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Dallas Cowboys in the playoffs: So 'God-given' talent and 'faith' drive Amari Cooper?

Dallas Cowboys in the playoffs: So 'God-given' talent and 'faith' drive Amari Cooper?

Yes, America’s Team won a playoff game over the weekend.

No, that hasn’t happened a lot over the past two decades.

Want a religion angle on the victorious Dallas Cowboys? Look no farther than Amari Cooper, the Cowboys wide receiver obtained in a crucial midseason trade. But be warned of holy ghosts. More on that in a moment.

In advance of Saturday night’s wild-card game against the Seattle Seahawks (which Dallas won, 24-22), the Dallas Morning News published a lengthy front-page profile of Cooper.

In a lot of ways, it’s a really compelling profile. Various folks on Twitter described the story as “great,” “deep” and filled with “awesome details.”

The superb opening:

FRISCO -- Amari Cooper hit up a local suit store recently to shop for game day. Cowboys players are required to dress up, and their arrival at the stadium is treated like a virtual fashion show on social media.

The salesperson kept bringing him pairs of shoes to go with the looks. "No," Cooper kept saying, "no." His childhood friend who was visiting spied one pair and started laughing, Cooper recounted.

They looked like Cooper's old "church shoes."

Growing up in the west Coconut Grove neighborhood of Miami, Cooper was the youngest of five, and he owned only one pair of shoes at a time. He wore them for church, but also for school, for everyday, for playing football.

"They were my everything shoes," the wide receiver who changed the course of the Cowboys' season said in a recent interview with The Dallas Morning News. And, as he explained it, the shoes "talked," meaning the sole separated from the rest of the shoe and flapped.

"My mother, she used to buy super glue to glue the part back on," Cooper said. "But I was playing football ... so I would shake and run. They would always come back loose and the glue would be showing.

"It's kind of funny now. But all my friends remember that."

That early reference to church offers a clue that explaining what makes Cooper tick might include exploring his Christian faith.

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Holy ghosts in sports stories? It turns out somebody besides GetReligion has noticed them

Holy ghosts in sports stories? It turns out somebody besides GetReligion has noticed them

Holy ghostbusters!

This certainly is an interesting development.

I just came across a piece recently published by The Ringer, the website founded by sportswriter Bill Simmons. The headline: "NFL Scoops From Heaven." (Thanks to Arthur Freyre for the tip!)

Basic gist of the article: Why a Christianity-focused website got the exclusive when running back Matt Forte decided to retire:

This February, when Matt Forte decided to retire, he could have leaked the news to any NFL insider he wanted. Adam Schefter has the biggest reach. Handing the scoop to a reporter in Chicago, where Forte spent most of his career, would’ve counted as a goodwill gesture. But the reporter Forte settled on had one distinct advantage over the rest: He and Forte had talked about their faith in Christ.
On February 27, Forte called Jason Romano, who writes for a Christian website calledSports Spectrum. “I am a Christian athlete,” Forte told me. “Actually, I’m more Christian than athlete, and I wanted people to realize that first. I felt if I used one of the regular publications that are strictly sports-oriented that they’d leave Jesus’s name out of it.”
Romano prepared the scoop in just the way Forte wanted: with a brief statement and a podcast interview. Then Romano went to bed and hoped the news held. “My honest to God thought was, I hope this doesn’t get leaked to Adam Schefter or any of the guys on the NFL Network,” he said. The next morning, Sports Spectrum published its exclusive. In a competitive season of NFL scoopage, the site was credited by everyone from ESPN.com’s Rich Cimini to the Associated Press.

For years, we at GetReligion have been pointing out the God-sized holes in sports stories (examples here, here, here, here and here). For those new to this journalism-focused website, we refer to such holes as "holy ghosts."

In a 2010 piece for the Wall Street Journal, former GetReligion contributor Sarah Pulliam Bailey — now a national religion writer for the Washington Post — delved into why "God" talk tends to get sidelined in sports media:

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God credited with shrinking figure skater's brain tumor, but otherwise terrific story haunted by ghost

God credited with shrinking figure skater's brain tumor, but otherwise terrific story haunted by ghost

"Scott Hamilton Was Demoted as an Olympic Broadcaster. Don’t Feel Sorry for Him."

That's the headline on a fascinating New York Times sports column on the famous U.S. figure skater and broadcaster.

Why shouldn't we feel sorry for him?

If you really want to know, I'd urge you to click the link and read the full column. 

But basically, the idea is that Hamilton has suffered through a series of cancer battles and has his priorities in the right place. That means, as the Times explains, that the loss of his Olympic broadcasting gig hasn't hit him as hard as it might have otherwise.

The Times even hints that a higher power might be involved:

Hamilton said he had prayed about 12 times a day for it to go away. Doctors treated him with radiation, and the tumor did go away.

And later, there's this mention:

The tumor had shrunk, by about half. Hamilton choked up when describing what happened next.
“Have you ever had one shrink without treatment before?” he said he asked the doctor. “And the doctor said, ‘Nope, never.’”
Hamilton asked, “So how can you explain this?”
The doctor said, “God.”
It floored him. He was in the process of losing three friends to colon cancer, yet he, somehow, someway, was given this miracle? At his latest doctor’s visit, in December, the tumor was even smaller.

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