Well, this is Super Sunday and all of that, so it's fitting that young master Brad started us off with a God and the gridiron post. I've already seen a Pam and Tim Tebow advertisement several times during the pre-game show this afternoon -- which may have well as started last night -- and the contents seemed very tame, in terms of being a major event in the Culture Wars. I wonder if there is a stronger ad coming during the game itself. Normally, you don't call something a "Super Bowl ad" unless it airs after the kickoff.
Meanwhile, Sarah Pulliam Bailey is on a train heading out oh Washington, D.C., where she has been trapped by snow for several days. She's trying to get to Philadelphia, where she thinks she will have a better chance to break through the crush at the airport. Tell me about it. My flight out of Baltimore today was canceled (trying to get to Indianapolis to start six days of visiting campuses in the Midwest). Will I get out tomorrow? Who knows.
This part of the country is really buried in snow today. So be patient if you are waiting for Sarah responses to comment-page stuff. She hopes to be online later.
Still, there is another way to get her on the blog today. The other day, she wrote an op-ed page commentary for the Wall Street Journal that ran with the headline, "Where God Talk Gets Sidelined -- Sports journalists are reluctant to tackle faith on the field." Here's a crucial section of the piece:
Peter King, a senior writer for Sports Illustrated, admits his own skepticism when players bring up their faith after a game. "I've seen enough examples of players who claim to be very religious and then they get divorced three times or get in trouble with the law," Mr. King said earlier this week. "I'm not sure that the public is crying out for us to discover the religious beliefs of the athletes we're writing about."
Faith is the belief in things unseen. Sportswriters are trained to write about the observable. "One of the problems that we have is determining the veracity of a person's claim that he has just won this game for his Lord and Savior Jesus Christ," Mr. King said.
In the Baltimore Sun before last year's Super Bowl, Washington Post reporter Rick Maese characterized his fellow journalists as "notebook-toting cynics who worship at the altar of the free media buffet." But he softened his language and cut his colleagues some slack when I spoke to him recently. A sports reporter might write one story with a strong religion angle and feel like the idea is no longer fresh for the next athlete he covers, Mr. Maese told me. "It's not like the reporter's going to bring an athlete's beliefs or religious affiliation up out of the blue," he said. But "if that's something the player cites as a motivating factor, I don't think you're telling the full story if you don't explore that angle a little bit."
Read it all. The key, for me, has always been for reporters to treat religious claims as more than faith lingo. Check it out. Do some reporting. Ask for some statistics about church involvement and giving. Try to find evidence that the claims are true.
In other words, be skeptical -- not silent. See if the athletes are walking their talk. Journalists are allowed to do that.
Enjoy the game and watch the coverage for religion ghosts.