Sun does it again: Ghost in the Ngata and Suggs friendship

Are you ready for some football!

GetReligion readers: What?!?

So, the National Football League season starts tonight with the world-champion Baltimore Ravens returning (due to a baseball schedule issue here in Charm City) to Denver to play the other beloved team of my heart, the Broncos.

As you would expect, this means that the team at The Baltimore Sun needed to churn out another lengthy news feature in which an obvious religion angle (a “ghost” in other words) was buried if not ignored altogether. This appears to be a Sun specialty.

In this case, the story focuses on the unlikely friendship between two radically different Pro Bowl-level members of the Ravens defense, massive nose tackle Haloti Ngata and linebacker Terrell Suggs.

The key is that Ngata is the straightest of straight arrows and Suggs has lived a rather colorful personal history, to understate the issue. Thus this key passage:

Of Tongan descent, Ngata’s activity of choice is a quiet night with his wife, Christina, and their two young boys. He lets loose on occasion with his teammates, but he never appears comfortable or content in front of reporters.

Meanwhile, Suggs — or “Sizzle,” as his teammates call him — is a movie and music buff who doesn’t shy away from the nightlife. While Ngata “just likes to be quiet,” Suggs’ voice reverberates everywhere. Yet the two are inseparable, especially, Ngata says, at the team facility, where “I can’t go by myself to do anything or he can’t, and if one of us does, we get on each other pretty bad.”

“If I told my wife I was with Haloti, she wouldn’t worry about a thing,” Suggs said. “She’d say, ‘All right, you guys have fun.’ He’s a real good person to be around, especially if you want to stay out of trouble. The man doesn’t even curse. Haloti is a big teddy bear, and everybody knows he’s an amazing family man. But when Haloti is in pads and he has a helmet on, there’s no more gentle giant. He’s ferocious.”

Hint, hint. And later on readers learn more about this dynamic:

… (N)ot everything is fun and games. When Suggs and Ngata are in the sauna or cold tub, the conversational inevitably steers toward their respective families. Suggs and his wife have two kids, while Ngata’s wife is due with a third.

“A lot of times, it’s just making sure that we’re both OK, not only on the field but at home,” Ngata said. “He’s always asked me for advice on marriage and being a father. I’m just proud of the way he’s grown to being the man that he has to his wife and the father he is to his kids. We always talk about when we’re retired, we want to have our kids call each other uncle and things like that.”

OK, so we have an ongoing dialogue about marriage, family, children and growing up as a man.

Now the Sun story doesn’t mention any of the nasty history behind this story. But plug “Suggs,” “Ravens,” “abuse” and “girlfriend” into a search engine and it’s easy to see why the the Ravens are probably very, very happy that the massive Ngata has taken Suggs under his large wing.

So, what makes this a GetReligion item?

Well, there was this one interesting fact earlier in the story that suggests that another factor may be involved in Ngata’s life, marriage and moral character.

Ngata lives in Utah in the offseason, while Suggs spends much of his downtime in Arizona. However, not a day would go by without them calling or texting each other to provide status reports.

Ah, Utah.

Might that mean, well, that we are dealing with a member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints? Might that have something to do with this giant man’s beliefs and lifestyle? Take a few seconds and click a mouse once or twice and it’s easy to see that the answer is “yes.”

Now, is this a relevant fact in a story about marriage, family, fatherhood and the growth of moral character?

Well, why not?

IMAGE: From the Baltimore Ravens homepage.

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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.

  • Darren Blair

    “Tongan” + “Mormon” = …

    As an actual Mormon, I’ve known several fellow Mormons who were Pacific Islanders. This includes several Samoans, someone from Hawaii, a Filipino, and a few people from various other islands.

    For most of them, it’s “God, family, and friends”. Words cannot describe how important their faith and their family are to them, and their friends are often counted as extended family members. If even half of what the article says is true, then – at least for Ngata – this has perhaps gone beyond the relationship between friends and is instead a relationship between brothers.

    And as far as Ngata going from “teddy bear” to “grizzly bear”?

    Suffice to say that among some Islanders, the “warrior” mentality is alive and well. Put them in a “combat” situation, be it real violence or a highly competitive athletic environment like football or wrestling, and they’ll go all-out.

    For example, my Filipino friend is a perfect gentleman and a trained chef who currently works in the deli department of a local grocery store. However, he’s also a trained martial artist whose response to someone’s attempt to carjack him included repeatedly introducing the carjacker’s head to the side of his (my friend’s) truck.


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