one way out -- a risky procedure to keep Shannon from bleeding to death during delivery -- proved successful. Sophiann was born within eleven minutes and Shannon was out of surgery an hour later. As if that weren't enough drama, Sophiann stopped breathing at four months, was revived, stopped breathing again and was rushed to a hospital. She pulled through, but it was a rough year. Speaking of the initial delivery, Shannon told Cabot:

"It was truly a medical miracle," said Shannon. "But we know where that miracle came from."

And the reader is to infer that this miracle came from God. Now, I know some people believe that religious distinctions are unimportant and that a generic "faith in God" is all that matters in a story like this, but the reader who sent it along (as well as countless others, I'm sure) was left with many questions unanswered:

So when the kick of all ages clanged off the support bar in Baltimore and bounced back into the end zone to help catapult the Browns to a 6-4 record and keep them in the playoff hunt, the Dawsons felt it was a little gift from above. . . .

"Every night, Phil and I pray to God to keep us here so that we could see the victorious side of it," said Shannon. "Lately, we've been pinching ourselves and saying, is this really happening?"

The day after the kick, Dawson was in demand, appearing on ESPN's First Take and about seven national radio shows. "But I was the same old knucklehead to my kids," he joked.

The kick was great, something they'll never forget.

"But we already had so much to be grateful for," said Shannon.

Particularly because Cabot is so good with the other details -- crafting sentences to convey the love in the Dawson marriage and family, beautifully describing "the wacky, bouncing 51-yarder that sent the game into OT" -- the failure to tell us anything of substance about the faith of the Dawsons is jarring. In whom, exactly, do they place their faith? What are their spiritual disciplines? Where do they worship?

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