Yes, sports journalism is important

sports sectionIn the last GetReligion blog post that fit into the "sports" category, I engaged with a much appreciated regular reader in the comment section about the importance of sports journalism and religion. I want to expand upon those thoughts here and highlight yet another sports story that is sure to catch the comment section on fire douse the comment section with water. Our posts on sports don't get the most comments or much attention, but that doesn't mean sports aren't important or interesting in terms of journalists spotting or missing religion ghosts in their coverage. Sports coverage is a major part of journalism, and we can't ignore the impact of large media outlets such as ESPN and Sports Illustrated and of course your local sports sections.

I've found that sports writers often get religion in a way that is rarely seen in other news sections. Other times the subject is ignored or skimmed over. Then there is Peter King who says he ignores athletes when they bring up religion because he gets tired of it, and sports writers report on "game-oriented" things, not Christianity.

The same reader who commented on the last sports-related post brought to our attention an ESPN story that exemplifies great reporting on a story about an individual who has been through a truly harrowing experience and lives with the consequences everyday:

It's been precisely a year since a 2 1/2-inch spherical titanium shell shattered Henniger's face, turning Security Service Field into a makeshift battlefield scene, and a glance in the mirror is all it takes to remind him that his life will never be the same. For 17 years, he's been the main community link for the Triple-A Colorado Springs Sky Sox -- the senior vice president of marketing, on-field master of ceremonies and goodwill ambassador for the franchise.

Now he's a survivor in the truest sense of the word.

The story goes on for nearly 4,000 words. It is hard not to be moved by the story of recover, courage and at the very end, faith:

True to character, Henniger is quick to find the positive amid his travails. His ordeal has strengthened his faith in God and increased his appreciation for his family. He's grateful to his doctors, nurses and therapists as well as the soldiers and DeLeon for saving his life. And he's humbled and a bit perplexed by the attention he's received while military men and women in distress -- paraplegics and quadriplegics -- so often suffer in silence. He plans to take an active role in Wounded Warriors, an organization that supports the families of injured or deceased soldiers.

Each day when he wakes up, Henniger recalls the advice he received from a Craig Hospital nurse early in his rehabilitation.

"You have a choice," the nurse told him. "You can get better or you can be bitter, but you can't be both."

He made his choice a long time ago.

In what other area of the modern journalism world would a reporter with an audience reach like's commit that level of resources to tell this type of story? Sports journalists have the benefit of possessing a greater opportunity to tell human-interest stories like these. But it also means that they have work that much harder to get the religion part of the story right.

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