One of the realities of sports journalism is that, year after year, the newspapers that cover professional teams have to find some kind of hook that justifies a feature story on each of the local superstars. This is not easy work. Think of it as the sports equivalent of the annual challenge faced by religion-news reporters who are asked to find fresh, valid angles for news reports linked to Christmas, Passover, Ramadan, Easter, etc.
Yes, we can also assume that for many people baseball is a religion in and of itself (Cue: Annie Savoy).
Thus, the team at The Washington Post is required by the unwritten laws of journalism to produce an annual feature story about pitcher Stephen Strasburg until he fades, is traded or pops his elbow again. From the very beginning these stories have been haunted by a religion ghost, as shown in this passage from his first year, when he was the most analyzed rookie in baseball:
While the Nationals might wish he were more PR-savvy, in other ways he is exactly what you would want in a future superstar. His humility earns him universal praise from those around him. In his postgame news conferences, he speaks passionately about the team and the game’s outcome.
He is deeply religious without being public about it. He’s a devoted husband and a homebody.
Do a quick Google search and you’ll find out that people are still asking what that means. What about his name? Is he Jewish? It appears not. A Mormon publication once wrote about him. Is he a member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints? Good luck researching that. Is he just vaguely “spiritual” or what?
The key, apparently, is that Strasburg does not appear to be Tim Tebow religious, which is what really matters to public-relations pros who work for major-league teams.
Anyway, this brings us to this year’s obligatory Post profile of the superstar. The headline certainly hints at subjects beyond the pitcher’s mound:
Stephen Strasburg takes new approach, perspective into Nationals’ 2014 season