[I will continue to blog regularly through the holidays, but it'll be mostly cultural commentary and reviews. This will be my last full-blown column until next year.]
About this time last year, Sports Illustrated — one of any number of magazines to alienate readers like myself by inserting ill-informed left-wing political attitudes where they don’t belong — named Drew Brees its Sportsman of the Year. The New Orleans Saints quarterback had certainly earned the prestigious designation, leading his team and his city to an inspiring Super Bowl victory that seemed to hurl defiance at the devastation left by Hurricane Katrina a few years earlier.
The SI article by senior writer Tim Layden that accompanied the award opened with Brees addressing 400 adoring elementary school students.
“What is your empowering word?” asks one little girl.
And Brees responds: ”Faith.”
What follows in the article is a journalistic embarrassment. Layden proceeds to beclown himself by spending the next three long paragraphs attempting to obscure, rather than elucidate, what Brees is talking about. “[Faith] is a word that… can polarize — or politicize — an audience,” Layden informs us — though he’s honest enough to note that no one in this particular audience was polarized or politicized so we may assume he’s only reporting on his own imagination. Faith, he drones on, is the essence of sport: ”A player’s faith in the workaday value of practice…. A Team’s faith that its members can do more together…” And, unbelievably, on and on.
But let’s, as it were, go to the video tape. What does Brees himself — the presumptive subject of the article — mean by faith?
That’s right. When Brees talks about faith, he is talking about faith in Jesus Christ. J for J, esus for esus, Jesus. Was that so hard for Layden to say out loud? The answer, apparently, is yes. He reminds me of no one so much as the reporter anti-hero of my novel True Crime, who says, “Whenever someone… says Jesus as if they really mean it… it makes my skin crawl, as if they’d said squid or intestine…”