ESPN the Magazine

ESPN writer explains what made Dale Murphy special, on and off field, and sort of avoids a ghost

ESPN writer explains what made Dale Murphy special, on and off field, and sort of avoids a ghost

For any baseball fan who remembers Dale Murphy, this is a fantastic read from ESPN the Magazine.

The in-depth piece by Wright Thompson — titled "Where Have You Gone, Dale Murphy?" — makes the case that the former two-time National League Most Valuable Player should be inducted into the Baseball Hall of Fame.

That induction would emphasize the fact that the retired Atlanta Braves star did not use performance-enhancing drugs, even though he ended his career in the steroids era.

Thompson writes:

If baseball wants to wash itself clean from steroids, the best way to do it isn't to keep [Barry] Bonds out of the Hall but to let Murphy in. Induct cheaters but also celebrate Dale Murphy for his 398 home runs and for the dozens he did not hit.

While the article is pegged on the Hall of Fame argument — noting that Murphy will be eligible again next year — it's the personal story that makes this such a captivating read.

That story revolves around what a good guy Murphy is. A moral guy. A family guy. Dare I say a religious guy?

ESPN hints that faith might be at play in Murphy's character, as the writer emotionally describes how a generation of boys who grew up within reach of the TBS cable station idolized the Braves' star:

Our letters arrived at Atlanta-Fulton County Stadium, 50 or more a day for a decade, as Murphy perennially battled Mike Schmidt for the NL home run title and won back-to-back MVP awards, one of four outfielders in baseball history to accomplish that. We read the stories about Murphy's kindness and charity, how he didn't drink or smoke or curse and how he signed every autograph. We imagined meeting him over big glasses of milk and talking about his moonshot home runs. 

A few paragraphs later, readers learn more about the Murphy of present day:

Generation Murph has grown into middle age. We are 35 years removed from his peak as a player. He lives mostly anonymously in Utah with his wife and eight grown children. 

Utah, huh?

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Detroit Tigers pitcher with cancer believes in 'power of prayer,' but why?

Detroit Tigers pitcher with cancer believes in 'power of prayer,' but why?

Daniel Norris believes in "the power of prayer."

The Detroit Tigers pitcher made that clear in an Instagram post Monday in which he revealed he will undergo surgery for a malignant growth on his thyroid.

However, sportswriters seem to be leery of Norris' faith. Again.

This is the Detroit Free Press' lede on Norris' cancer diagnosis:

Daniel Norris will be put to the test.
His opponent: thyroid cancer.
The Detroit Tigers’ young left-handed pitcher announced on Instagram and Twitter this afternoon that he was diagnosed with the disease earlier in the season while playing with the Toronto Blue Jays and will undergo surgery to remove a malignant tumor in the off-season.
He acknowledged playing baseball helped him deal with the troubling diagnosis and that a doctor determined he could wait until after the season to have surgery.
"I've been debating for months as to how or even if I should share this with people," he posted on Instagram. "I'm a firm believer in the power of prayer. So now, I'm asking for prayers.”

Give the Free Press credit for using Norris' direct quote asking for prayers in the fifth paragraph. But did the Detroit newspaper bury the lede?

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Revisiting ESPN's Man in the Van: Why was this pitcher baptized in his baseball uniform?

Revisiting ESPN's Man in the Van: Why was this pitcher baptized in his baseball uniform?

Get ready for some ghostbusting.

Way back in March, we spotted holy ghosts in an otherwise terrific ESPN the Magazine profile of highly touted pitcher Daniel Norris, then with the Toronto Blue Jays.

Readers had alerted us to the story's blatant avoidance of religion.

In my critique of the ESPN story, I wrote:

Given how much Norris talks about his faith, there's no way ESPN missed the religion angle. The magazine obviously chose to ignore it, and that's a shame.
Granted, ESPN still produced a fascinating story — a solid double off the wall.
But the magazine missed a chance to hit a straight-down-the-middle fastball out of the park.

Fast-forward more than six months, and Norris now pitches for the Detroit Tigers (he's the scheduled starter vs. the Chicago White Sox tonight). Detroit obtained Norris in late July in a deal that sent former American League Cy Young Award winner David Price to Toronto.

Typically at GetReligion, we are not in a position to ask the actual source of a story about the handling of the religion content. 

But on a recent reporting trip to Detroit, I interviewed Norris, a member of the Central Church of Christ in Johnson City, Tenn., for The Christian Chronicle.

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Ten years after Katrina, looking for God in the anniversary news coverage

Ten years after Katrina, looking for God in the anniversary news coverage

With the 10th anniversary of Hurricane Katrina this week, I wrote a column reflecting on covering the "storm of the century" for The Christian Chronicle:

NEW ORLEANS — I see the faces, and the memories come rushing back.

Since Hurricane Katrina a decade ago, I’ve made repeated trips to report on the faith and resiliency of God’s people — both victims and volunteers. 

I’ve lost track of the exact number of times I’ve traveled to New Orleans. However, the faces — and experiences — remain fresh in my mind.

From my personal experience in New Orleans and along the Gulf Coast, I know the "faith-based FEMA" were a key piece of the recovery — in some cases, the key piece.

In Katrina's wake, thousands of volunteers motivated by faith in God housed, fed and clothed evacuees, cleaned up muck and debris, rebuilt homes and businesses and helped in a million other ways.

Given that, I am curious to see if God will show up at all in the anniversary coverage of Katrina making landfall on Aug. 29, 2005.

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An out atheist in holy NFL? ESPN and the long, long 'Confession of Arian Foster'

An out atheist in holy NFL? ESPN and the long, long 'Confession of Arian Foster'

As non-sermon sermons go, this one is a doozy.

ESPN the Magazine has devoted 5,000-plus words to "The Confession of Arian Foster."

If you, like me, don't pay a lot of attention to the National Football League, Foster is a 28-year-old running back for the Houston Texans deep in the Bible Belt. His confession is that he does not believe in God. That unbelief, as ESPN presents it, amounts to a cardinal sin in the NFL. Oh, wait, there was that outspoken born-again Christian who shared the backfield with him who remained a trusted colleague. We'll come back to that.

A scene up high at Foster's Houston home:

THE HOUSE IS a churn of activity. Arian's mother, Bernadette, and sister, Christina, are cooking what they proudly call "authentic New Mexican food." His older brother, Abdul, is splayed out on a room-sized sectional, watching basketball and fielding requests from the five little kids -- three of them Arian's -- who are bouncing from the living room to the large playhouse, complete with slide, in the front room. I tell Abdul why I'm here and he says, "My brother -- the anti-Tebow," with a comic eye roll.
Arian Foster, 28, has spent his entire public football career -- in college at Tennessee, in the NFL with the Texans -- in the Bible Belt. Playing in the sport that most closely aligns itself with religion, in which God and country are both industry and packaging, in which the pregame flyover blends with the postgame prayer, Foster does not believe in God.

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