EDITORS’ NOTE: Dallas-based sportswriter Art Stricklin is reporting this week from Detroit on the spiritual side of the Super Bowl.
DETROIT (BP)–From a faith-proclaiming media day at Ford Field in downtown Detroit to a rocking gospel concert at the historic Masonic Temple and a sold-out Athletes in Action breakfast at the NFL headquarters hotel, Super Bowl XL has seen a clear witness for Jesus Christ in the Motor City.
Fox TV announcer James Brown said much of the credit for that witness should go to a man known as the “Minister of Defense” who is not even in Detroit this week for any of the festivities.
“I was doing an interview recently and I was asked about the legacy of [former Philadelphia and Green Bay] tackle Reggie White,” Brown recounted.
“He was so bold in his faith and he always said what he believed about the Lord. I think that emboldened a lot of athletes and people in the NFL today, including myself.”
Brown was honored Friday afternoon with the first Pat Summerall Legends of Charity award at the NFL headquarters hotel. He received the award from Summerall, a member of First Baptist Church in Euless, Texas.
“You know I have to call it like I see it and always be real, so first, to God be the glory,” Brown said after a prolonged standing ovation from a ballroom which included broadcast announcers and executives from several networks including HBO’s Chris Collingsworth and fellow Fox announcer Howie Long.
“There’s a verse in the Bible, Psalm 75:6-7, which says, ‘For promotion cometh neither from the east nor from the west nor from the south. God is the judge; he putteth down one and setteth another.’
“I was raised to be a humble person by my family, but I’m so honored to get this award from a man like Pat Summerall who I share some common goals and faith,” Brown said wiping back the tears.
Summerall, who has become a Christian in the last several years and was baptized at the Euless church, shared his testimony with the crowd and used his recent liver transplant to note what God has done in his life.
“Two people died for me that I might have one life. One, a 13-year-boy from Pine Bluff, Ark., whose liver I received when he died tragically, but that’s also what happened when Jesus Christ died on the cross from my sins.
“That’s the faith that James Brown has, that’s the faith Tony Dungy has [who quietly attended the luncheon] and that’s the faith that I now have.”
Brown has been involved in a half-dozen Super Bowl games during his tenure at Fox and earlier with CBS. He said he was heartened to see league MVP and Seattle running back Shaun Alexander and Seahawks quarterback Matt Hasselbeck so boldly share their faith with the thousands of media and fans at the game.
“I think you saw Reggie White, who clearly was the best tackle on the field, one of the best who ever played the game, clearly share his faith and that’s what these guys are doing now,” Brown added.
After more than a decade in the network news business, Brown said he is only too aware how secular networks or reporters can slant a Christian player’s words, and so he was glad to see many of the high profile players nevertheless speak out about their faith.
“The Scripture says we are peculiar people to some, and secular people won’t always accept what we say. That’s why I’m always glad to see a film clip that uses an athlete’s entire words like Kurt Warner saying, ‘Thank You Jesus,’ at the Super Bowl or Tony Dungy saying he had the assurance that his son [who committed suicide during the season] would be in heaven after he died. That’s powerful stuff.”
Brown spent nearly a decade at CBS anchoring their pre-game show before moving over to Fox when they acquired rights to some NFL games 12 years ago.
“Once people understand where I’m coming from,” he said, “they will usually accept it or at least stop asking me to events I know are not appropriate for me to be at.”
That leaves Brown out of both the competing Penthouse and Playboy Super Bowl parties Saturday night in Detroit, but in with his wife Dorothy praying before each broadcast he has with Fox TV.
“God calls us to be faithful and it helps to have a grounded wife keeping you accountable in situations like this.”
Brown didn’t offer a prediction for a Super Bowl winner on Sunday but said he was looking for more Christian words of witness to honor the late “Minister of Defense,” Reggie White, and the Savior he served.