You may have noticed that the professional sports arena is, well, a bit soiled at the moment. All kinds of people -- including some muscular Christians -- are finding out that repentance is never an easy thing to do in public. However, I don't think people are ready to assume that someone making a public profession of Christian faith is a bad thing. Right?
However, there was a strange reference the other day in the annual ESPN.com feature by Bill Simmons about who is worth what in the rumor-packed NBA trading marketplace.
Here is the key: Dwight Howard of the Orlando Magic is having a breakout year and, according to this ESPN Matrix, is the second-most valuable player in the whole league, making him a person that no general manager in his right mind would even consider trading. He is an untouchable.
Not only is this rising superstar young, he is extra valuable in another way. Here is the ESPN item in question:
2. Dwight Howard
You can't even say he improved from April ’07 to November ’07 -- it's more like he transformed. ... Through seven weeks, Howard has two 30-20 games, one 20-20 games, seven 30-15 games and 22 double-doubles and has a chance to become the first center since Moses to average a 24-15 for an entire season. And he's only 22. And we haven't even mentioned his defense (good and getting better) or the way he protects the rim (superb). If there's a chink in the armor, it's his crummy free-throw shooting. But that's it.
One other bonus with Howard that nobody mentions: Because he's a devout Christian, even when he turns 35 in 2020, those will be Christian years -- he won't have any of that smoking-drinking-partying mileage on him, which means he could play at a high level until his early-40s (much like how Kurt Warner keeps chugging along at age 36).
Catch that? During his court career, Howard will age in "Christian years" that are easier on his mind and body. What is the opposite of this term? "Real" years? "Street" years?
My question is simple: Is this "Christian years" reference a compliment or a cheap shot, in the context of the modern sports-industrial complex?
After all, Howard's name and his faith came up in a similar context several years ago here at GetReligion. At that time, ESPN reporter Darren Rovell raised an interesting question: Is faith a good thing today in the marketing world? Does it hurt street cred? Former ABA and NBA guard Claude Terry, executive vice president of the Pro Basketball Fellowship, had this to say:
"I would hope that Dwight's beliefs wouldn't hurt his chances to market products," Terry said. "I would think that marketers would want to embrace someone with such values. At the same time, I can understand that we live in an age where people are supposed to be tolerant of the choices others make and it could be interpreted that he is imposing his beliefs on them."
So, is "Christian years" a good term or a bad term? Was this praise or a cheap foul?