There is nothing new (or newsworthy) about athletes, in post-game interviews, saying things like this: “Most of all, I would like to thank God for the many blessings he has given me.”
Or even this: “First, I’d like to give praise to my Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.”
Many superstars say this after victories. Many say things like this after defeat. The question “Crossroads” host Todd Wilken asked, at the start of this week’s podcast (click here to tune that in), was this: Do mainstream news reporters, when then here this, roll their eyes with skepticism?
The answer, I think, is, “Yes, they do.” And for others, the response is stronger than that: It’s either cynicism or sarcasm verging on hostility.
Why? Well, in many cases these sports reporters know that some of the athletes saying this are absolute jerks or hypocrites of the highest orders. Reporters know that some — no, not all — of these Godtalk superstars are not walking their talk.
So this acidic attitude tends to seep into lots of mainstream stories about the many, many, many religious believers who are newsmakers in college and professional sports.
But words are one thing. Actions are another.
Like what? Well, as is often the case, things get really messy when superstars are living lives that are genuinely countercultural when it comes to — you got it — sex.
Can you say “Tim Tebow”? I knew that you could.
When I was young, one of my heroes was at the center of similar controversies. That was Roger “Captain America” Staubach, a happily married, family-guy Roman Catholic.
Several years ago, M.Z. “GetReligion emerita” Hemingway wrote up a very similar case surrounding NFL star Philip Rivers. Her headline at The Federalist included a wonderful new culture wars term: “Fecundophobia: The Growing Fear Of Children And Fertile Women.” M.Z. pointed to this Deadspin hit piece: “Philip Rivers Is An Intense Weirdo.”
The final two sentences about the San Diego Charger quarterback were blunt:
“And he’s also about to have his seventh kid. There are going to be eight people with Rivers DNA running around this world.”
Ah yes. How “intensely weird” it is for an NFL player to be having his seventh kid. Except that it isn’t weird at all for an NFL player to have his seventh kid. It’s only weird for an NFL player to have seven kids with his one wife.
Take former Charger and current New York Jet Antonio Cromartie. He’s fathered at least 12 children with eight different women. In fact, when the Jets picked the cornerback up from the Chargers, they provided him with a $500,000 advance so he could make outstanding child support payments. ...
Or what about Travis Henry, a former running back who last played for the Denver Broncos? He’s fathered at least eleven children to ten different women. But yes. Philip Rivers is the weirdo.
The last time I checked, Philip and Tiffany Rivers had recently welcomed yet another new life into their family — an eighth child. Do you think that this has anything to do with their fervent Catholic faith? Do you think that attacking them for the size of their family has anything to do with, well, anti-Catholicism?
Could be. Or it could be that many reporters are not comfortable with the fact that great athletes often turn in one of two directions, when dealing with the unbelievable levels of pressure that they face in their work?
It’s a fact. Many turn to pills, booze and, well, lively sex lives outside the vows of marriage. Many others turn to faith.
Here at GetReligion, we believe that both sides of this human equation are newsworthy — if and when the facts point in that direction. We think that it’s bizarre that many mainstream reporters simply leave a God-shaped hole in major news stories — like this one involving Kevin Durant.
Then again, there was the case that inspired this week’s “Crossroads” — involving a disastrous year, in terms of batting average and slugging, for Baltimore Orioles star Chris “Crush” Davis.
The team at Sports Illustrated saw the religion ghost in this story, in terms of how the first baseman’s faith was helping him articulate the deep, painful questions he has faced during the 2018 slump. This story was way better than the norm, but there was little follow-up in terms of deeper research into the spiritual, as well as professional, crisis shown in this feature.
The bottom line: Why not interview this man’s pastor? Why not talk to the team chaplain for the Orioles?
Why not treat the facts linked to religion as a valid part of these news stories?