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Sports Reporter Mike Lupica resides in the pantheon of American sports journalism because he usually separates himself from sensationalist press while providing deftly written, well-reasoned, and cogent perspectives on myriad controversial topics. However, even a savvy media vet like Mike Lupica decided to chug, and then spray out the Tim Tebow Kool-Aid across New York City in his Daily News column “It’s Impossible Not to Believe in Tebow.”
Lupica’s piece is nothing short of class A sensationalist journalism – a gaudy sermon that equates Denver Broncos quarterback’s faith to pre-destined victory in a football contest and to purity. Meanwhile, the piece ignores various key facts and insights making no mention of Tebow’s terrible performance during the first three quarters of every NFL football game he has started, or of what may happen once opposing teams figure out how to properly adjust for Tebow’s play at the end of games.
Of course, as with any good sermon, Lupica delivers a passionate and purposeful closure, which just so happens to be the most disconcerning part of his column:
“There was Tebow being interviewed on the field…Tebow first thanking God and then thanking his teammates, the way he always does, because the kid is pure about his faith and always has been and people troubled by that or offended by that can get lost.” [emphasis added]
Can I get an amen?
It’s ironic that Mr. Lupica would assert that people are troubled by Tebow’s “pure faith” without addressing that perhaps people are not so troubled about how Tebow chooses to display his faith as they are about the press’s insistence to link Tebow’s Christian faith to to his success as an NFL quarterback. For while several hundred athletes of various religious denominations and racial and ethnic backgrounds give praise to the lord both during sports contests and in post-game interviews, the media has chosen to zealously moralize sports culture through this one particular athlete. Most fans can’t be sure exactly why the media has made this choice, but they have a right to be “troubled” about it.
NBA 2011 MVP Derrick Rose shared his religious faith during post-game interviews on countless occassions last year. Did the nation rebuke Roses’s announcement of his faith? No. But then again, the media gave Rose’s religious fervor but a sliver of attention as they have to Tebow. Going back to the early 90s, muslim Hakeem Olajuwon of the Houston Rockets, one of the fifteen best players of all time in the NBA, actually fasted for a month long during the islamic religious observance Ramadan, which coincided with the NBA regular season. After Ramadan concluded, Olajuwon put in the work to recover strength and endurance lost, and proceeded to lead his team to two consecutive NBA titles. Having said that, Olajuwon didn’t receive anywhere near the same media hype as has Tebow, and for that matter, media controversy generated as to whether Olajuwon’s contract with the Rockets should permit him to follow his faith in as pure a form he sees fit.
So, yes, in a country as religously, racially, and ethnically diverse as the United States, the media’s zealous focus on one particular Christian athlete could very well be seen as “troubling.” This distinct possibility begs the question as to whether the Daily News, a national newspaper, should recognize this issue and take care to avoid lavishing praise on a particular religion whereas other religious minorities have struggled against scrutiniziation if not violent treatment for following their beliefs. Should the national press even bother to cross this emotionally and spiritually delicate terrain?
According to Lupica, those who would condescend to ask these questions can “get lost.” But shouldn’t we consider it troubling where a journalist calls another athlete’s faith “pure”? We’re talking faith here, not filtered water. Faith is a profound and dautningly complex philosophical and religious concept, as is the arguably abstract and undoubtedly personal idea of “purity.”
Thus, when a national news publication sermonizes that a football player’s “faith” is “pure” because he contributes to a scintillating comeback in a football contest, and then thanks God afterwards, that is an alarming development. Not Tebow’s faith, mind you. The national media’s moralizing of it one irresponsible article at a time.