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19 March 2012

"A Little Tebow in Coach Crean"

Shortly after the Indiana men's basketball team pulled out a last-minute win over Virginia Commonwealth on Saturday night, sending the program to the Sweet Sixteen for the first time in ten years amid their first tournament appearance in four years, I got a text message from my father that read:
A Little Tebow in Coach Crean.
I knew what he was referencing. In a post-game interview on TBS, Indiana's coach, Tom Crean, had this to say:
We pray before every game...and one of the biggest things is...God gives us the tools and the courage, but it is our responsibility to do the work.
Then, in the wee hours of Sunday morning, Coach Crean tweeted:
God gives us the tools and the abilities we have. It is up to us to put in the work....
To my knowledge, Crean hadn't been terribly public about whatever religious convictions he might have held which is what made the initial statement in his interview seem somewhat out of place to me and my wife as we were celebrating in our living room after the big win for our alma mater.

As is often the case with the everyday theological statements made by athletes and other public figures, the sociological implications are somewhat problematic. The core problem is that it implies that success--and thus failure--are under the control of individuals, ignoring the advantages some receive from biology or social circumstance, not to mention the vagaries of team sports.

"Everyday theologies," unlike systematic theologies, are not intended to be rational. They are shorthand statements denoting belonging, not belief. If pressed, I seriously doubt that Coach Crean would say that Shaka Smart and the Virginia Commonwealth University Rams men's basketball team's loss was a failure to properly work with their God-given tools, courage, or abilities. He didn't "mean" anything by saying it. It was, instead,  a throwaway marker of group identity.


  1. Is your use of the phrase "everyday theologies" based on this book: God, Sex, and Politics: Homosexuality and Everyday Theologies?

  2. Warner, that is a great book, and even though Moon doesn't acknowledge as much (I don't think), she didn't coin the term. She and others (e.g. Christian Smith) use the term to mean something along the lines of a "folk theology," which is how I'm using it.

  3. Good to know. That's an interesting distinction since it acknowledges that most people are not well-versed in official "doctrine", whatever it may be, but have a vague sense of what it might be.