I got my latest issue of Sports Illustrated in the mail last week but I didn’t even look at it until yesterday because there was a picture of a basketball player on the cover and I don’t really watch much basketball. However when I did finally take the time to read the issue I was reminded of something that always bothers me – how someone being faithful and putting faith first is always portrayed as such a positively magical trait.
The cover story is about a high school basketball player in Chicago named Jabari Parker. The cover caption reads :
The best high school basketball player since Lebron James is…Jabari Parker
But there’s something more important to him than NBA stardom: His Faith.
He is seventeen years old and by the sound of the story Parker is not only a good basketball player but also a good person and a good student. He seems humble, honest, and kind. The crux of the story is all about his Mormon faith and how important it is to him along with how talented of a basketball player he is.
From what I read Parker is the kind of kid the world needs more of, except for the whole being overly faithful thing. How many examples of the devotedly and happily faithful doing acts that range from bad to atrocious do we need before we stop placing someone being faithful as such a positive attribute?
This frustrates me to no end. If Parker’s first love was video games would the cover caption have finished something like this – …more important to him than NBA stardom: His Xbox. Of course it wouldn’t have. It would have been an article about a good kid who works hard, does positive things, and plays amazing basketball. Having faith is not a positive trait any more than liking film, or photography, or recycling. It’s something someone chooses and it does not make them a good person. They are a good person because they are or because they are not and it’s time faith stops getting cast in such an indiscriminately positive light.
Parker also falls into the most aggravating trap of faith when he says:
I realize why I’m in the position I’m in right now. It’s not because of me. It’s because of God.
Following this mind-numbing logic I guess the reason I didn’t become an NHL star is not because I didn’t work hard at it but because God didn’t want it for me. Truth be told this does make me feel better because I’m no longer to blame.
Parker is the basketball player he is for the same reason every athlete, musician, artist, etc. is as good at their trade as they are – because they worked very hard at it. We need to stop telling kids it’s not about hard work but about faith. Effort, determination, and belief in yourself are traits that will make someone successful, not faith.
I genuinely hope Parker gets everything in his life that he wants and I hope he ends up even half the basketball player he has the potential to be. But I also hope he does it all because he’s a good person and I hope he realizes he’s as good as he is because of himself.