Episode Reviewed: The Holy Hoopster (721)
Writer: Marshal Younger
Director: Paul McCusker
Sound Designer: Rob Jorgensen
Music: John Campbell
Living out faith
Scripture: Colossians 3:17
Original Airdate: 11/17/12

Review Written by: Ben Warren, Staff Writer

Rating (out of 5):


Episode Summary

Ryan Cummings makes a series of seemingly miraculous last-second shots for his basketball team which makes him a celebrity - both for the hoops and for acknowledging Jesus.


The Review

According to the new-and-improved Official Guide, The Holy Hoopster was written to address the craze surrounding football player Tim Tebow. During the past couple of years, he had received a lot of attention with his statements about his Christian faith and his habit of kneeling in prayer on the football field.

I find it interesting how Christians are usually the first to criticize celebrity worship until a Christian starts attracting some attention. But why do we love Christian celebrities so much? Is it because we secretly hope their God-given abilities prove to unbelievers that He exists? Is it because Christians are so often ridiculed in the media that it's nice to finally see someone with talent getting some respect? Or is it because we're tired of watching talented players behave like jerks that it's nice to finally see someone with talent living by their faith?

The Holy Hoopster doesn't come out and tell us about the danger of being overly-fascinated with Christian celebrities. It does, however, try try to answer the question: what does God have to do with sports? In one scene, Jay Smouse and Olivia Parker wrestle through a lot of the questions that I have myself: "Do you think Jesus is really shooting that ball for Ryan?". Olivia replies, "Maybe he is". Ambiguity is intended here. Did Ryan actually make that game-winning shot because of God? Maybe that's not the question we should be asking.

Instead, this episode makes a middle school high school basketball game into a microcosm of what occurs in professional sports world. Ryan represents the Christian athlete who mentionsquite casuallyhow he prays to God before the game, Jayquite ingeniouslyrepresents the media that twists and turns a simple statement and makes it into something more, Camilla and Nelson channel misguided Christians who get caught up in the hype, while Brad represents skeptics who would prefer it if Ryan just kept quiet. It depicts the situation from all possible angles and allows us to choose who to relate to.

In the end, what the episode makes clear is that regardless of whether you kneel on the field, or paint John 3:16 on your face, or talk about God in post-game interviews, what really matters is how you behave on the field. That's what God has to do with sports. He becomes part of the game, hopefully, when we've become part of the game. Similarly, in a very sweet scene, Ryan tells Camilla:
"Prayer isn't about working or not working. Or winning or losing. Prayer is about a relationship with Jesus. That's what's important [...] Praying is up to us, but what happens after we pray is up to him. All I can do is the best I can do. I hope to play well and whether I win or lose, I hope I'm a good witness for him."
Perhaps that's one of the reasons I jumped on the bandwagon when Jeremy Lin joined the New York Knicks. At first, I watched him because of his skill as a basketball player, but then I noticed that his faith clearly came out on the court, too. He gave players who wouldn't normally be big scorers a chance to make shots. He encouraged team-work, and had a positive attitude before and after games. Showing God's influence in your attitude on the court, rather than claiming whether he was responsible for your amazing game, is the best way of expressing his power to others.

The Holy Hoopster marked the most number of children in an episode since
The Malted Milkball Falcon. These kids interact with each other so well that I'm certainly not looking over forward to when the new tide of kids come arrive. The scenes between Olivia and Jay, Camilla and Ryan, Brad and Nelson, made them feel like such a natural and tightly knit group.

I also appreciated the reference made to Lightning Livingston even though I somewhat hoped that he'd make an appearance by the end of the episode. The episode
Heroes has always been one of my favorites, and I thought a quick word from Lightning Livingston on the issue of the hero worship would have been a nice touch. That said, both Heroes and The Holy Hoopster compliment one another nicelyit's a good episode to check out if you're wanting to delve more into the dangers of celebrity worship.

The Holy Hoopster was written by Marshall Younger, who's best known for writing great sports-related episodes, such as The Owlnapping,
The Fundamentals and Target of the Week. With time, I think The Holy Hoopster will be regarded as on the same level as those great sports-related episodes. Although it may not answer all of our questions on the subject of prayer in sports, its terrific ensemble cast and all-encompassing story help to make this episode a solid conversation starter.





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