I’m going to start this off by saying that I like Tim Tebow, I really do. And before you click out of your browser because you’ve seen his name here, stick around – this one isn’t all about him.
This one’s about Justin Masterson. If you know much about Masterson’s personal life, you’ll know where this is going. And if you don’t, just keep reading.
I’ve never been a fan of religion and sports. Separate, yes. But together, no. I understand that athletes look to their religion for inspiration, gratitude and to stay grounded, but bringing it into the world of professional athletics crosses a line. Using professional sports to exploit your religion is wrong – using religion to better your game and yourself? Perfectly acceptable.
I was sitting at the Tribe game over the weekend looking at each and every player as they came to bat. Sitting in front of me was a dad and his son. What drew my attention first was the kid’s excitement over the players. The kid was probably about 8-years-old and would report which player was steeping into the batter’s box, as if his dad couldn’t merely look at the scoreboard to see for himself. Seeing the kid’s excitement over the players made me wonder which ones he looked up to the most. As I thought about my future children (not that I’ll have any within this decade), I decided that Justin Masterson would be the ideal role model.
Masterson is open about his faith, but he isn’t drawing attention to himself with it. No public sermons to thousands of people and no interviews or pressers about faith. Just a hard-working, humble athlete who focuses on his sport.
Plenty of athletes find modest ways to implement their faith with their game, but they don’t find the need to tout it to the world. It’s fine for an athlete to reveal their religious views and share them within their own platforms, such as a personal blog, but is it necessary to seek attention for it at all times?
Once again, this isn’t saying that Tebow shouldn’t be allowed to utilize his popularity to share his religious views. He has the right to free speech and it’s understandable that society is seeking a good role model with the likes of Ben Roethlisberger and Metta World Peace running around these days. But bear in mind, professional sports are business. And if there’s one thing I’ve learned in business, it’s nothing personal – and if it is personal, it gets ugly. Professional sports are exactly what they denote – they’re professional. It would be inappropriate to walk around the office peddling your religion, so why is the football field or baseball diamond any different? Part of professionalism is focusing on one’s job. Tebow’s job is to play football. When he made the decision to enter the world of pro sports, his faith should have become secondary on his agenda.
And I know – it’s not like Tebow asks for the attention he receives. I often feel bad for the guy. But on the other hand, Tebow picked his own poison when he decided his religion was more important than his NFL career. His unwavering faith is commendable. It’s nice to see athletes who are willing to stand up for something that is so scrutinized – but if he’s going to stand up for it, he needs to separate it from his athletic career.
Back to Masterson. What speaks most for him are his actions and his character. Masterson lets his actions doing the talking by simply implementing fundamental Christian values into his attitude. He doesn’t need to tell people, “I remain humble and honest because it’s the Christian thing to do”, he merely does it without explanation. This is why I would want my children to look up to Justin Masterson. In fact, this is why I look up to Justin Masterson. He plays the game of baseball the way it was intended; with humility, hard work and upstanding value. And he doesn’t attribute it all to his religion. He endorses his faith, but he doesn’t throw it in our faces. He reminds us all to be good people without actually verbalizing it. He’s given speeches at the Indians’ Faith & Family Day, but remains quiet when it comes to media attention. His post-game interviews focus on his athletics, not his personal interests.
I also know that Masterson is not the only athlete who does this. In fact, most athletes do. But there is an aura about Justin Masterson that makes him stand out in my eyes. He’s the pastor’s son, but he’s found a way to ensure that his #1 title is ace for the Cleveland Indians. He’s an athlete of Christian faith, not a Christian with an athlete’s contract.
Once again, this is not a low blow at Tebow. Tebow is the boy my mother would love for me bring home. Tebow is the guy I’d want to be the best man at my wedding. Tebow is the guy I want to see guest-starring in an episode of Modern Family. And while these characteristics undoubtedly make Tim Tebow a role model, they don’t necessarily make him a role model athlete.
Hats off to Tebow for having the courage to be a Christian. But hats off to Justin Masterson for having the courage to be a Christian athlete.