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Basketball and Religion

February 21, 2012

Hey Guys,

I know I sent the rent control article yesterday, but here’s one worth discussion for sure.

It’s about Jeremy Lin and about the conflict religious athletes face between greatness and humility.  The fourth paragraph from the last is particularly interesting.  Lin says:  “I’m not working hard and practicing day in and day out so that I can please other people. My audience is God. … The right way to play is not for others and not for myself, but for God. I still don’t fully understand what that means; I struggle with these things every game, every day. I’m still learning to be selfless and submit myself to God and give up my game to Him.”

I’d appreciate your thoughts about this, guys.  It’s busy days for all of us, and I know I don’t have time to respond to this today, and maybe even tomorrow, but like I said, I think it’s an interesting topic for discussion.

From → Uncategorized

  1. that is an interesting article although, i don’t know that i have much
    to add since i tend to agree with Mr. Brooks. there seems to be no
    way to reconcile these two “moral universes”, at least not the way he
    describes them. as an atheist i have even less to contribute since
    I’v never felt any pressure to please anyone other than myself and my

    in a separate but related note, i don’t mind a devout athlete. from
    the articles i scanned, Lin seems very religious and while it may get
    a bit tiresome; i don’t have a problem with it. An example of what i
    do have a problem with is Tim Tebow and his pro-life commercial.
    While he’s certainly allowed to do that sort of thing, i can’t stand
    being preached too. I wonder how Tebow deals with these issues?


    PS Here’s an interesting related article:

  2. I am responding both to Vic and Berto’s comments (sorry, Berto, Vic
    sent me your reply to him which I’ve taken the liberty of reading and
    disagreeing with):

    In my view, both Brooks and the Gothamist miss the point, but the
    Gothamist article is far less helpful to this debate and downright
    mean-spirited. Contrary to the Gothamist, the key word is not
    “anomaly”. The key word is “religious”.

    For Brooks, he essentially defines “religious” has comprising certain
    values: “You achieve your identity through self-effacement. You
    achieve strength by acknowledging your weaknesses. You lead most
    boldly when you consider yourself an instrument of a larger cause.”
    Brooks concludes that ultimately, the primary virtue of Jews,
    Christians, and Muslims is humility.

    But not all “religious” people (or athletes) live out of these values.
    Brooks is not talking about faith in some deity as central, but what
    values originate from the belief in a deity. The Gothamist writer
    misses this distinction by failing to take stock of the fact that
    Brooks is talking about a PARTICULAR definition of “religious” (i.e.
    humility and loss of oneself to find God). Even within Christianity,
    there is tremendous variation in terms of what constitute the the
    primary values of what Christianity is. Jeremy Lin may share Brook’s
    definition, but not every athlete may share that particular
    perspective on what it means to be a Christian.

    This is where I take issue with Berto’s comments about being an
    atheist and dislike of Tebow’s advocacy in pro-life commercials.
    Berto, you agree with Brooks assessment that the two moral universes
    of sports and religious are irreconcible. But Brooks wasn’t defining
    “religious” as just a belief in God, but more importantly he was
    talking about a set of values attached to that belief.

    (As an aside, this is why I believe Berto’s atheism constitutes a
    “religion” and deserves constitutional protections. Atheism is, quite
    simply, the belief that there is no God. Since this can’t be proven
    to an absolute certainty, it is a system of belief founded on the
    non-existence of a deity (rather than the existence) which requires
    the same kind of faith as a religious person – at least when you get
    to the absolute proveability).

    Now here is the interesting part. If Brooks’ definition of religious
    constitutes the values and not just the God part, Sport’s central
    value to “please himself and his teammates” is a type of “religious”
    belief. Every time an athlete sells a particular drink, wears a
    particular shoe, sponsors a particular product, he/she is asserting a
    particular set of values. The only difference is that certain
    “religious” athletes (like Tebow) explicitly state the basis (i.e.
    God) for their values (i.e. pro-life). In my opinion, this is far
    more intellectually honest than some athlete making millions by
    attaching their image to a pair of sneakers that will never, ever
    transform you or I into that athlete. Nor do they state the basis,
    which (gasp) far too often is simply motivated by personal greed and
    capitalism (note my enormous respect for Magic Johnson’s profitable
    endorsement of fast food joints in poor neighborhoods that exacerbate
    obesity and illness).

    You might disagree with Tebow’s message, Berto, but don’t claim it’s
    because you don’t like being “preached to”, because every athlete who
    speaks publicly about any subject is “preaching” something whether
    they like it or not. I don’t care if it’s how many women they can
    sleep with or work with cancer patients. Everyone is peddling
    something, it’s up to you to figure out whether you want to buy it.

    Would love your feedback,

  3. John, I’m not sure if I agree with you. The difference between Tebow and the other athletes is that Tebow is using a forum that is generally used for selling products to promote a religious belief, and a deeply divisive one at that. Yes, our beliefs inform our actions, and perhaps everything we do (including selling products on TV) reflects that. But there is an argument for “a time and a place” and Tebow overstepped boundaries. And while I’m sure you can argue that it’s consistent with other commercials that are shown on TV that are values-based, like promoting women in sports for instance, there is the aspect of degree that ought to be taken into consideration because these kinds of commercials are not all equal.

    As much as Tebow is trying to promote his beliefs, he’s also helping to create larger fissures between two opposing sides on abortion issues. And I concede that Tebow has the right to do it, but it’s blatantly offensive to many and ultimately impolitic. Just because you can do something, does not mean you should. There’s a difference between selling Air Jordans and selling a Pro-Life message if for no other reason than one is considered by the vast majority of the population to be relatively innocuous while the other spurs deeply personal feelings on justice, feminism, religion, etc. I have the right to advertise anything, but that doesn’t mean I ought to. That sort of stuff is best left out of the television sphere.


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