Got news? Looking at key facts in the Chris Davis timeline

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It’s the last day of the regular baseball season and for fans of the Baltimore Orioles there was a very bittersweet taste to the year. What does that have to do with religion-news coverage? While many will argue that baseball is a religion (click here for a classic), trust me that I will get to the real religion hook in this post soon enough.

While our O’s narrowly missed the playoffs, the team did have another winning season and made life uncomfortable for the Boston Red Sox. Do the math, people. It’s hard to have a winning season in the American League BEast. Cleveland Indian fans should feel thankful they are where they are.

Of course, one of the other big stories here in Charm City was Chris Davis and his Babe Ruth-ian season in terms of extra-base hits and home runs.

Although Davis has been a moon-shot slamming muscle man since high school, the rate at which he hit the long ball over the past 18 months or so raised predictable questions about performance-enhancing drugs. However, insiders noted that the big man actually lost weight entering this year and increased his foot speed, trends that rarely are linked to steroids.

So, if drugs weren’t the story, then what was the X-factor that helped calm down this anger-management case, allowing him to get his act together?

Simply stated, there is the baseball side and the personal-religious side. You would think that the two stories could be blended into one, but that does not appear to be a task The Baltimore Sun team is willing to attempt, other than the occasional tiny dose of vague God talk.

Here’s my question: What if it could be argued, looking at the timeline of the Davis lift-off into superstardom, that his marriage and his return to practicing the Christian faith of his youth were actually — in terms of on-the-record facts — crucial to this sports-news story? Should a newspaper go there, asking journalistic questions about those aspects of his life and including them as PART of the story?

With that question in mind, let’s look at the new Sun story about Davis’ year. Here is the overture:

Hank Aaron never hit as many as 53 home runs in a season. Neither did Ted Williams, Lou Gehrig, Frank Robinson nor Mike Schmidt.

So with 53 homers going into the final game, Orioles first baseman Chris Davis is not only the most prolific single-season slugger in club history. He’s part of a select group that includes just 17 power hitters in baseball history.

As the Orioles wrap up their season Sunday, short of the playoffs, it’s worth reflecting on what a rare show Davis gave Baltimore fans in 2013. He found that hard to do himself, talking about his season the day after the Orioles were eliminated from postseason contention. “It’s hard to reflect and look back on personal accomplishments right now, because I still have a sour taste in my mouth,” Davis said.

So what happened? Can Davis keep it going?

Davis knows he will enter next season facing a level of outside expectation he’s never experienced. If he returns to his 2012 level — 33 home runs would’ve placed him top 10 in the majors this year — fans will crinkle their noses. But he doesn’t seem concerned.

“I’ve expected it for myself for a long time,” he said. “I had struggles in Texas, and I think that’s where I got away from it. I tried to be a player that everybody else wanted me to be instead of the player I knew I was capable of being. Obviously, when you hit 50-plus home runs in a season, you’re going to draw some attention to yourself, but I just hope that everybody counts on me to be there every day and compete. The numbers are going to be there at the end of the season.”

So that’s one valid way to write the end-of-the-year story. It’s the baseball exclusive approach. What would the personal approach look like?

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Preach, Brother Leitch, Preach!

YouTube Preview Image Please check out this column from my favorite sportswriter Will Leitch. (And I’m not just saying that because he’s a die-hard St. Louis Cardinals fan like myself.) His latest piece for Sports on Earth, headlined “Thank God for Homers,” takes on the curious way that some other sportswriters handle Josh Hamilton’s religious utterances.

It’s basically a public service announcement to sports writers. But it works as a PSA for all writers, particularly those of us from different religious cultures than evangelical. It begins:

In a column this morning about Josh Hamilton, the one-time universally beloved All-Star who is having a rough go of it during his first month as an Anaheim Angel, Los Angeles Times columnist T.J. Simers asks Hamilton a snide, sorta condescending question.

Hamilton, who became a born-again Christian after his well-publicized struggles with substance abuse, tells Simers that, when fans are booing him, he turns to his faith, and The Bible, for strength. Simers, perhaps predictably, has a sniggering, obnoxious response.

“Does it mention anywhere in the Bible,” [Simers] asked, “what it takes to hit more home runs?”

Leitch explains that many people dislike athletes thanking God for their achievements. Drives them crazy, he says. They dislike the notion that God cares about little things like sports accomplishments. And they dislike the notion that God favors one team over another. Sportswriters roll their eyes and shut down their tape recorders when God gets mentioned. But, Leitch says, there’s a huge disparity between what these athletes are saying, and what the writers are hearing. For instance:

When Josh Hamilton won the Home Run Derby in 2008, here’s what he said afterward: “It’s amazing, the last few years, what God’s done in my life, and how quickly he’s done it.”

Now, here’s what non-believers hear when he says that:

God decided that I would start hitting a ton of home runs. He likes me more than He likes anyone else in this competition. Therefore, he made me win. I am so close to God that He has decided I should win this Home Run Derby. A couple of those balls I hit, God picked them up and carried them extra feet so they would get over the fence. God cares, specifically, about this Home Run Derby, more than he cares about poverty, starvation and disease. If God liked you as much as he liked me, you might hit home runs too. But he doesn’t.

But this is absolutely not what he is saying.

What Hamilton is saying when he thanks God is not that God somehow chose him over others. He is in fact saying the opposite: It is a humble acknowledgment that nothing any person does can ever be attributable to themselves. It’s a guard against pride.

Christianity isn’t some peripheral notion of Hamilton’s life; it is his life. When you live a Christian life, everything you do, from showing up to church on Sunday, to going to the grocery store, to pumping gas, to hitting a home run, to striking out, is done for the glory of Christ. Hamilton isn’t thanking Jesus for helping him hit a homer; he is thanking Jesus for everything. From the homers to the strikeouts to the millions of dollars to all the boos.

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USA Today: Jesus’ hometown was … Jerusalem

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I make no secret of my allegiance to God, my family and the Texas Rangers.

So yes, when Rangers superstar slugger Josh Hamilton was “called way out west over the winter by God and $125 million,” as Fort Worth Star-Telegram sports columnist Randy Galloway described it, I felt jilted. And yes, when Hamilton — now an Anaheim Angel — struck out twice in his return to Rangers Ballpark on Friday, I rejoiced at his expense (and may have scared the neighbors).

As those who have followed Hamilton (here at GetReligion and elsewhere) know, the former No. 1 pick in Major League Baseball’s amateur draft hit rock bottom before a return to the sport’s Promised Land. He credits his recovery to his Christian faith. So not surprisingly, he spoke in religious terms after going 0-for-4 in the Angels’ 3-2 loss to my Rangers yesterday. As one of my Facebook friends described it:

I learned something new from Josh Hamilton — apparently Jesus was booed the most in Nazareth because it wasn’t a baseball town.

Another person on Facebook pointed out that the Bible actually starts with a baseball reference. Genesis 1:1 says, “In the big inning, God created the heavens and the earth.”

Humor aside, I have an actual GetReligion-related reason for this post. In reading various stories about the boos Hamilton received in Texas, I came across a USA Today story that included this interesting nugget:

Hamilton, who signed a five-year, $125 million free-agent contract with the rival Angels, says he used the power of prayer to get him through the day. He even brought up the story of Jesus being rebuked in Jerusalem, saying it was the same for him being abused in his hometown.


“Somebody came and shared that with me,” Hamilton said. “Where did people get on Jesus the most? In his hometown. It’s one of those things, where baseball-wise, this is my hometown. They got after it.”

Um, is it me or does USA Today think Jesus’ hometown was Jerusalem? (It wouldn’t be the first time, of course, that a major news organization got such a simple fact wrong.)

Luke 4:16-30 (not to mention Mark 6:1-6 and Matthew 13:53-58) tells of Jesus going to his hometown of Nazareth and making his statement about a prophet having no honor in his hometown.

The Scriptures say that Jesus did not do many miracles there because of the people’s lack of faith.

Perhaps that explains Hamilton’s abysmal performance in recent outings in Texas.

Digging for news in (some) inauguration rites and wrongs

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Few paid much attention when a well-known liberal Episcopal priest, the Rev. Luis Leon, delivered the invocation at the 2005 inauguration of President George W. Bush, a somewhat traditional United Methodist.

The goal, apparently, was to have a range of religious leaders take part even if their own political and theological views did not match those of the president or his supporters. However, Leon — drawing primarily from The Book of Common Prayer — elected to offer a prayer that did not contain material that clashed with the views of the president. Perhaps the most quotable passage came at the end of his prayer, as he prayed on behalf of Bush and his team:

Endow their hearts with your spirit of wisdom that they may lead us in renewing the “ties of mutual respect which form our civic life.” Sustain them as they lead us to exercise our privileges and responsibilities as citizens and residents of this country that we may all work together to eliminate poverty and prejudice so “that peace may prevail with righteousness and justice with order.”

Strengthen their resolve as our nation seeks to serve you in this world that this good and generous country may be a blessing to the nations of the world. May they lead us to become, in the words of Martin Luther King, members of a beloved community, loving our neighbors as ourselves so that all of us may more closely come to fulfill the promise of our founding fathers-one nation under God indivisible with liberty and justice for all.

Of course, it made headlines when Leon — a quick replacement for an evangelical forced out because of his defense long ago of Christian teachings that sexual acts outside of marriage are sin — said the following during his benediction for President Barack Obama’s second public inauguration rite.

We pray for your blessing because without it suspicion, despair and fear of those different from us will be our rule of life. But with your blessing, we can see each other created in your image, a unit of God’s grace, unprecedented, irrepeatable (sic) and irreplaceable.

We pray for your blessing because without it, we will see only what the eye can see. But with the blessing of your blessing we will see that we are created in your image, whether brown, black or white, male or female, first generation or immigrant American, or daughter of the American Revolution, gay or straight, rich or poor.

Obviously, some prayers are more newsworthy than others. I get that.

However, I was fascinated that the moral and theological content of the inauguration prayers were so closely parsed, while other religious events linked to the inauguration were given very little attention and ink.

I don’t know about you, but I was fascinated with the lineup of speakers featured during the service earlier that morning at St. John’s Episcopal Church, where Leon has long served as the rector.

Unless I have missed it, all we have to go on is the White House pool report about the event. Here are a few key snippets:

After another hymn (“O God, our help in ages past,” sung by the full congregation), Pastor Joel Hunter delivered the opening prayer which included, “In your name we bless our president an Vice President and their families … use this service to consecrate not only them but those they serve…” He specifically mentioned members of the armed services as well.

Next was the Old Testament reading by Dr. Cynthia Hale, senior pastor at Ray of Hope Christian Church in Decatur, GA (Joshua 1:1-9), followed by another hymn (“Praise to The Lord, the Almighty”) and a reading of Psalm 139:1-13 by Rabbi David Saperstein of the Religious Action Center of Reform Judaism.

Next, the choir sang “Amazing Grace.” Then, the Gospel Reading (Matthew 6:25-34) by Cardinal Donald Wuerl, the Archbishop of Washington.

Now that’s a rather interesting piece of Gospel material there. But, oh, nevermind.

Now who preached that sermon?

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Josh Hamilton’s ‘blessing from above’

After one of the most incredible hitting performances in baseball history Tuesday night — including four home runs and a double — Josh Hamilton immediately gave credit to God.

The Texas Rangers slugger described his monumental performance as an “absolute blessing from above.”

Hamilton’s reference to his faith came as no surprise, of course, to anyone who has been paying attention.

I was curious, however, whether sports writers would allow the God angle to permeate their reports and columns on Hamilton’s feat — or permit ghosts to haunt their copy.

A quick survey reveals a mix of whiffs and solid contact (I focused on media outlets that don’t cover Hamilton every day):

• Swing and a miss: The Baltimore Sun — that newspaper that lands in GetReligion guru tmatt’s yard — took a big whack at the easy fastball:

There are few times when a visiting player comes to Camden Yards and puts on such a spectacular show that he turns the fans in his favor.

But Rangers slugger Josh Hamilton, the 1999 No. 1 overall pick who overcame the depths of drug and alcohol abuse to become one of the game’s top sluggers, orchestrated one of the most magnificent power displays in baseball history in the Rangers’ 10-3 win over the Orioles on Tuesday night.

But how did Hamilton overcome his demons? The Sun proceeded to tell a story completely devoid of any reference to Hamilton’s faith or even his quotes concerning his “blessing from above.”

• Solid single up the middle: Give The Associated Press credit for including Hamilton’s own words — his God talk — in its coverage:

“I think about what God’s done in my life, everything I did to mess it up,” he said. “To finally surrender everything and pursue that relationship with Christ on a daily basis and understanding when I don’t pursue it, I end up messing up. Understanding that what I’m doing and what God’s allowed me to do, coming back from everything I went through and allowing me to play the game at the level I play it, it’s pretty amazing to think about.”

And this:

Hamilton will become a free agent after this season, but that’s something he won’t deal with until the proper time.

“God gives me peace, man. I pray a lot. I want to be where he wants me to be,” Hamilton said. “If that’s Texas, I love it in Texas. And you know, I take it as far as day-to-day life, a one-day-at-a-time mentality not only for a recovering addict, but that should be for everybody. It’s one day at a time really because tomorrow is not promised and yesterday’s gone.”

• Long drive clears the fence in deep center: ESPN’s Jerry Crasnick nailed the story of Hamilton and the role of faith in his big night.

The top of Crasnick’s piece:

BALTIMORE — As a recovering drug addict and alcoholic, Texas Rangers outfielder Josh Hamilton has learned to abide by a relatively simple set of rules. He takes things one day at a time and lets his faith in Jesus Christ be a perpetual compass.

“I think about what God has done in my life, and everything I’ve done to mess it up,” Hamilton said late Tuesday night at Camden Yards. “What God has allowed me to do, to come back from everything I’ve been through and still be able to play the game at the level I play it — it’s pretty amazing to think about that.”

On those special occasions when Hamilton takes over the Home Run Derby at Yankee Stadium, or makes Baltimore fans who are so accustomed to dogging him stand up and cheer in unison, it’s time to look at the big picture. The casual fan has to marvel at a player who swings the bat with such ease and hits the ball so far, time after time. And the Rangers die-hard, who has more of a personal stake in Hamilton’s career path, can only guess what comes next and where his incredible story will end.

Hamilton treated a crowd of 11,263 to a show in Texas’ 10-3 victory Tuesday, setting an American League record with 18 total bases and becoming the 16th player in history to hit four home runs in a game.

Crasnick even allowed Rangers outfielder David Murphy to speak to his teammate’s faith:

Barely a month into the season, Hamilton is a walking endorsement for a free-agent truism: The price rarely if ever goes down over time. In this case, it’s true because he seems so oblivious to the stakes. His performance in 2012 is the polar opposite of a salary drive.

“Josh isn’t a guy who cares about money,” said outfielder David Murphy. “He’s put the Lord first, and everything else goes from there. You see a lot of guys play well in their ‘walk’ year before they go to free agency, and it’s obvious why they’re motivated. I think this is more of a coincidence than anything. You’re seeing a great player who is still getting better as a hitter. He’s putting things together and amazing us all as we speak.”

That’s a quick, around-the-horn look at the coverage I spotted. Your turn, GetReligion baseball fans: Any particularly exceptional or dismal stories that you’ve seen on Hamilton’s big night? Please be sure to include links.

Josh Hamilton’s Christian rehab

The demons are back. Not that they ever left.

Baseball star Josh Hamilton’s ongoing battle with alcohol and drug addiction made headlines again this week when the Texas Rangers slugger acknowledged drinking at a Dallas bar.

Anyone familiar with Hamilton’s riches-to-rags story knows that the former No. 1 pick in Major League Baseball’s amateur draft hit rock bottom before a return to the sport’s Promised Land. He credits his recovery to his Christian faith.

A contrite Hamilton appeared before the Dallas-Fort Worth-area sports media Friday and — speaking without notes — delivered a 12-minute statement about his relapse. He opened by mentioning his “relationship with the Lord.” In all, he referenced “the Lord” twice and “Christ” once.

That prompted this Twitter post from Randy, a minister friend of mine:

In presser, Hamilton talked plainly about “Christ being his rehab.” Are you surprised that in quotes on ESPN scroll, no mention of Christ?

I tweeted back:

@OK_Rope12 I’m not surprised. Then again, I write for @getreligion :-)

At that point, I had seen the transcript of Hamilton’s remarks but not any of the actual news coverage.

This morning, I took time to explore some of the coverage. Actually, I was pleased (and surprised) with how nicely many of the reports handled the religion angle.

For example, here’s a big chunk of the main story on ESPN’s Major League Baseball page:

“I cannot take a break from my recovery,” Hamilton said. “My recovery is Christ. My recovery is an everyday process. When I take that one day off, it leaves me open for a moment of weakness and it’s always been that way.

“For everybody that I’ve hurt, for fans, kids, people that have addictions that look up to me, I apologize to you. When you’re doing this, you don’t mean to hurt anybody, but you’re only thinking it hurts yourself, but I know it hurt a lot of people.”

After his public apology earlier in the day, Hamilton appeared as scheduled Friday night at a Christian men’s rally in Katy, Texas, near Houston. He again didn’t take any questions, and spoke only to the congregation.

“I could hide in shame and not show up tonight and be withdrawn, but I didn’t want to do that,” Hamilton told the group while reiterating his Christian faith. “I’m doing what I had to do today. I am fessing up. I am going to be a man about it, I am fessing up. People are going to call me a hypocrite, but I am a sinful man.”

Hamilton’s wife Katie posted a couple of messages on her Twitter account earlier in the day.

“Truly appreciate all the encouraging & supportive tweets we’ve been getting,” one tweet said. “God is Faithful and forgives — so thankful that you all are.”

Another tweet read: “Showing us such love and encouragement during this time.”

No religion ghost there. Please forgive me, ESPN, for ever doubting you. (And please forgive Randy, too.) The Associated Press provided similar coverage.

The Houston Chronicle noted that St. Louis Cardinals slugger Lance Berkman, Hamilton’s foe in the 2011 World Series, showed up at the men’s rally Friday night to support his fellow evangelical Christian.

Alas, the Fort Worth Star-Telegram’s main story managed to report on Hamilton’s statement without one use of the terms “Lord,” “Christ” or even “Christian.” There was this vague note:

His focus has returned to his plan to stay sober, which starts with his faith and is aided by reaching out to his support network during times when he isn’t as strong as he needs to be.

His faith in what?

Maybe the Star-Telegram (which featured a column Friday that alluded to Hamilton’s “religious faith”) assumes that everybody in its reading audience already knows all about the slugger’s Christianity.

Then again, how difficult would it be to add that one simple word (“Christian”) between his and faith?

Do you believe in Tebow?

I bleed Orange and Blue, which means that I’m having a great year. My Denver Broncos, who were completely out of the running just a few games in, somehow managed to tie for first place in the AFC West last week. And this week we — yes, I’m a key component of the team’s success — had another amazing win in overtime to get first place on our own. I had already psychologically prepared for this week’s loss. We were behind 10-0 with just minutes remaining in the 4th quarter. Unbelievable.

I was fine with the Broncos picking Kyle Orton over Tim Tebow as starting quarterback earlier this year, but I think everyone agrees that the decision to hand the reins over to Tebow has made for some fun football. Fun, heart attack-inducing football. Week after week, Tebow pulls off some improbable come-from-behind scenario to send the game into overtime or winning in the last minutes.

But the weirdest thing of all about Tebow is how so many of his lovers and loathers are basing their feelings about him on his religious persona. I just like him because he wins, but apparently I’m in the minority. This weekend we saw tons of coverage of Tebow and much of it was focused on religion. Here’s the Christian Science Monitor. Here’s Frank Bruni in the New York Times (with a good column ending in a lamer-than-lame kicker). Here’s Salon‘s “Hallelujah! The Liberal Case For Tim Tebow.” Last week Grantland had Chuck Klosterman’s analysis of Tebow haters. And since we’re linking things, here’s a nice non-religiony think piece from last month on what Tebow demonstrates about changes in the NFL. As I type this, Bob Costas is featuring Tebow-mania for his monologue.

I may be a tad biased, but Sarah Pulliam Bailey’s Tebow Christianity Today Q&A from the summer is still a great read.

But the piece I rather enjoyed from this weekend — and would recommend for anyone hoping to learn exactly why Tebow is loved and loathed both during play and after it — is an excerpt from Patton Dodd’s e-book “The Tebow Mystique: The Faith and Fans of Football’s Most Polarizing Player.”

That e-book has been getting a bunch of buzz recently and the Wall Street Journal featured a bit from it on the front page of the review section for its Saturday Essay. “Tim Tebow: God’s Quarterback” discusses how “he has led the Denver Broncos to one improbable victory after another—defying his critics and revealing the deep-seated anxieties in American society about the intertwining of religion and sports.” After describing one of the various improbable victories, we learn:

And when the shouting was over, Mr. Tebow did what he always does—he pointed skyward and took a knee in prayer. In postgame interviews, the young quarterback often starts by saying, “First, I’d like to thank my Lord and Savior Jesus Christ” and ends with “God bless.” He stresses that football is just a game and that God doesn’t care who wins or loses.

This combination of candid piety and improbable success on the field has made Mr. Tebow the most-discussed phenomenon of the National Football League season.

Since I’m an expat living on the East Coast, yesterday was the first game I’d gotten to see instead of listen to on a live stream of KOA-850 (remind me to tell you the fun and delightful story about how Comcast failed to fix my cable for day after day surrounding the Monday Night game featuring the Broncos last month). If you watched the post-game yesterday, you saw Tebow do exactly these things in his interview.

The article discusses how sports and religion mingle regularly and how various players acknowledge their faith during or after games. But Tebow, we’re told, “has never been content to leave his evangelical faith on the field.” We are reminded of that Focus on the Family pro-life ad that ran during the Superbowl last year:

The ad takes the softest possible approach to the subject and never uses the terms “abortion” or “pro-life,” but its intent was clear, and it generated controversy. Since then, feelings about Mr. Tebow have been a litmus test of political and social identity. If you think he’s destined to be a winner, you must be a naive evangelical. If you question his long-term chances as an NFL quarterback, you must hate people who love Jesus.

I only feel safe saying this as a diehard Broncos fan who loves Tebow but these stereotypes have a basis. Of course, they also don’t capture the entire range of thought, which we get to later in the piece.

Anyway, the piece gives some fascinating history about how basketball, volleyball and other sports were invented by Christians and a bit about the religious motivation that led them to do that.

One of the under-reported features of Tebow’s popularity is that it’s nice for parents to be able to point to an athlete who is not flaunting immorality in his day-to-day life. The piece gets into that, noting the career threats of defective character. To wit:

More recently, we have seen the disrupted careers of star athletes like Michael Vick, Plaxico Burress and Tiger Woods—men whose lives in professional sports have been undermined by character faults. Such stories are more common than we realize. For every Michael Oher (Mr. Lewis’s subject in “The Blind Side”) who overcomes harsh beginnings and makes it, there are many other promising athletes who are overcome by their own worst impulses. They lose, the game loses and fans lose.

And we get a look at the other side of the coin — folks like Josh Hamilton and Tony Dungy who have support in religious communities. Dodd argues that many critics are driven crazy by “the equanimity and generosity that his faith inspires in him.” We are reminded of his mercy and missionary work and given several anecdotes and data points.

Mr. Tebow’s acts of goodwill have often been more intimate. In December 2009, he attended a college-football awards ceremony in Lake Buena Vista, Fla. The night before, at another gala at Walt Disney World Resort, he met a 20-year-old college-football fan named Kelly Faughnan, a brain-tumor victim who suffers from hearing loss and visible, continual tremors. She was wearing a button that said “I love Timmy.” Someone noticed and made sure that the young woman had a chance to meet the player.

Mr. Tebow spent a long while with Ms. Faughnan and her family, and asked her if she’d like to be his date for the award ceremony the following night. She agreed, and the scene of Mr. Tebow escorting the trembling young woman down the red carpet led much of the reporting about the event.

The piece looks at sites that highlight — if not kid about — Tebow piety. There’s the obligatory reference to Tebowing and I loved learning that the Internet meme was started by a Jewish Broncos fan and that support for the site has come from rabbis who are pleased that prayer in public is being treated favorably. I also loved the mention of a young boy who Tebowed with an IV attached to his arm “Tebowing while chemoing.” Also, if you haven’t checked out the web site lately, there are some great recent Tebowing pictures uploaded, from wedding guests in front of a wedding cake to an airline pilot in front of his plane.

The discussion of Tebow’s eyeblack actualy quotes various Scripture verses, including “Philippians 4:6-7, which reads, in part: ‘And the peace of God, which passeth all understanding, shall keep your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus.’” There’s actually a really interesting graphic where three of the many eyeblack verses are explained (left).

I liked that the graphic accurately used the word Gospel. I did read one complaint on Twitter from Andy Crouch:

I am nearly sure Tim Tebow does not read the KJV. Why do national media keep quoting from it rather than a neutral modern translation?

I’m not entirely sure we know what translations a given Christian might read in their home but I’m interested in the view that the King James Version is somehow less neutral than another translation. I frequently use King James or New King James when I’m quoting Scripture in my writing even though it’s not primarily what I use in my home or church. Not to mention that the particular verses quoted above are quite readable for having been translated centuries ago. Anyway, I wanted to mention this complaint because I’m very curious what other readers think about it.

The final part I wanted to highlight from the piece was a discussion of hypocrisy. I have this friend who is very upfront about his cynicism. He openly roots for both the New England Patriots and Tebow’s eventual moral downfall. The article addresses this phenomenon and how we are all better able to handle moral failure than trust in anyone’s goodness.

The essay does a nice job of hitting many elements and giving a solid overview of the Tebow phenomenon and the religious angles. (Go Broncos!)

Pod people: Beyond baseball

It’s baseball playoff season, which makes me feel slightly uncomfortable. I really don’t like feeling out of the loop because I read the Internet quite a bit and like to feel “in the know.”

At the risk of further annoying my esteemed colleagues, I’ll admit that baseball comes across my consciousness about 50 seconds per year. I simply prefer watching other professional sports, but I also know and respect that Bobby is following his beloved Rangers right now.

That said, I will read the stories that go above and beyond the usual game story, but few sports reporters seem to know how to execute a religion angle in a compelling way. For instance, the coverage of Josh Hamilton’s faith has been gone in waves, it seems. His faith came up yet again when a man fell to his death this summer trying to catch a ball at a game in front of his six-year-old son. His son threw the first pitch at a Rangers’ game, where Hamilton met and talked with his mother.

In what appeared to be a short period of time, Hamilton later revealed an interesting conversation. “I asked her if they were believers in Christ,” Hamilton said. “She said they were. I said, ‘Well, we know where your husband is right now and make sure that the little one knows who is daddy was and what he stood for. Make sure he understands that.’” Yes, it’s Josh Hamilton, but I was a little surprised that he would get in a conversation about heaven in such a short period of time and that he revealed those specifics.

Many athletes talk about their faith after winning a game or praying before a game, but few reporters seem to look for ways the athletes “show not tell” about their faith. There are also some tough questions journalists could pose to Hamilton, like how God has a plan for everything in the middle of a tragic death.

Even non-baseball fans can connect with these kinds of stories. Religion is one way sports reporters can make their stories resonate with more than just fans of a sport or team.

I talk about this and more (hint: some more about the personal faith of journalists while they cover religion) in GetReligion’s most recent podcast. Tell us: What kinds of religion details do you look for in sports stories? Are there questions you think reporters could explore specific to athletes?