Heartwarming. Powerful. Definitely worth a read.
All of those descriptions fit a Father's Day sports column published by The Detroit News.
The piece by John Niyo concerns the personal journey of Detroit Tigers catcher James McCann and his wife, Jessica, as they brought premature twin sons into the world six months ago. My friend Ron Hadfield, a longtime Tigers fan, tipped me to the story.
I mostly loved it. But — if you'll indulge just a little constructive criticism — I thought it was haunted by a few holy ghosts. As in, I wish the writer had been a bit more specific in places about the couple's faith. More on that in a moment.
First, let's check out the compelling opening:
DETROIT — It’s not just the double vision he gets every day. Sometimes, it feels like James McCann is looking in the mirror, too.
The Tigers’ stalwart catcher sees it before he heads to work most afternoons, and often when he gets home at night as well, depending on how late the Rally Goose keeps him at the ballpark. He’ll take one look at his sons, Christian and Kane — 6-month-old twins with a remarkable story to share on Father’s Day — and Christian will give him one right back.
“He’ll give me those eyebrows like, ‘What are you lookin’ at?’” McCann said, laughing as he dressed in the Tigers’ clubhouse before a game this week against the Twins, of course. “And my parents both say, ‘Yep, that was you.’
“Christian is a little bit more laid-back. Kane, he’ll let you know how he feels. And he’s a little bit quicker to smile, quicker to laugh, where Christian is more stoic, stone-faced, sort of like, ‘You’re gonna have to work for this smile.’”
At that, McCann, who celebrated his 28th birthday Wednesday, cracks a smile of his own — a grin, really — and the square-jawed stoicism is nowhere to be found. Funny what fatherhood can do to a man, or as his wife Jessica notes, what six blessed months can do for a young couple raising premature babies.
Keep reading, and the writer explains the nature of the high-risk pregnancy and how the boys were born 10 weeks early and weighed only 3 pounds each.
And then there's the first mention of faith:
The McCanns would spend the next seven weeks in the neonatal intensive care unit at Vanderbilt Children’s Hospital, and for a time, James and his wife were only allowed to hold the twins once a day. The doctors and nurses made no promises early on, but the parents parried any doubts with prayer. The devout couple named the firstborn Christian, and they settled on Kane for the second boy after looking up the name and learning it meant “little warrior.”
The reference to "devout couple" and the firstborn's name makes the couple's religious affiliation pretty clear. Still, I wish the paper had used just a little space at some point in the column to explain the specific nature of the couple's religious affiliation and faith background.
At other points, the column does a nice job of letting McCann talk — in his own words — about God:
“To a certain degree, I think my wife and I were at peace with everything that was going on just because of my birth story,” What happened, and the faith (my parents) put in God and seeing how I turned out, I think God was just adding to that story.
That's good stuff. But I think it would be better with a little more context on what the McCanns believe about God. The faith references in this column seem a little too vague to me.
Perhaps I'm being overly nitpicky. That can be an occupational hazard of being a media critic who analyzes media coverage of religion. In any case, I'll refer back to what I said at the very top concerning my overall takeaway from this piece.
It's heartwarming. Powerful. Definitely worth a read.