I have a hunch New York Times columnist David Brooks, upon further reflection, might regret writing this lede to his latest piece.
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.
I won’t claim to be an expert on such matters – though I know a certain executive producer of “The Rachel Maddow Show” who can speak to this in more detail – but Brooks’ observation strikes me as deeply odd. Wouldn’t the more dramatic anomaly be if we saw a high-profile atheist in professional sports?
From a distance, it looks as if religious people dominate American professional sports. Athletes and coaches routinely thank God for their success; teams often take a knee before games; prayer circles are common in the NBA; and touchdowns are often celebrated by players pointing to the heavens.
As Ta-Nehisi Coates noted this morning, it’s not at all unusual to see sports stars start ministries after their retirement.
Religiosity permeates pro sports in the United States in ways largely unseen throughout the world. Indeed, the second sentence of Brooks’ columns reads, “We’ve become accustomed to the faith-driven athlete and coach, from Billy Sunday to Tim Tebow.”
If we’re become accustomed to this, why is Lin’s religiosity his “biggest anomaly”?
As best as I can tell, his faith is arguably the least surprising aspect of Lin’s career and success.