I woke up this morning and pulled up the New York Times to see that conservative columnist David Brooks had attempted to join #Linsanity and write about New York Knicks breakout NBA star Jeremy Lin.
In “The Jeremy Lin Problem” Brooks opens with the following:
“Jeremy Lin is anomalous in all sorts of ways. He’s a Harvard grad in the N.B.A., an Asian-American man in professional sports. But we shouldn’t neglect the biggest anomaly. He’s a religious person in professional sports.”
After doing a spit-take, I re-read the graph again thinking surely Mr. Brooks was talking about something other than professional sports. Maybe he’s talking about another country? Because here in the US of A, professional athletes may be a lot of things, but nonreligious ain’t one of them.
Brooks then goes on to say that Lin’s Christian faith is a problem because he will struggle with not being able to reconcile faith and professional sports. Brooks then pontificates over others who have been unable to make their faith and dunking mesh since the goals of the two things are entirely distinct.
The modern sports hero is competitive and ambitious. (Let’s say he’s a man, though these traits apply to female athletes as well). He is theatrical. He puts himself on display.
He is assertive, proud and intimidating. He makes himself the center of attention when the game is on the line. His identity is built around his prowess. His achievement is measured by how much he can elicit the admiration of other people — the roar of the crowd and the respect of ESPN.
His primary virtue is courage — the ability to withstand pain, remain calm under pressure and rise from nowhere to topple the greats.
This is what we go to sporting events to see. This sporting ethos pervades modern life and shapes how we think about business, academic and political competition.
But there’s no use denying — though many do deny it — that this ethos violates the religious ethos on many levels. The religious ethos is about redemption, self-abnegation and surrender to God.
Let’s just ignore for a moment that he is being over broad and appears to have never heard of A.C. Green or Reggie White, who was actually an evangelical pastor as well as a professional football player. The idea that Jeremy Lin’s success in the NBA conflicts with his religious beliefs is so laugh out loud funny it almost seems as if Brooks skipped past editorial review to get this one published.
I would venture to say that Brooks doesn’t watch much (or know anything about) professional sports based, on his completely ridiculous analysis of how religion and sports are intermixed. The fact is that they are intermixed, all the time, and throughout all of professional sports. As The Atlantic’s Ta-Nehisi Coates hilariously (and correctly) tweeted this morning, “You know what would make Jeremy Lin an anomaly? If he were atheist.” According to Brooks, “Jeremy Lin is now living this creative contradiction.”
No, he isn’t. At least not more than if Lin worked in any other field. The contradiction here is the between David Brooks and his sports IQ.