The good, the bad and the sporting

A few days ago a reader sent in this Yahoo! Sports story about Chaz Hine, a University of South Florida lineman. Hine sounds like an awesome subject for a story and we learn that not only is he a tough football player but he's also a musical performer. We're told that his mother encouraged her son to sing and discouraged her son from playing football. She lost the football battle but got him to sing in chorus by pointing out the excellent ratio of girls to boys in the choir:

It sure was. Chaz ended up meeting his high school girlfriend in chorus. Her name is Molly and they are now engaged to be married. But Molly didn't love Chaz just for his voice. "She has a bit of a thing for football players," he says.

Hine wasn't much of a football player back then. He was not highly recruited, or recruited at all. He walked on at USF, which he chose mostly because it was local.

Turns out he not only had a body for the sport -- he grew to 6-4, 300 pounds -- he also had the mind for it. He could endure pain and absorb minutiae. He was as good a student on the field as he was in the classroom, where he would earn a 3.86 GPA. He could both read and block the toughest of Big East defenders. He became a starter, earned a scholarship, and moved from offensive guard to center.

The story describes how Hine is "humble to the point of being self-effacing," "one of the most charitable athletes in college football," and helps homeless people for hours each week. He's a finalist for various scholar-athlete awards. He's quoted as saying he wants to be a "servant leader."

And the first video accompanying this story is the one I embedded here, Hine singing Amazing Grace. Even though he introduces the hymn by saying something about how he plays for his Lord Jesus Christ and that this song is in dedication to him, there is not an ounce of religion in the story.

He says something in the story about how he and his fiancée want to build a little Osmond-sized family. I read that before I watched the YouTube video above and I wondered if that was a reference to Mormonism. A little more digging revealed that he's a member of a Church of Christ (hear that, Bobby?). One site explains:

An accomplished opera singer, Hine has served as the male lead in musicals such as Les Miserables, Hello Dolly, South Pacific and Grease. He has also performed at USF Women's Club, the Temple Terrace Chamber of Commerce and leads congregational signing at Bell Shoals Church of Christ in Brandon, Fla. Hine is a founding member of the Student Coalition Against Homelessness and Poverty and a member of the Disciples for Life campus ministry. He has also participated in arts and crafts with the patients at Shriner's Hospital for Children.

I wanted to highlight another story, however, that did a great job of including religion. It was an Associated Press story about the unveiling of a new Albert Pujols statue. After describing the statue a bit, the story turns to the hot button issue of the day: Will Pujols be returning to the St. Louis Cardinals next year? He'll be a free agent for the first time after spending his first 11 seasons in Major League Baseball as a Cardinal. The reporter quotes Pujols as follows:

"Just like my wife says, 'We're going to be praying about it and whenever the time comes we'll make that decision,'" Pujols said.

He adds, "We're just going to see where God takes us." This is how Pujols speaks. It's good to quote him as he speaks. The reporter clearly "gets religion" when it comes to describing the statue, which was funded anonymously. He explains how it features Pujols with arms raised skyward while crossing home plate.

Once again, we get a Pujols quote:

"There's going to be a lot of people asking, 'Well, why is he not swinging the bat?'" Pujols told the crowd during his speech. "That's to remind me it's not about me, but it's about Jesus Christ who gave his life so we can have eternal life. It's really easy to lose focus when you have millions of people telling you how great you are."

And the story gets right back to discussing manager Tony LaRussa's surprising announcement that he's departing the Cardinals after winning another World Series championship.

The story was thoroughly about the latest news in Cardinals nation and showed no difficulty in weaving between baseball updates and the role religion plays in the lives of the Pujols. It was seamless.

I thought about what that story might look like if you didn't quote Pujols talking about the importance of Jesus Christ and it just wouldn't be an accurate description of what had happened at the statue's unveiling.

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