Saturday, June 5, 2010

Famed UCLA coach John Wooden dies at 99.

John Wooden was well known among evangelical Protestants so I thought it would be easy to find a quick obit that would note how the imitation of Christ motivated his life's work.  There were many glowing tributes but rare reference to his faith. The journalists over at "Get Religion" noticed this as well.

"Many people simple called him the “reverend,” which was nice since he hated his famous nickname — the Wizard of Westwood.

"He was constantly reading his Bible, as well as stacks of other books, which was perfectly natural for a former English teacher who hardly ever missed church. However, try to find a picture of this man reading his Bible.

"He studied Abraham Lincoln and the person he admired the most — among those who lived during his 99 years of life — was Mother Teresa.

"However, a strange thing happens if you open up the main Los Angeles Times story about the life and death of the the legendary UCLA coach John Wooden and run some basic searches.

"Let’s try “Christian.” Phrase not found. OK, how about “Disciple”? Phrase not found. I tried those two right off, since Wooden was a lifelong member of the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ). It isn’t very hard to learn that fact, since his church was a huge part of his life. This is even mentioned in the official mini-biography of the coach posted at the website for UCLA athletics.

"At the same time, a search for “Christian” in this obituary of record would have also turned up references to his decades of service to the Fellowship of Christian Athletes (watch for tributes here).

"How about “religion” or “religious”? Phrase not found.

"OK, too specific. Let’s go very vague, with “faith” or “spiritual.” Phrase not found. Phrase not found.

"However, I do have some good news for anyone interested in the faith-based foundation of Wooden’s life, marriage, teaching and coaching. I am happy to report that The Los Angeles Times also ran a column about the coach by T.J. Simers, under the fitting headline, “John Wooden’s life was a love letter.” Here is the opening:

"To say it is a sad day would be to risk meeting him again, and getting that look from John Wooden.

"To say it is a time to be happy might not sound right, but you could hear the anticipation in his voice about this very day whenever he spoke about the chance to reunite with Nellie Riley, the love of his life. He meant so much to so many, but it was the only girl he ever dated and then married who meant the most to him — a love letter written from husband to wife on the 21st of every month to mark her death.

"On the table in his condo is a stack of inspirational sayings, which are designed to reveal a new passage every day. But it has been 25 years since anyone turned the page, Nellie the last to do so before going to the hospital and never returning.

“It says, ‘Oh Lord, make me beautiful within,”’ Wooden said in recounting the inspirational reading that still sits there today. 'She was beautiful within.'”

Check out the review of coverage at the journalistic blog

No comments:

Post a Comment