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The “religious ghost” behind Tim Tebow joining the Philippine national baseball team

Heisman-winning former college quarterback and now minor league baseball player Tim Tebow has accepted an invitation to play for the Philippine national team. Like every other sporting event, this year’s qualifying games for the 2021 World Baseball Classic have now been put on indefinite hold but this story is still worth a closer look for how the mainstream media reported it.

Tebow is as well known for his public Christian faith as he is for his athletic exploits, but God is not popular among secular reporters. That’s why there is, in this story, what GetReligion.org’s Terry Mattingly calls, a “religious ghost.” These are obvious angles in stories that reporters leave unexplored because they don’t like where they lead: to some sort of acknowledgment of God. In this instance, every reporter has to explain how it is that this well-known American athlete can play for a Philippine team. But that doesn’t mean they have to give a full answer.

So a WCTV account gives as explanation that Tebow was born in the Philippines, and leaves it at that. Two ESPN.com stories do a little better, noting that the reason he was in the Philippines was because his parents were serving there as missionaries. A third ESPN story did even a titch better, sharing that

“Tebow has spent a considerable amount of time in the country of his birth and has even been engaged in philanthropic activities in Davao.”

But only MLB.com dared flesh out what was a ghost (there, but insubstantial) in the other accounts. In digging further into Tebow’s religious motivations, Anthony DiComo gave readers a good understanding of why Tebow would want to represent the Philippines.

He…returned frequently to the Philippines as he became active in missionary work himself, spending at least three weeks there annually for nearly 15 years in a row…. In 2014, Tebow opened the Tebow CURE Hospital in Davao City to “meet the physical needs and provide spiritual healing for deserving children in the Philippines who could not otherwise afford care,” according to the hospital’s website…..“I can’t even tell you how many times I’ve been back,” Tebow said, noting that his parents still have a ministry in the Philippines.

For covering the obvious religious angle, Mattingly gives “kudos to MLB.com,” noting: “It’s not that hard to get the faith details right. It just takes a little bit of journalism.”

Picture credit: Keeton Gale/Shutterstock.com


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