I avoid writing about athletes and God. When an athlete thanks God for his performance in a game, I stop writing in my notebook. Sometimes, my eyes glaze over. I refuse to quote an athlete talking about God.
I bring this up because of Cardinals quarterback Kurt Warner, who publicly invokes God many times a day, who regularly does it in news conferences and who, I imagine, is doing it right now in pre-Super Bowl media gatherings in Tampa. If I were covering a Warner news conference, I would ignore anything he says about the Deity. I am not anti-God, far from it. I am against athletes talking about God at the click of a microphone.
This is a relevant topic for us right now because Warner is in the Super Bowl and because Mike Singletary is coach of the 49ers. Both are God talkers, God squaders, God pushers, whatever you want to call it. The Niners signed Singletary for four years, so we will be hearing a lot about him and God, but I won?t write it.
I don?t mean to offend anyone. I mean to take a serious topic seriously.
Warner has every right to talk about his devotion to God as the Super Bowl approaches. God gives his life meaning. But I don?t write about him and God because I am not a religion writer. I am a sportswriter and his views on the Almighty are not relevant to the Super Bowl, do not answer the central question: Kurt, can you avoid the Steelers? pass rush?
What I just wrote might make me vulnerable to a specific criticism. I want you to know this. Sportswriters write profiles of athletes and coaches. If Warner and Singletary base their lives on God, sportswriters can?t adequately profile them without including God quotes.
Here?s my rebuttal. A person?s belief in God is highly personal. It is as personal as sex. I would not want or expect an athlete to tell me what he does in the bedroom with his wife ? ?Hey, it was whoopee time between me and the Mrs. last night, let me tell you.? And I don?t expect athletes to openly confess their highly personal relationship to God. It makes me embarrassed.
And there?s a certain paradox involved here. When I write a profile, I try to get close to the athlete, to get ?inside.? You might insist writing about someone?s belief in God is a way to get close.
I say, no. I say athletes say the exact same thing about God every single time and you never get past a certain point. God talk, in fact, is a way to impose distance between the athlete and the writer ? a way to deny entry.
I?m saying after hearing the same speech dozens of times I find it boring and redundant and predictable and off-putting and I think readers would, too.
I also don?t like to be preached to when I haven?t gone to church or synagogue. I expect to be preached to in a house of God, not on a football field. I feel uncomfortable when someone buttonholes me and starts proselytizing. I feel taken advantage of.
Of course, God talk by athletes invokes the larger paradox, the ultimate paradox. If God is on Warner?s side (or Singletary?s side,) does that mean he?s not on the side of the other team?