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News » Play hard, pray hard

Play hard, pray hard

Play hard, pray hard<br The pre-game blessing
DeMarco Williams writes about the NBA for He visited Oklahoma City for a Thunder game awhile back and came away mostly impressed.

"The place is rockin'. Jeezy is blasting from the PA system. These Oklahomans know how to party ... and they know how to pray, too. Right before tip, in fact, a reverend goes to center court and has a prayer.

"The Ford Center's lights are dimmed. Just about every head is bowed. It's unreal. I've never seen a stadium-wide prayer at a pro sporting event. It's the weirdest thing."

Not in Oklahoma, it's not.

We play hard here in the Bible Belt, but we pray hard, too.

"I loved it," said the Rev. Wendy Lambert of St. Luke's United Methodist Church, who prayed before a recent Thunder game. "I'm a big sports fan. That was a real treat for me, getting to pray at such a venue.

"Provides the best of both worlds. I love God, but I love sports, too. It's unique for Oklahoma. Says a lot for our state that we hold that value."

It's actually not unique to Oklahoma. The Thunder got the idea from the Hornets, who brought the pre-game prayer from New Orleans and still use it back in the Big Easy.

"Not withstanding your affiliation, we thought it was a reflection of the values of Oklahomans," said Thunder chairman Clay Bennett.

The Thunder uses a variety of clergy and offers only a couple of guidelines: keep it to 30 seconds and don't offend anyone. The former is more difficult than the latter.

"I wanted to be inclusive," said the Rev. M.L. Jemison of St. John's Missionary Baptist Church. "They wanted me to be respectful of all religions.

"It was somewhat of a generic prayer. It had Christian overtones. It was not explicit as far as language I would use at my church, but I didn't compromise any principles."

The 30 seconds can be a problem. Lambert typed out a prayer she thought was concise but mentioning everyone from the referees to the Nicholson-seat waiters. Then she timed it; 90 seconds. Some serious editing was needed.

Lambert said she was given three mandates: time length, respect diversity and no immoral language. Immoral language? It's a prayer, not a halftime act.

"It's a very controlled environment," said Terry Toler, vice president of church relations for Southern Nazarene University.

"It's not my style to read a prayer, but I prayed really what was in my heart, a sincere expression of what I thought about that moment. To me, it's good to ask God's blessing in all our endeavors."

So far, ministers have refrained from asking the Lord to provide the Thunder a victory, or even a clue about defense, but if anyone had known Tyson Chandler's toe was such a problem, the night of the trade could have turned into a Holy Ghost revival, praying for his healing.

Kevin Durant, whose opinion probably matters more than everyone else's put together, said he loves the prayer. "I think every team should do it, recognize God before a game," Durant said. "I pray four times before a game. I pray for my family, friends, good health, safety traveling. Just everything."

Hopefully, players and fans who pray together, stay together.

And maybe the whole pre-game prayer was overrated.

Said the Rev. Parker Cross of Crown Heights Christian Church, "It's an important part of our culture, but I found most of the fans didn't get in their seats by the prayer. I find that at my church, too."

Berry Tramel: 405-760-8080; Berry Tramel can be heard Monday through Friday from 4:40-5:20 p.m. on The Sports Animal radio network, including AM-640 and FM-98.1.


Mavericks AT Thunder

→When: 7 tonight

→Where: Ford Center

→TV: Fox Sports Oklahoma (Ch. 37)

→Radio: WWLS 98.1-FM, WWLS 640-AM, Sirius 217, XM 235

→Live blog:

Three things to know

→Dallas leads the season series 2-0.

→Mavericks forward Dirk Nowitzki is averaging 43.5 points against the Thunder this season, the most by an opposing player.

→Dallas is 14-15 on the road and has lost three straight road games.

Author: Fox Sports
Author's Website:
Added: March 4, 2009


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