Faith and Forty Niner football

When is an individual's religious affiliation worth mentioning in a story?

Clearly, there's no uniform standard here. For Muslims and Jews, it seems more often then not that reporters feel obligated to mention the person's faith. Sometimes it's in a good light, sometimes it's not. For Christians, and particularly evangelical Christians, it seems the faith in God is only relevant when it implies a propensity for poor decision making or a high level of hypocrisy.

Maybe that's why there's no mention of religion in this Los Angeles Times column on the 49ers head coach, "Mike Singletary a single-minded inspirer." The text is missing from the online version, but here's a snippet:

But it was Singletary's ability to lead and inspire his players that prompted the team to remove the interim designation from his title in December, making him the full-time head coach. The man he replaced, Mike Nolan, had gone 18-37 in parts of four seasons, missing the playoffs each time.

In his first game, Singletary's passionate "I want winners" postgame speech became a YouTube sensation. It came after he banished volatile tight end Vernon Davis to the locker room with 10 minutes left in a 34-13 loss at home to Seattle. Initially humiliated and fuming about the very public rebuke, Davis would later become one of the coach's adamant supporters.

"It's the first time I've had a coach that really stayed on me like that," Davis said. "I looked into his eyes and from that day I could tell where he wanted to go with things."

Said linebacker Takeo Spikes: "At the end of the day, people always want to be told the truth. We all respected him that much more for what he did. Not only did America fall in love with that, we fell in love with that."

This is a column, not a magazine profile; reporter Sam Farmer is not expected to delve into every detail of Singletary's life. But there is a big ghost in this piece.

Singletary has been outspoken about his Christian beliefs. He appeared on "The 700 Club," after all, and often gets labeled "devout." At a loss during his first press conference for how he was going to return the 49ers to glory, Singletary replied: "I believe that with God I can do anything."

In an article that paints Singletary as possibly the messiah the 49ers have been waiting for, an article that focuses on the inspirational ability of a charismatic leader who mooned his players during that Seahawks halftime, you'd expect at least a little mention of the inspiration behind the inspirer.

Singletary lets Vernon Davis have it after his first game as interim coach.

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