Dallas Cowboys in the playoffs: So 'God-given' talent and 'faith' drive Amari Cooper?

Yes, America’s Team won a playoff game over the weekend.

No, that hasn’t happened a lot over the past two decades.

Want a religion angle on the victorious Dallas Cowboys? Look no farther than Amari Cooper, the Cowboys wide receiver obtained in a crucial midseason trade. But be warned of holy ghosts. More on that in a moment.

In advance of Saturday night’s wild-card game against the Seattle Seahawks (which Dallas won, 24-22), the Dallas Morning News published a lengthy front-page profile of Cooper.

In a lot of ways, it’s a really compelling profile. Various folks on Twitter described the story as “great,” “deep” and filled with “awesome details.”

The superb opening:

FRISCO -- Amari Cooper hit up a local suit store recently to shop for game day. Cowboys players are required to dress up, and their arrival at the stadium is treated like a virtual fashion show on social media.

The salesperson kept bringing him pairs of shoes to go with the looks. "No," Cooper kept saying, "no." His childhood friend who was visiting spied one pair and started laughing, Cooper recounted.

They looked like Cooper's old "church shoes."

Growing up in the west Coconut Grove neighborhood of Miami, Cooper was the youngest of five, and he owned only one pair of shoes at a time. He wore them for church, but also for school, for everyday, for playing football.

"They were my everything shoes," the wide receiver who changed the course of the Cowboys' season said in a recent interview with The Dallas Morning News. And, as he explained it, the shoes "talked," meaning the sole separated from the rest of the shoe and flapped.

"My mother, she used to buy super glue to glue the part back on," Cooper said. "But I was playing football ... so I would shake and run. They would always come back loose and the glue would be showing.

"It's kind of funny now. But all my friends remember that."

That early reference to church offers a clue that explaining what makes Cooper tick might include exploring his Christian faith.

For those reading the print version, the hint came even sooner, in the form of this subhead over the Page 1 picture of Cooper:

Cooper fulfills dream through ‘faith, hard work’

But — and you knew a “but” was coming, right? — the Dallas paper allows the faith angle to haunt this otherwise riveting piece of sportswriting. That’s despite perfect openings to ask Cooper a follow-up question or two about his faith.

The first opening:

Cooper said playing receiver always felt natural to him.

"That's all just God-given," he said. "When someone did a route, I was always able to emulate exactly how they did it."

What does Cooper mean by “God-given?” Who knows? The story skips right past that statement and moves on to a different topic.

Later:

Cooper's first major purchase after being drafted was a house for her. The next year, he bought her a Range Rover. Eventually, he posted a picture of Michelle standing in front of both on Instagram. He said he's still driven by the fear of poverty.

"The whole story is way too long and melancholic," he wrote. "But just know a dream can go a long way if it's followed by faith and hard work."

What role does faith play in Cooper’s life? What is his faith? The Gospel Herald reported in 2015 that the former University of Alabama star is a Christian who was taught by his mother to be “hungry and humble.”

Again, the Dallas Morning News fails to engage such questions. As happens so often, God gets sidelined in a sports story, which is particularly strange given that the paper chose to reference “faith” in its headline. Why highlight that aspect of Cooper’s life, then totally ignore it?

Yes, the Cowboys won. But after a remarkable run down the field, this story trips and fumbles short of the goal line.

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