Yo WPost: Tim Howard saves, but he says with God’s help

I have decided to yield to the inevitable.

This morning’s digital Religion News Service newsletter (click here to subscribe) is dead right: People still grieving Team USA’s loss need to surf through the CNN Belief blog’s redeeming dose of Twitter love for goalie Tim Howard and his modern-era World Cup record of 16 saves in one match.

My personal favorite from this digital tsunami:

In terms of news about Howard, the story of the day is the feature at The Washington Post, which begins by noting that goalkeepers tend to be radical individuals, but even by those standards “the tale of American goalkeeper Tim Howard is richer than most.”

The hook for this story is obvious — Howard has Tourette’s syndrome.

Thus, this is a tale of personal struggle, discipline and, well, some other mysterious factor that goes unmentioned.

“Between now and four years ago, I’ve played a couple hundred games for my club and country,” Howard said after the game. “Just more experienced. I don’t really get too high or too low. I think when you have a big tournament, that’s the important thing, managing emotion.”

It has always been that way for Howard. He always has had to think about managing emotion. The bigger the game, the bigger the moment, the more his tics and symptoms flare. “I’ve never counted [how many tics I have in a game],” he said in a 2013 interview with Spiegel Online. “It happens all the time, without any warning, and it increases the nearer an important game draws,” he said. “It always occurs more when I am particularly nervous.”

When the ball is far away, he says he indulges his twitches. “I don’t suppress it,” he told the German publication. But when an opposing striker approaches and readies an attack — which happened over and again on Tuesday — his muscles miraculously calm. “I have no idea how I do it,” he said. “Not even my doctors can explain it to me. It’s probably because at that moment my concentration on the game is stronger than the Tourette’s syndrome.”

Miraculously?

Hold that thought, because this Post report has an interesting hole in it.

The story does a fantastic job of discussing the syndrome itself, in terms of its potential to affect Howard’s work. Here is a key sample of that:

The standard stereotype of Tourette’s, a neurological disorder characterized by repetitive, involuntary sounds and movements that may afflict between 1 and 3 percent of people, is an image of a person cursing uncontrollably. But only 10 percent of Tourette’s patients exhibit that symptom, and Howard isn’t one of them. “I’ve never had a curse word simply slip out,” he said.

What does slip out: tics and twitches. They’ve been with him his entire life. … The tics would come in waves. “From the age of 9 to 15, it was just this chaos of different tics, and they were pretty strong,” Howard explained to Neurology Now. “I would just begin to figure out how a tic worked with my body, and, bam, six months or a year later, a new tic would come.”

But early on, he found an outlet: soccer.

The story also includes a brutal paragraph about the kinds of things that British football fans have been known to scream at a man — stationed in goal for Manchester United — who has Tourette’s syndrome. And then the global press? Yes, one newspaper called him “retarded.”

So what element of this story did the Post team’s analysis “miraculously” miss?

Well, this is a GetReligion post.

CNN, in its list of 10 essential things to know about Howard, led with this:

He’s a devout Christian

Faith is a key part of Howard’s life and shapes who he is.

“The most important thing in my life is Christ,” Howard said in a 2006 interview with Campus Crusade for Christ. “He’s more important to me than winning or losing or whether I’m playing or not. Everything else is just a bonus.”

How strange that there would be a God-shaped hole in this Post take on an amazing tale of personal triumph over adversity.

Just saying.

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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.


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