Can a ghost haunt a football field or a potato farm? Yes, if spiritual motives make you leave one for the other -- and a news report skims over those motives.
CBS News did something like that in one of its On the Road segments. Steve Hartman found Jason Brown cheerfully bending his back over sweet potatoes instead of flattening opponents for the St. Louis Rams.
Hartman was curious about a number of things. How Brown could leave a $37 million NFL contract for 1,000 acres in North Carolina. Why he worked hard for his crop, then gave it away to food pantries. How he even learned to farm.
What the report didn't ask was why Brown changed his lifestyle so radically. It drops a few hints, like "FirstFruits Farm," the name of Brown's literal digs. Another hint:
"When you see them pop up out of the ground, man, it's the most beautiful thing you could ever see," said Brown. He said he has never felt more successful.
"Not in man's standards," said Brown. "But in God's eyes."
But those hints slip in and out of the report, like ghosts floating through the walls.
CBS does link to Brown's FirstFruits Farm, which explains it all in telling detail. Like this section:
In April 2012, I decided to step out on faith and walk away from my career in the NFL. God revealed to me that he had something greater in store for me and that my family should move back to my home state of North Carolina and start a farm. This really caught us by surprise because we knew nothing about farming. Yet, out of obedience, we started looking for available farmland. This is when Tay and I made a covenant with God and told Him that whatever place He blessed us with, we would name it FirstFruits Farm and that his people would receive the FirstFruits of whatever is produced from the land.
In October 2012, God poured us out a blessing greater than we were able to receive in the form of a beautiful 1,000 acre farm in Franklin County, North Carolina. Little did i know, the hard work had just begun. We labored all of 2013 getting the farm back into shape and applying God's plan as he revealed it to us. We ultimately incorporated FirstFruits Farm into the Mission of "Wisdom for Life" and thats sharing the Gospel of Jesus Christ by sharing our hearts first and serving our neighbors with love.
The farm is actually just one facet of Brown's organization Wisdom for Life, which holds religious rallies, gives away vegetable seeds, and has thrown a Harvest Festival a fishing contest. The goal is apparently to fill physical, spiritual and social needs alike.
Granted, you can't put a lot of background into a two-minute video report. But you can add a few more specifics, like how Brown was prompted by his Christian faith. You can also get more specific online.
Like what? Like Bible verses that mention first fruits. A few examples:
II Chronicles 31:5: "As soon as the command was spread abroad, the people of Israel gave in abundance the firstfruits of grain, wine, oil, honey, and of all the produce of the field. And they brought in abundantly the tithe of everything."
Nehemiah 10:35: " We obligate ourselves to bring the firstfruits of our ground and the firstfruits of all fruit of every tree, year by year, to the house of the Lord."
Proverbs 3:9-10: "Honor the Lord with your wealth and with the firstfruits of all your produce; then your barns will be filled with plenty, and your vats will be bursting with wine."
If you really want to surprise viewers -- especially the urban sophisticates at places like CBS -- tell them an NFL star deserted a multimillion-dollar contract because of writings older than three millennia.
Was Hartman not interested in the spiritual roots? Was he maybe worried that viewers would tune out the talk about the gospel?
He was clearly charmed by Brown's warmth and faith, and by his generosity in giving away 100,000 pounds of sweet potatoes to charity. He even ends his report with mushy dialogue:
"Love is the most wonderful currency that you can give anyone," said Brown.
"Are you sure you played in the NFL?" I asked.
"Because I feel like cuddling you right now."
"Don't do that!" he said.
Sweet and affable, to be sure. But while it embraces Brown as a cuddly altruist, it holds his beliefs at arm's length. And relegate them to ghosthood.