‘Deeply religious’ doesn’t mean much

San Diego State Aztecs v UCLA Bruins

Editors like easy stories. Holiday stories, awful as they often are, tend to fit that bill. And this time of year we always have a few intersecting holiday storie like Christmas and college football bowl season.

It seems natural then that we’d get at least one story that discussed both. And we did with this Los Angeles Times story about UCLA football’s gregarious and joyful ball-hawk Rahim Moore:

“I used to tell my mom: ‘I don’t want to go to school. I want to go to football,’ ” Moore said. “I love the game so much. I would stay after practice playing catch or tackling guys. It’s all I wanted to do. Well, I went to school.”

The straight — and narrow — line Moore has followed between then and now has been rough at times. But it has been direct, like the path he has taken to the football so many times this season.

Another Christmas has come and it’s better than some. Moore will celebrate with his mother, Nowana Buchanan, and family today. On Friday he gets on a plane for the nation’s capital, where the Bruins will play Temple in the EagleBank Bowl on Tuesday.

It’s another step in the journey.

“I am so proud of his accomplishments,” said Buchanan, a single mother with three children. “Every kid should follow the path of their dream. Every kid should desire to be positive in life and have a goal. I’ve seen him grow and seen him go after his dream. And he didn’t get into any trouble. That is the most rewarding thing.”

OK, not a bad start. But the next paragraph offers this:

There is little doubt that Moore, a 19-year-old with deep religious beliefs, is the light bulb around which many of his teammates hover, providing a nonstop monologue to anyone within range.

No, there will be no explanation of those religious beliefs. There won’t even be another reference to anything religious, except for celebrating Christmas with the family. So why the mention?

I had a friend who played football at UCLA a few years who was, in fact, deeply religious. I knew what that meant — for him. But what is the likelihood that most LA Times readers know what someone means when they say Moore is “deeply religious”?

For some reason, many reporters find it very difficult to write about faith and football. (It’s not really that tough, but, then again, I’m not a sportwriter.) At seems like unless the subject is Tim Tebow or, maybe, Tony Dungy, religion is considered too tangential to the story.

It’s unclear from this story about Moore, which left many other things to be desired too, whether religion should have gotten more attention. We just don’t know because there is not enough info there. But it does seem clear that the “Oh, and he’s also religious so you know he’s a good guy” line doesn’t belong. I’d even venture that it’s worse than using the D-word.

P.S. Go Bruins.

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  • Chris Bolinger

    “Like President Obama has said, spare the rod, spoil the child,” Moore said, with that ever-present grin. “My mom would whup me.” But, he said she would also “preach respect for elders, doing well in school and love the Lord. She made sure I always watched my Ps and Qs. My mom made sure that I made the right choices and was hanging around the right crew.”

    A quote like that clearly indicates the importance of religion (i.e. Christianity) in Moore’s upbringing. Reporter Chris Foster doesn’t get religion. Period. You’re right, Brad — it’s not really that tough.

  • Peter

    I’m curious what you think of the Urban Myers story that your colleague praised, since it is equally as shallow about Myers’ faith. Are there any coaches in the South who don’t talk in God-soaked language? Is a football player being “deeply religious” just par for the course in college football? I wonder what Hank Steuver would say about the Christian-immersed world of college sports. Of Tony Dungy and Tim Tebow? A critical eye–as oppposed to a fan’s eye–would be much appreciated.

  • Philip

    Deeply religious usually means something is morally freighted. One can be moral without being religious. The press doesn’t get it when it comes to religion! Why is there never any discussion of what such persons believe? What is his credo? What does he confess? In this case, we know he confesses that his mamma whupped him when he was bad.

    Big deal!