BU hoops and the trials of Job

The biblical character named Job, in my opinion, tends to be yanked into all kinds of public discussions that do not deserve being connected with his awesome story of pain, suffering and loss.

Nevertheless, as Baylor University graduate and as a member of an extended family that bleeds green and gold, let me suggest that the recent travails of the school’s basketball program may be the exception to that rule. The bloody mess the enveloped the university seven years ago has been called the worst scandal in the history of college basketball, and that’s saying something.

Now, the Baylor men’s basketball team is poised to take on mighty Duke tonight with a trip to the NCAA Final Four at stake. This means that it’s likely that all kinds of people in sports television are going to be retelling the story today of the near-miraculous rise and fall of Baylor hoops. (Meanwhile, the Lady Bears — after upsetting mighty Tennessee — are set to take on the Duke women Monday night, competing to punch a ticket to their Final Four. Imagine the odds of that.)

If you don’t remember the details of the scandal, watch the video at the top of this post for a flashback into the recent past. Then read the following report from the Dallas Morning News about this team’s journey deep into March madness:

Seven years ago, that kind of success looked unattainable. Tragedy and turmoil surrounding the murder of player Patrick Dennehy by a teammate and severe NCAA infractions nearly destroyed the men’s program.

While covering the tragedy, a publication for Baylor — the world’s largest Baptist University — referred to the Book of Job and its effort to reconcile evil that exists in the same world with God.

Asked this week for a biblical verse to describe the revival from that brutal low to this divine basketball madness, athletic director Ian McCaw, a deacon, cited Galatians 6:9.

“Let us not become weary in doing good, for at the proper time we will reap a harvest if we do not give up.”

Now that’s two scripture references in the space of a few punchy lines in a news story about sports. That’s kind of unusual, in and of itself.

But here is my question for GetReligion readers: In an age of staggering biblical illiteracy, do you think if was the right call for editors at a mainstream newspaper (even in a city as culturally conservative as Dallas) to make a simple reference to “the Book of Job and its effort to reconcile evil” without adding a single word of explanation? Can the copy desk assume that readers know anything about the rise, fall and rise of that Old Testament patriarch?

Just asking. I kept waiting for the story to return to the reference and offer a smidgen of content of context, but it never came. Strange?

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About tmatt

Terry Mattingly directs the Washington Journalism Center at the Council for Christian Colleges and Universities. He writes a weekly column for the Universal Syndicate.

  • trierr

    In Dallas, that reference is probably okay. For the rest of us, it’s more likely understood as a book the Fed uses talk about employment numbers.

  • Nathan Cusick

    Just as Utah newspapers should not assume all know what a “Bishop” does in the LDS church, Tx newspapers should not assume their readers know who Job is. Some readers might just think it’s a reference to Gob Bluth of Arrested Development (TV show). :)

  • http://markbyron.typepad.com/main/ Mark Byron

    I’d probably go with “reconcile suffering” rather than “Reconcile evil” in that sentence, but I’d rather err on the side of going a notch over the head of 10% of the readers than insult the other 90%. Christians and Jews have probably been exposed to Job in their trips into their houses of worship and the purely secular would likely be familiar with Job as part of the Clift’s Notes level knowledge of the Bible that even they would pick up along the way.

  • http://forgottencenotaph.blogspot.com J. Lahondere

    This makes me wonder whether the newspaper ought to know their audience, or whether the reader ought to be more well-read. Should a journalist stop using literary references to books and things the rest of the world doesn’t know anything about? It’s one thing to be willfully obscure, but at what point does a writer just have to “give up” and only quote Twilight and Star Wars?

    I think it’s kind of cool to make the reader “work” to get references, especially for something as universal as the Holy Bible. It tells the reader, “If you don’t know what I’m talking about, maybe you should go and read this book.” I don’t think that’s a bad thing.