Yes, it's Super Tuesday, but let's take a break from all the divisive political talk and focus on something noncontroversial: sports.
I kid. I kid.
But with spring training started and the sweet smell of fresh-cut grass in the air, I wanted to call your attention to a recent St. Louis Post-Dispatch column on the team's chaplain:
JUPITER, Fla. — As he promenaded about the Cardinals clubhouse Sunday, this guy had some sort of a magnetism to him, like a popular ex-ballplayer, back to see the boys. But I didn’t recognize this guy from the mental packs and stacks of baseball cards in my brain. Still, the current Cardinals seemed so comfortable chatting with him; clubhouse employees, too.
Who is this guy?
“We’ve got strength coaches, we’ve got hitting coaches, we’ve got pitching coaches,” he’d tell me later. “I just want to be the guy who’s kind of a spiritual coach, really.”
His name is Darrin Patrick, and he’s important to your favorite players.
He’s the Cardinals’ chaplain, and he’s carved a niche for himself here. He’s a disarming dude the players relate to and still admire. He wears jeans. He sports stylish gray glasses that complement his salt-and-pepper stubble.
In my Associated Press days, I profiled the full-time chaplain of the Houston Astros. Besides that, I've gone into clubhouses in a number of major-league cities — Detroit, Los Angeles and Washington among them — to interview major-league players about their faith. So the subject matter of the St. Louis story definitely piqued my interest.
Alas, the piece ended up disappointing me.
For the reasons why, I'm going to turn to a pinch hitter. A reader sent us a home run of an email diagnosing the holy ghosts in the Post-Dispatch column:
I'm not sure how you write a story about a "team chaplain" and not mention anything about religion, but (the writer) managed. Is Mr. Patrick ... what exactly? Protestant minister, rabbi, high priest of Thor? No clue.
Cardinals manager Mike Matheny is pretty up front about his evangelicalism. Did he bring Mr. Patrick into the clubhouse? Is he a paid employee? Do Cardinals players from other backgrounds and beliefs look to him for guidance? Is he the only (official or unofficial ) "chaplain?"
St. Louis is one of the more Roman Catholic towns in America. Is there a Catholic priest associated with the team? (If there isn't, I have a long list of volunteers.) This story gave me no insight into Mr. Patrick — other then he's comfortable around ballplayers and says "dude" — and no insight into what role he, and faith, play in the Cardinals organization. Pity.
The reader gets extra credit for the "high priest of Thor" and "comfortable saying dude" remarks. That kind of sarcasm will take you a long way in life — or least in the blogging world.
Probably nobody expects a sports columnist to provide the same kind of insight that the St. Louis newspaper's award-winning religion writers did before the Post-Dispatch eliminated the Godbeat last year. Still, a few basic details concerning the actual faith of the team chaplain would be helpful, as the reader above so eloquently pointed out.
A quick Google search reveals that Patrick is the lead pastor of an evangelical church called The Journey and the vice president of a church-planting network called Acts 29. He also wrote "The Dude's Guide to Manhood" and, with his wife, Amie, "The Dude's Guide to Marriage."
So obviously, the dude saying "dude" is a crucial part of the story. But so, too, should be what the dude believes and preaches. Right, dude?