Religion has been an especially big topic in the sports world this year.
The two biggest stories of the past year – Tebow Mania and Linsanity – both centered around young men for whom faith is a key element of their lives, and neither has been bashful about saying so.
As big as the Tebow Mania and Linsanity stories have been, no individual sports story has been bigger to me, a child of Bloomington, Indiana, than the resurgence of Indiana basketball under head coach Tom Crean, another man whose life is driven by his faith and who is not bashful about saying so.
Today, Coach Crean said so again on Twitter, as he does quite often (typically in the form of retweeting Joyce Meyer), but this time his choice of words drew a stronger reaction than normal. I’m curious what people think about it.
Here is some context, then let’s discuss.
First, the tweets, sent today around 9:15 CT:
(Note: For anyone who reads this who is not a regular tweeter, go from the bottom up to read in the order in which they were sent.)
As an avid follower of Coach Crean’s on Twitter, of course, I saw these almost immediately. For the record, here is the tweet I sent off right away in response:
My response to the tweet draws a direct connection that infers Coach Crean believes people who were raised in a home where Church is a regular activity and who continue going even away from home were raised “the right way.”
The 140-character nature of Twitter often requires word parsing and coming to conclusions that require logical inferences, so I want you to know mine here. I fully acknowledge that they could be wrong, or that someone else could interpret this in a totally different way.
It’s quite possible that Coach Crean believes that there are other ways to be raised the “right way,” but the point here is that a lot of people are interpreting the tweets similarly to how I did. A smattering:
As you can see, the tweet has been favorited 14 times, so people taking exception to Crean’s tweet is far from unanimous. These five responses just happen to be the ones that come up when you open the tweet at Twitter.com.
One of the responses to this series of tweets by Crean that I found most noteworthy came from @ChronicHoosier, who is well known in IU circles for his unyielding support of IU athletics and his strong, influential opinions about them.
I have spoken with him on a few occasions during episodes of The Assembly Call, and while supportive he has, in general, always seemed to keep Crean and his all-around coaching and program-building methods at more of an arm’s length while the majority of the fan base (including me), especially this year, has far more fully embraced Coach Crean.
Here were his responses to Crean’s tweets from this morning:
The scripture verse linked in his second tweet is this one.
Also worth noting is that many IU players tweet often about their faith. Freshman Remy Abell and junior Christian Watford, in particular, invoke God and their faith often in tweets. Others do as well, but I just happen to see Remy and Christian’s tweets the most. Cody Zeller’s Twitter page is designed as something of a shrine to his faith. So clearly many IU players share their coach’s strong faiths and willingness to discuss it openly.
It is also worth noting, as I have noted many times on The Assembly Call, that one of my favorite attributes of IU’s resurgence and this year’s team in particular, is how well every player represents Indiana on the court and off. There has not been one peep about any discipline problems with any current IU players, and the team had a 3.09 GPA during the fall semester. These are terrific kids. However they were raised, they certainly turned out well.
But that gets to the entire point, which I can now return to with the context, I think, properly set.
Do you take issue with Tom Crean’s tweets, either specifically or in general?
As I said in my response tweet to Coach, I believe there are many “right ways” for kids to be raised. I was raised in a house with parents who have split religions and was given a lot of freedom explore my own spirituality. I like to think I’ve turned out okay, and I know many others who have turned okay too, who follow the Golden Rule whether they call it that or not, and who were raised with and without church and religion being a big part of their life.
I don’t begrudge Crean his beliefs and feelings. If he believes raising kids in the church is the “right way” for him and his family, I think that’s great. Conviction is a great thing. He should absolutely hold onto that. What’s great about the United States is that we are all free to believe what we want to believe and say what we want to say.
And maybe I and many others mistook his full meaning. Or perhaps his words came out differently than he intended. That’s fully possible and happens often on Twitter. Maybe he wasn’t trying to imply that those of us raised outside of church-going families were raised something other than the “right way.” Perhaps he acknowledges that the “right way” for him may not necessarily be the “right way” for all.
But I do have to admit that as much I love and admire Coach Crean for his indefatigable and passionate work to return IU to respectability on and off the court, I was a little bothered by this series of tweets. They just rubbed me the wrong way, simply because I felt implicitly rebuked. It seems others did as well. It doesn’t change my opinion of him as a coach and program leader, nor does it alter support for him, but I do think it’s worth pointing out and I am curious to see what other IU and non-IU fans think of it.
Is this appropriate for a guy in Crean’s position to be tweeting?
From a basketball standpoint, as a recruit or parent of a recruit who is not the church-going type, would this influence your ultimate college decision?
Should I or anyone else even be bothering trying to interpret and discuss tweets, religiously-loaded or otherwise, or is this a total non-story?
These are the questions running through my head as I close this post.
I asked some folks on Facebook what they thought about it, and as I expected got a variety of responses such as these:
“Well he’s implying that if you don’t attend church you’re not raised the right way, which is pretty close-minded. Comes across as a little bit arrogant.”
“It’s his account. He can say whatever he wants.”
“Everyone is entitled to their opinions, but he has basically said that anyone who wasn’t raised in a church was raised the wrong way – which means everyone who wasn’t raised in a religion that attends church was raised the “wrong” way – which is kind of offensive. Is everyone on that team christian?”
“I’m a non-religious sort. This doesn’t offend me (now, poor perimeter defense and turnovers, those offend the bejesus outta me)”
I’d love to hear some reactions here too – assuming we can all do it in a way that is respectful of everyone’s beliefs, which I hope I’ve been to Coach Crean and others who believe like him and agree with him. This post is not an attack on church nor religion, but because of the general reaction Crean’s tweets seem to have sparked, and the ongoing discourse about sports and religion, it seems to me like a worthwhile conversation to have. Let’s have it.
One of my co-hosts on The Assembly Call, Ryan Phillips, a fellow IU fan and the founder of Rumors and Rants, chimed in on this topic via email. I want to post his reaction here because my goal with this piece was never to push any type of agenda, and I think he provides a nice alternate viewpoint to what I provide above:
I honestly don’t think he was saying people not growing up in the church were raised “the wrong way.” I think he was just saying that these guys were particularly raised the right way. There is no implication that there is only one “right way.” I consider myself a christian but I’m not an avid church-goer and I was not offended by what he said in the least.
I simply think he was reveling in the fact that he has a team full of good kids who go about their business in the right way. If they all grew up in and around the church, then that obviously has something to do with it.
I’m not a fan of personal evangelism from public figures (Tebow and Lin included) but I also don’t get offended by it. If someone has something they can rely on that makes them happy and enriches their lives, then who am I to rip on them for expressing it?
As for the “raised the right way part” I really think that’s splitting hairs. We all know Crean is a good guy and I sincerely doubt anything negative was meant by the comment.