Sportianity: A New Blog

Frank_Deford

Frank Deford coined the term “Sportianity”

Baylor University graduate student Paul Putz has started a blog on sports and American Christianity.

Here is how he describes “Sportianity“:

Let’s start with the name. “Sportianity” is a term coined by legendary sportswriter Frank Deford. He used it in a 1976 Sports Illustrated series on religion in sport (read more about that series here). Deford used it in a mostly negative sense, implying that Sportianity was a corruption of true Christianity; it was a religion “more devoted to exploiting sport than to serving it.”

I do not use it in the negative sense implied by Deford. Rather “Sportianity” is meant as a descriptive term for the unique cultural world that stands at the intersection of sports and (mostly evangelical Protestant) Christianity. It is inhabited by institutions like the Fellowship of Christian Athletes, Athletes in Action, and others. It is championed by media/publications like Sports Spectrum. And it is represented by celebrity athletes like Tim Tebow, Stephen Curry, and Maya Moore. 

Over the coming months I will focus on two types of content. First, book reviews/summaries. There are hundreds of books that take up the topic of sports and Christianity. Some are written from a critical perspective, others are intended to inspire true believers. Still others are biographies or autobiographies that focus on the faith of famous athlete and coaches. I will use this space to discuss some of those books, both new and old. 

Second, biographical vignettes. I’m currently finishing up a dissertation on the history of Sportianity. In my research I often come across the names of famous athletes from the past who were public about their faith. Many of those athletes will not make it into my dissertation, so I will post brief historical snippets about some of them here. 

Good luck with the new blog, Paul!  We will be reading.

Religion Writer: “Frank Deford was the “best of the best.”

DefordFrank Deford did not write about religion, but his contribution to the field of journalism recently got the attention of Terry Mattingly, one of the country’s premier religion reporters.

Here is a taste of Mattingly’s post at Get Religion: “Frank Deford: A ‘Roaring Lamb’ who was among the best of the best in journalism–period.

No one, during his career, would have dared call Deford a “Christian” journalist, because that label was way to narrow to describe what he did as a journalist.

{Sport executive Bob] Briner told me that Deford would never try to wear his beliefs on his sleeve. They were simply part of what he did. They helped inform the questions that he asked. What happened on a kneeler at church (Deford was a layperson chosen to read scripture from the pulpit at Christ & Holy Trinity Episcopal Church in Westport, Conn.) was part of his life and went into the mix when he took pen and reporter’s notepad in hand.

In other words, Deford was a reporter who dug into the finest of fine details of what made athletes and public figures tick and, if faith was part of that equation, then Deford gracefully included that in his feature stories. He asked questions. He listened.

Read the entire post here.