Greetings, GetReligion sports fans. Anyone who has been following the news lately knows that the ageless San Antonio Spurs, the heroes of red-zip-code America, face a seventh and deciding NBA Finals game tonight against the Miami Heat, a team symbolizes evil for millions of fans from coast to coast. While much of the saturation-level media attention focuses -- naturally -- on superstar LeBron James, people who have actually been following the series closely know that one of the keys to the outcome will be the health of Dwyane Wade.
This brings me to a interesting story in the pre-Finals issue of Sports Illustrated, a feature that ran under the headline, "Dwyane Wade's Knee Has A Cold."
At the heart of this fine article are two painful subjects and two sets of prayers.
First of all, the superstar guard's right knee has been held together for weeks with grit and tape. Sometimes it works and sometimes it doesn't. Miami tends to win when the knee is functioning.
And the prayer involved in that?
So maybe that's why no one blinked the first time Dwyane Wade's mother begged God to heal his right knee. ... Last month, after Miami had beaten the Bulls in Wade's hometown of Chicago to go up 3-1 in their second-round playoff series, he hobbled into the postgame crush of family and friends at the United Center. His knee had collided with the Bulls' Jimmy Butler during the second quarter, leaving Wade crumpled on the sideline, and retaping it didn't help much. He finished with six points, hit just three field goals. His mother was in mid-sentence with someone else when she heard him yell.
"Ma!" Wade said. "Come and touch my knee and pray on it."
Jolinda Wade -- 58 years old, a former drug addict who lost her family, went to prison, reformed and is now a minister -- walked over to her son, bent down and placed her hand on a knee. She rubbed it and asked for it to be healed. She didn't think she did a very good job. In truth, Jolinda was surprised Dwyane had even asked. "He had never done that openly, loud, in front of everybody before," she says.
Now, that is pretty much all readers learn about Wade's mother and her ministry and I would argue that, "she asked for it to be healed" is a rather poor effort to capture that moment in words. And then there is the statement: "She didn't think she did a very good job." Is that what she really said?
It's pretty easy -- takes about five seconds -- to find out that Jolinda Wade is actually the Rev. Jolinda Wade, senior pastor of a flock known as the New Creation Binding and Loosing Ministries International of Chicago. It would only have taken a sentence or two to give readers a sense of what she actually said -- there are no direct quotes linked to these healing prayers -- and what role Christian faith plays in her relationship with her son.
Well, you know, those African-American folks are so spiritual. There's no content to all of that worth covering, of course. That's just the way they are, you know?
Readers are given this:
When she was finished, she said he should be prepared to be mystified; God likes confounding man by fixing the unfixable. "You've just got to believe that this knee's going to be healed," she said. "It's going to mess you up when it's healed; it's going to mess the doctors up; it's going to mess people up. But you're fixing to have a supernatural healing on that knee."
But there's more. As it turns out, the biggest crisis covered in this article -- Dwyane Wade's tabloid-material divorce -- leads straight to another reference to prayer, and they are prayers linked to a subject with more spiritual and cultural significance than his knee.
You see, the second crisis in this story is directly linked to one of the biggest issues looming over African-American life and culture in past half-century or so -- the absence of fathers. In the midst of the drama, Dwyane Wade even wrote a book entitled, "A Father First." Wade's legal sparring with his former wife, Funches, has gone on and on.
A key voice, on this issue, belongs to the superstar's sister, Tragil. And the prayers? They are for Wade and his two sons.
Wade declined an interview request from SI last week, but he has repeatedly stated his desire to have Funches in the boys' lives. She says that riches and celebrity killed the marriage. And even before the breakup, those closest to Wade were worried that his determination to not repeat his parents' own broken marriage, to get married and have a son at age 20, was a recipe for disaster.
"He wanted to break the curse," says Tragil, who all but raised him until he was nine. "The generational curse, what we've been through in our life -- living without our mom and our dad. He's a mama's boy, so he never wanted to get into a space where they don't have their mom, because he understands how close his mom is to him. That's why it hurts: He wasn't able to break that curse. So now we're in a space where I'm big on saying, 'Well, we're going to pray for Zaire and Zion, so that doesn't happen to them.'"
In other words, the prayers are that the sins of the fathers will not be visited upon the sons. Again.
That's a huge subject, maybe one too big and to serious for Sports Illustrated in playoffs mode.
But a sentence or two about the content of those prayers, and the faith behind them, would have helped. Once again, in a fine article, one containing so many specifics and details, why avoid a few details about those two crucial sets of prayers?