Does anyone have time for yet another Rio 2016 religion-news post?
One of the responses that your GetReligionistas hear when we criticize the faith-shaped holes in mainstream news coverage goes something like this: You guys just aren't realistic. In today's age of short, quickie digital journalism -- with journalists dashing off three or four stories and 10 tweets a day -- reporters just don't have the time and space to add secondary, deep-background details about religion and stuff.
Or words to that effect. Trust me, we understand the pressures, in an age when the advertising crisis in mass media has left fewer reporters in mainstream newsrooms, while the World Wide Web demands more and more 24/7 content. We know that reality issue is there.
The veteran scribes here at GetReligion -- with nearly 200 years worth of experience in religion news, when you add us all up -- can see the challenges. Trust me, we know that people on beats that bump into religious content, from arts to politics, from sports to business, don't have the time to write religion feature stories.
But they do have time to listen to what people say and then include a few details and quotes about faith, when it is clear that these details are at the heart of a person's life and work.
Take team USA wrestler Helen Maroulis, whose win over three-time Olympic champion Saori Yoshida of Japan was -- in one NBC soundbite -- something like an unknown sprinter beating Usain Bolt (that Catholic mega-star from Jamaica) in the 100 meters.
Now, it helps to know that Maroulis has been training for several years in Southern California. Thus, you would expect The Los Angeles Times to be anxious to tune her in and capture the essence of this huge Olympics upset. So here is some key material at the top of a feature about the gold-metal winner:
The path to becoming the first U.S. women’s wrestler to win an Olympic gold medal was hardly smooth. After beating Yoshida, 4-1, in the gold-medal match Thursday in the 53kg (117 pounds) freestyle weight class, Maroulis cried on the mat. She cried on the podium and cried as she sang the national anthem and revealed how truly out of sorts she felt before the Olympics.
“A couple of weeks ago, I was like, ‘I’m just going to book a plane to Iceland because I think I’m about to be like the biggest failure at the Olympics,’” she said. “I don’t even know if I’ll make weight. I’m doing all the right things and I’m not seeing results.”
Pretty emotional stuff. And later there is this:
The magnitude of the victory hit Maroulis hard on the podium during the anthem.
“I looked at that flag -- the American flag represents our country and stands for so much, so much meaning, so much value behind it,” she said. “The flag is raised for a lot of different things. Today it was small … maybe small in comparison to the country.
“It [the anthem] was being played and I have this gold medal. But then I’m also thinking there are people, Americans, in other countries, at war. And the flag is there. ... When the anthem plays, how can you not cry?”
OK, almost everyone loves patriotism in this day and age.
But now, click here to watch an NBC mini-video of what Maroulis has to say when she is asked about this experience. What was she thinking about? How did she handle all of the pressure? What was going through her head?
As it turns out, The Denver Post team was listening to what the wrestler was saying, during her public comments in Rio. Notice have little additional material it takes to make this material a bit more complete.
Maroulis, who had to win a qualification match in the morning just to get into the round of 16, paused to pray before she entered the ring for the gold medal match.
“All I said over and over again was, ‘Christ is in me, I am enough,’ and that was one of the most freeing things I’ve ever said,” Maroulis said. “I don’t need to be perfect. Leading up to training camp, people would say, ‘How did you feel about practice today?’ or, ‘You looked good,’ and I had no answer because I was looking for perfection everywhere. Finally I was like, ‘You know what? I’m not going to find it. So what I have is enough, and I trust God that what I have is enough.’ ”
Now, that wasn't so hard was it? That didn't break the digital ink bank.
This one passage does not a this news report into some kind of covert evangelism project. It does, however, say something important about this young woman and her state of mind as she stepped -- in this case literally -- onto the world stage in Rio.
Kudos to the Denver Post team for keeping the faith element in her story. And the Los Angeles Times? Once again (remember the faith-shaped hole in the Michael Phelps feature) it's interesting to note what was edited out of the reporting, when covering the same person, in the save venue and, often, in the same presser events or with the same public statements.
I'll ask. Are there any religious believers in Southern California who subscribe to newspapers?
FIRST IMAGE: The team USA photo of Helen Maroulis.