Don't 52-year-old sports writers have anything better to do than devote a whole column to deriding a teenage athlete's faith?
If you're Rick Reilly, apparently the answer is no.
Reilly wrote a February 19 piece at ESPN.com trashing the religious convictions of 16-year-old Iowa wrestler Joel Northrup, who forfeited a state tournament match rather than wrestle 14-year-old Cassy Herkelman, citing his Christian faith.
Even though the Herkelman family and another female wrestler in the state tournament lauded Northrup's decision to be true to his convictions, Reilly mounted his secular pulpit to condemn Northrup's faith:
"It's his religion and he's strong in his religion," says Megan Black, the only other girl who made state. (These were the first two in the state's history. Black lost both her matches.) "You have to respect him for that."
Does any wrong-headed decision suddenly become right when defended with religious conviction? In this age, don't we know better? If my God told me to poke the elderly with sharp sticks, would that make it morally acceptable to others?
And where does it say in the Bible not to wrestle against girls? Or compete against them? What religion forbids the two-point reversal?
Reilly spent the next 14 columns belaboring his point, not too subtly hinting towards the end of his column that Northrup is a wussy momma's boy (emphasis mine):
The last I saw Northrup, he was crying. After the default, he entered the consolation round, where he won his first match, then lost a heartbreaker in overtime, 3-2. He jogged past the scrum of reporters waiting to talk to Cassy, tears streaming down his face, unnoticed. He was done, with no chance to medal.
Neither he, nor his coaches, nor his dad, had any comment. He was reportedly on his way back home to Marion, Iowa, where his mom was about to deliver her eighth child.