God talk and miracle shots

Mario ChalmersSometimes journalists should just step back and report the events, emotions and words of the event they are covering. Monday night's NCAA Tournament was that kind of situation, and unfortunately for sports fans, it seems that the only person to notice a significant spiritual angle of one of the more impressive shots (and comebacks) in basketball history was a Sports Illustrated blogger. Not that there is anything at all wrong with bloggers. This story is just deserving of a broader audience.

Here is blogger Luke Winn midway through his tremendous description of what must have been an amazing basketball moment to witness:

What happened, then? How does one explain this breathtaking finish? If you listen to Chalmers' father, Ronnie, who happens to be KU's director of basketball operations, the sequence of events was nothing short of divine intervention.

Inside the left breast-pocket of Ronnie's suit on Monday night was a small scrap of white paper, a verse of scripture written on each side in pen. He took it out when Memphis' Robert Dozier was at the charity stripe, hitting the first of two free-throws that would put the Tigers up 60-51. On Kansas' bench, Ronnie silently read Psalm 46:1 to himself:

God is our refuge and strength, an ever-present help in trouble.

Perfect, thought Ronnie, because "we were in trouble at the time."

Winn does not need to explain what this means. He just states it, as it should be.

As a reader told us that this is a "very well written article describing, moment-by-moment, in-their-own-word, two minutes and twelve seconds of history, God and all."

The reader makes the statement that compared to all other GetReligion entries he has read, no other reporter has been able to articulate the exact connection between God and sports. Since Winn doesn't try, his article is the better for it:

He misses the first but makes the second. The score is 63-60. If you're Collins, you think to yourself, "Now I know we have chance."

Ronnie Chalmers had two scriptures in his pocket, if you recall. The second was from Psalms 46:10 -- Be still, and know that I am God -- and he read that one, too, at the start of the comeback. But even Ronnie had his doubts when he saw Collins make the handoff, and then witnessed his son let go the biggest shot in KU history. At first, Ronnie said, "I didn't really think he got a good look at it."

But just as Rush did from near the hoop, and Collins from the wing, and Mario, falling back from the top of the key, Ronnie then saw that the aim was true. He had sat with Mario for the 2004 Final Four in this very arena, as spectators for UConn's title run, and his son had said that one day he would be playing for a national championship. Mario's shot made Kansas' title possible, and Ronnie, when he watched it go in, simply said, "Thank God. Thank God."

Some of the comments on the blog make the point that God has nothing to do with who wins or loses a basketball game. If God took sides in a game, and he was on your team's side, then it would not matter how many free throws your team missed.

Unfortunately, that is missing the point of reporting on religion in sports. Look closer at the verses being quoted. Religion would be just as relevant to the story if Mario Chalmers missed that desperation three-pointer.

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