Monty Williams

Williams

There’s no denying it – production here has slowed in recent months. It’s not from a lack of interest. It’s just that work, life and other projects have taken up more of my time. And the presidential election year is just occupying more of my (admittedly limited) brain capacity.

I’m still here though.

One thing I wanted to highlight briefly was Monty Williams’ much-discussed eulogy this week for his wife, Ingrid, who was killed in a car accident on February 10. Williams, a former NBA player and current assistant coach, has five kids and the circumstances of the accident that killed his dearly departed wife would surely test anyone’s faith. But faith Williams has in abundance, and the clarity of his message of  love and forgiveness moved many people. I am not going to get into a discussion now about organized religion, the political wages of evangelical christianity in the United States, or the kind of religiosity that tends to predominate in sports circles in America.

I really just wanted to note that two of the very smartest guys in the sports commentariat – Dan LeBatard and CBS radio’s Nick Wright had similar and similarly interesting perspectives on Williams’ eulogy. Both essentially described themselves as non-believers, but both also said that, at a time like this, when Williams was confronting such a devastating tragedy, that they were both deeply envious that he had the capacity he did for love and forgiveness (his wife was killed when her car was hit by a driver going 92 in a 45 mph zone. That woman also died in the accident). Both discussed in thoughtful, nuanced ways their own beliefs, the limitations therein and how Williams’ own professions of faith gave them pause – an opportunity to reflect on how they themselves apprehend such matters.

In ways that struck me as unnecessary and besides the point, LeBatard harped a bit much on those atheists out there who are aggressively dismissive of the kind of faith that Williams articulated. He brought up Bill Maher more than once in this context. There are, of course, plenty of non-believers who are contemptuous of those who speak Williams’ language. But as a non-believer myself, one who isn’t a *proud* atheist but merely someone whom the spirit has not moved, I too have wondered with envy at times what it means to be able to draw from that particular well in the face of hardship. Wright avoided that semi straw man argument for what was, in some ways, a more personal digression about how Williams’ words touched him. But LeBatard also made an interesting distinction between celebrating and praising Williams on the one hand – something LeBatard wasn’t especially interested in doing – and, on the other, asking forthrightly, in the aftermath of such calamity “who wouldn’t want” some of what Williams has?

Last fall, Houston Texans’ running back Arian Foster caused quite a stir when he said he was a non-believer. In football in particular, where godliness is next to blocking and tackling in the sports’ moral hierarchy, Foster’s public statements were highly unusual. Typically, discussions of religion in sports reduce to pretty simplistic binaries. The result, generally, is that the Reggie Whites, Dabo Swinneys and Chris Broussards of the world have the floor and that those of less certain or absent faith typically keep it to themselves. Of course, it was precisely that kind of expression that merited almost universal praise this week. But it also, at least, allowed two of the best and brightest in the business an opening to articulate a contrary perspective, even as they noted with admiration how Williams faith allowed him to deal with the hand that fate has dealt him. For my money, the intelligence quotient of sports discourse increased this past week as a result.

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One comment

  1. It definitely increased the IQ of the sports discourse to have some thoughtful discourse from the other side. It is refreshing to hear legitimate conversation from a segment not usually heard from in the sports world on religion. Usually, all you hear is the typical sound byte from someone after winning a game or a Dabo Swinney-type who wears it on his sleeve and gives a holier-than-thou attitude. It also seems to me like Dabo pressures these kids, probably more implicitly with the threat of being ostracized rather than explicitly, to participate in his brand of religion while coaching at a public university.

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