The troubles in the family of Philadelphia Eagles head coach Andy Reid is a difficult story for reporters to cover. In many ways, one would wish for the story to just go away. Coach Reid's family life is in public disarray. A judge has publicly castigated him about his abilities as a parent and his two oldest sons are in prison because of their long-standing drug addictions. A headline from The New York Times is particularly appropriate: "There Are No Easy Answers for Reid and His Family."
Much of this story appropriately has to do with drug addiction and whether it should be considered a disease. But there is another aspect of this highly personal story that has not received much attention, particularly by the Times. The Philadelphia Inquirer, perhaps because it is closer to the story than anyone else, touched on it on Sunday:
The boys were expected to become Eagle Scouts -- and Garrett and Britt did so, Tammy Reid said. Piano lessons were required through age 18. Other rules were bent to accommodate the crazy hours of a coach. If her husband "got home at 9 o'clock, you'll bet the kids are up to see him," she said.
And when that wasn't enough, she let him know. "We've got our roles down pat," she said in that earlier interview. "I'm the one who tells him when he really needs to be home. There's just times you can read the kids' coverage - that's what I call it. You just know one of your kids needs their dad. I say, 'You really need to get to this.'"
As Mormons, the Reids did not allow even alcohol in their home. And Tammy Reid has described her husband's determined efforts to carve out time with Garrett, Britt, and the three younger children -- to be present at their sporting events, to take them to movies, to cut down a tree and sing together on Christmas.
There's obviously only so much that a reporter can do when reporting on a person's personal faith. If a public person doesn't acknowledge that faith publicly, then it is probably out of bounds in stories like this.
But it would be difficult to say that Reid's Mormon faith is not part of his public character. Check out this story from earlier this year by the sports director at Philadelphia television station NBC 10:
For all of us, there are times when the lines that separate our personal and professional lives are sometimes blurred. This is one of those times for me.
You see, I've known Garrett and Britt Reid since they were in their early teens. Their parents, Andy and Tammy, were classmates at BYU in the early '80s and Andy and I were college teammates. More importantly, we share a common faith, as members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. We're Mormons -- which is still a relatively small community here in the East. ...
Most Mormon young men apply for and serve a two-year church mission following their freshman year of college. Neither Garrett or Britt did that. A church mission in the Mormon faith is almost a rite of passage from boyhood to manhood -- almost like being bar mitzvahed if you're a Jewish boy. ...
The Reids are very private and, as reported in newspaper accounts, very religious.
It's moments like this that their faith really matters.
To be perfectly clear, the Mormon angle to the Coach Reid story should not be raised to castigate or criticize Reid or Mormonism. Reporters should treat this highly difficult subject with care and resist any urge to cast stones. But ignoring the Mormon angle of the story gives readers an incomplete picture.
Variations of this situation can happen in any family. Faith will often play an important, if not key, role in a family's efforts to adjust and cope. To the extent that figures in the family are public and the situation becomes public, the faith aspect should not be tucked away or ignored.