Ready, set, barf: An evangelical football feature

Grab your air-sickness bag and let's dive right into this New York Times sports feature. The italicized phrases below are courtesy of me, not the Times:

LYNCHBURG, Va. — Football is not just a sport at Liberty University, the Christian institution founded by Jerry Falwell, it is a mission.

At Liberty, once a tiny Bible college but now a budding giant, the plan is for college football — big-time, always-on-television college football — to do for evangelical Christians in the 21st century what Notre Dame football did for Roman Catholics in the 20th.

Hey, homogenized evangelicals all over America, are you ready for some football!? Finally, we have a place for all the future Tim Tebows to chase their dreams!

Liberty is already packing the house for its campus games, but Jerry Falwell Jr., the businesslike son of the founder and the current university chancellor, gazes from his office in the western hills of Virginia and sees a worldwide congregation united in faith and in football. 

Hallelujah, praise the official Evangelical football team!

Other football teams run a spread offense. Liberty’s team will spread the word.

“We think there would be a vast, committed fan base of conservative, evangelical Christians around the country and maybe even folks who are conservative politically who would rally behind Liberty football,” Falwell Jr. said, smiling at the thought. “They would identify with our philosophy.”

Pssssssst, Alabama, Georgia  and Oklahoma. Enjoy elite football while you can because all the Bible Belt fans are fixing to jump ship. Go, Liberty!

The university has a motto for the cause: “Champions for Christ.”

“And yes, there are parallels to Notre Dame,” Falwell continued. “There might even be a little rivalry there — the Catholics against the Protestants.”

Given all the mentions of Notre Dame in this story, it's amazing that the Times did not seek comment from the Fighting Irish. Apparently, the following call never occurred:

Notre Dame: "This is sports media relations."

Reporter: "Yes, I'm calling from The New York Times. I was hoping that someone could comment on how soon Notre Dame might be able to add Liberty University to its football schedule."

In case my subtlety has confused you, this was not my favorite story. On the bright side, I now have a solid example next time I need to define nauseating. 

Here's my major problem with this piece: It overshoots in a big-time way, with little or no evidence to back up the breathless pronouncements about the program's powerful potential. And the Times never bothers to talk to anyone outside of Liberty.

To read this 2,500-word account, it's as if an evangelical university never has attempted to excel in the world of big-time college football. (On a probably totally unrelated note, does anybody remember where last year's Heisman Trophy winner played? I seem to have forgotten.)

I could go on. But I'm starting to feel rather queasy.

What'd I do with that Pepto-Bismol?

Please respect our Commenting Policy