On Friday, I drove from Oklahoma City to Fort Worth, Texas, to visit my parents. Somewhere along Interstate 35 south of the Red River, I flipped the FM dial to a Dallas sports talk station.
I hoped to hear discussion of my favorite team, the Texas Rangers, arriving at spring training and the outlook for the upcoming season.
Instead, I found myself mesmerized by two sports talk hosts focused on faith and forgiveness — and the rousing eulogy that Oklahoma City Thunder assistant coach Monty Williams gave for his wife, Ingrid, on Thursday.
"I'm jealous of someone with that kind of faith," said one of the hosts, as questions of life and death suddenly trumped draft picks, trade deadlines and even the Dallas Cowboys.
In this space 10 days ago, I pointed out holy ghosts in the initial media coverage of Ingrid Williams' death in an Oklahoma City car crash:
My previous post went a little viral, receiving thousands of clicks after Monty Williams' funeral remarks, as folks searched for more details about the family's faith.
The coach's eulogy certainly grabbed the sports world's attention:
Here at GetReligion, we critique mainstream media coverage of religion news. In this case, I'm not certain it's possible for printed words to capture adequately what Monty Williams said and how he said it.
You almost have to see the video and experience it.
But here is part of what the coach said, via USA Today:
“I want to close with this, and I think it’s the most important thing we need to understand. Everyone is praying for me and my family, which is right, but let us not forget that there were two people in this situation. And that family needs prayer as well, and we have no ill will towards that family. In my house, we have a sign that says, ‘As for me and my house, we will serve the Lord.’
“We cannot serve the Lord if we don’t have a heart of forgiveness. That family didn’t wake up wanting to hurt my wife. Life is hard. It is very hard, and that was tough, but we hold no ill will toward the Donaldson family. And we, as a group, brothers united in unity, should be praying for that family because they grieve as well. So let’s not lose sight of what’s important.”
I worked at The Oklahoman, Oklahoma City's daily newspaper, for nine years and still subscribe to it. I enjoy reading the print-replica version on my iPad most mornings. Day in and out, nobody beats The Oklahoman's solid coverage of the Thunder, even if the paper's initial coverage of Monty and Ingrid Williams' faith disappointed me. (See my previous post, including the comments section, for more details on that.)
But The Oklahoman nailed the story of Monty Williams' eulogy — and just how far it spread — with a front-page column by Jenni Carlson on Saturday:
Part of what Carlson wrote:
What Williams said took over the sports world. It became the story of the day on NBA trade deadline day. It had Michael Smith quoting scripture on ESPN's “His & Hers” show. It left TNT's loquacious crew speechless.
During TNT's game broadcast Thursday night, it dedicated an entire halftime segment to the speech. No in-studio analysis. No witty banter. Just video of Williams.
And when it concluded, three men who are never at a loss for words were silent.
“Wow,” Charles Barkley finally mustered. “That's just strong. He's a better man than me.”
Later, Kenny Smith said, “To be able to stand there and give that kind of sermon — and I call it a sermon because he was preachin' up there and givin' us an answer on how to handle things in the short-term and the long-term — ... is actually encouraging to me watching him.”
But even after several minutes, Ernie Johnson nearly broke down when he tried to speak.
“Incredible strength. Incredible perspective. Incredible faith,” he said as his voice faltered and he had to clear his throat. “An extraordinary man, Monty Williams.”