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FAITH IN SPORTS: Athletes and Their Religion On and Off the Field by Steve Hubbard

FAITH IN SPORTS: Athletes and Their Religion On and Off the Field


Pub Date: March 1st, 1998
Publisher: Doubleday

A superficial glance at the presence of religion (really morality) in the lives of some prominent American athletes. Sports journalist Hubbard is the author of several books and many articles, but the experience hasn't helped to create a palatable style: Using bullets to parlay more than half of a book's information is a poor artistic choice, with depth everywhere sacrificed for a thin breadth. Depth certainly cannot be discovered in Hubbard's knowledge of religion. Though he lists athletes of many different faiths, he never explains the divergent beliefs of the scores of athletes he covers, from Tiger Woods to Evander Holyfield. He calls the Jewish festival of Purim ""Israel's Halloween,"" though Purim predates Halloween by centuries, and while he catalogs Christianity and Mormonism separately, he never tells us why Mormonism is theologically distinct. More seriously, he fails to knowledgeably distinguish between the Sunni Muslim beliefs of basketball star Hakeem Olajuwon and the Black Muslim beliefs of such figures as Muhammad Ali. This utter neglect of belief is a symptom of a larger problem. Everywhere, Hubbard treats faith and morality as interchangeable terms; this entirely functionalist view dictates that religion is a positive force in the lives of many athletes only because it promotes good work habits and clean living. Finally, the book (morality play?) is entirely male-centered, clearly directed at a male audience, as when Hubbard tells us that Promise Keepers founder Bill McCartney's story is ""a valuable lesson for us all because the measure of a man [is] to admit his feelings and strive to become the best person possible."" Unpersuasive and unsurprising.