I knew there was a reason I filed away that late-summer Los Angeles Times story about Ellen Kershaw, the wife of Los Angeles Dodgers superstar Clayton Kershaw. Watching him pitch in the first game of the World Series last night reminded me to pull this feature out of my GetReligion guilt folder.
This story contained a giant religion ghost that I just couldn't believe the Times team ignored, especially in light of the newspaper's coverage of Clayton Kershaw in the past. (See also this previous post by our own Bobby Ross, Jr.)
The headline on this story: "Ellen Kershaw, family life keep Dodgers' ace grounded during trials of season."
This is a story about family life, of course, but it also focuses on this couple's motivation to work with orphans and other needy children in Africa, America and other locations. There is a rather obvious subject looming over all of this -- which is Ellen and Clayton Kershaw's many public statements about the importance of their Christian faith.
How does one dodge this topic in a passage such as this, toward the end of this long story?
Clayton made his big league debut in 2008, and the couple married in 2010. Not long after, Clayton joined Ellen on a trip to Zambia, in East Africa, where she had previously traveled to work with orphans.
“It was always on her heart,” Clayton said, adding, “It wasn’t on my radar and I knew when I married her that it was going to involve me, so we went over there the first time three weeks after we got married. And it does. It changes you.”
Charity work, Ellen said, is the foundation of their marriage. “I would say even though it began with my passion, Clayton was the ringleader of putting something into action,” she said.
The couple founded Kershaw’s Challenge six years ago to improve the quality of life and provide opportunities to vulnerable, underprivileged children. It has since expanded to the Dominican Republic, Dallas and Los Angeles. The Kershaws donate money, and donors make pledges, for every batter Clayton strikes out. ... The charity gave away $1.3 million in 2016, according to the Kershaw’s Challenge website.
Now, how would the Kershaws explain how this charity work (others would call it "missions" work) relates to their lives? Would Ellen Kershaw say that the charity work, in and of itself, is the foundation of their marriage or that this work is linked to something bigger?
Click a computer mouse twice, in order to visit to the Kershaw's Challenge website, and its easy to find statements such as this:
Join us! Commit to doing something this season. ... When we live for something greater than ourselves, the Lord gets the glory and amazing things can happen.
Or, a reporter could take the rather obvious step of reading the project's "about" page, which makes an even clearer statement of its purpose:
Kershaw’s Challenge is a Christ-centered, others-focused organization. We exist to encourage people to use whatever God-given passion or talent they have to make a difference and give back to people in need. We want to empower people to use their spheres of influence to positively impact communities and to expand God’s Kingdom.
That's rather blunt. In the end, this new Times feature story does offer this one statement, with a tiny hint of faith talk:
“We are people that want to see the process, to know the people, to touch the kids, to hear their stories,” Ellen said. “We do believe that everything we’ve been given is so undeserved and is a blessing. … That is why we stay grounded.”
Now, let me stress something again -- the Kershaws are not hiding their faith and that has been true for years. It's hard to miss information about this, even in a basic Google search.
But there is more to this story than the discussion of the couple's charity/mission work. It opens with a discussion of how marriage and the growth of their family has provided stability during the always stressful life of a sports superstar.
Again there is an obvious question: Would the Kershaws discuss that topic without talking about faith, the church, etc.? Instead, readers are given passages like this:
Four months a year, Clayton, 29, is a stay-at-home dad. “My time to catch up with the kiddos,” he said.
Ellen, for 12 months a year, is the glue that holds the family together.
“There’s so many different hats as a baseball wife,” said Ellen, 30, who described her role as the family’s traveling secretary, real estate agent and accountant. “I feel like I had kind of gotten into the groove of that, and then you start adding kids to it and it’s a whole other ballgame.”
The Kershaws move three times a year: from hometown Dallas to Phoenix for spring training and then Los Angeles for the regular season.
Home is a loose term; it’s wherever Dad is at the time. Ellen takes pride that Cali learned to travel when she was just a few weeks old, and that the two of them navigated two Dodgers road trips a month in 2016. This season, Charley is learning the road life.
“That’s something I really want to instill in our kids, is family comes first,” Ellen said.
So let's see, what else would be affected by this kind of life, with the Kershaw family moving from home to home three times a year? It would have been interesting to learn how this affects church life. Do they have a pastor or chaplain to whom they stay connected all the time?
That's a rather obvious question, isn't it, if the goal of the story is to talk about the "foundation" of this couple's home and marriage. Right? I would also be interested in knowing more about their approach to the education of their children.
How could the Times team avoid such obvious questions, in a story of this kind?
FIRST IMAGE: From the Twitter account of Ellen Kershaw.