“From football to faith,” the TV reporter begins, “you’ve heard that before. A pro football player retires. Then becomes a minister, maybe a preacher. But this story is different. You are about to meet a former NFL player from Miami who has to be the only ultra- Orthodox Jew who wears a Super Bowl ring when he prays.”
To which Ari Goldman, a new member to the GetReligion team, responds: “And thus begins a lovely but superficial story on NBC6 in Miami about Alan Veingrad, a former player who helped lead the Dallas Cowboys to Super Bowl victory in 1993. In the parlance of Orthodox Jews, Veingrad became ‘frum.’”
What they do show are the externals, all described in the clever language of trades. Not only did Veingrad trade “football for faith,” he traded football pads for tefillin, his helmut for a yarmulke, Lambeau Field for the the Chabad House of Coral Springs, a place that “restored the camaraderie he lost on the football field.” Along the way, we are told, “he lost 55 pounds and added a beard.” Virutally the entire piece is shot in the synagogue, with Veingrad studying and praying.
Even the most Orthodox Jew spends only a few hours a day in synagogue. What else does it mean to live an Orthodox life? Has it changed Veingrad’s daily routines? What about the kosher foods he eats? What about Sabbath observance? What about his relationship to his fellow man and woman?
What these reporters failed to grasp is that religious transformation runs deeper than the visuals.
Maybe TV news will get a mulligan in 20 years with Igor Olshanksy. Though I wouldn’t count on them handling such a story any better.