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FEMALE & MALE ATHLETE OF THE YEAR OLYMPIC GYMNAST: SIMONE BILES NBA MVP: STEPHEN CURRY

INSIDE: NOMINEES FOR FEMALE & MALE ATHLETES OF THE YEAR: (FEMALE) KATIE LEDECKY, ALLYSON FELIX, STACY LEWIS, MAYA MOORE AND SHELLY-ANN FRASER-PRYCE; (MALE) PAUL GOLDSCHMIDT, DANIEL MURPHY, ZACH JOHNSON AND BEN WATSON


FEATURES

CONTENTS

ATHLETE OF THE YEAR NOMINEES:

Female Athlete of the Year: Katie Ledecky (p6); Allyson Felix(p8); Stacy Lewis (p10); Maya Moore (p12); Shelly-Ann Fraser-Pryce (p14); Male Athlete of the Year: Paul Goldschmidt (p18); Daniel Murphy (p20); Zach Johnson (p22); Ben Watson (p24)

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FEMALE ATHLETE OF THE YEAR

Simone Biles is Sports Spectrum’s Female Athlete of the Year BY BRETT HONEYCUTT

AIRING IT OUT

Jamie Squire / Getty Images

Mess-ups are hard, but can be overcome BY BRETT HONEYCUTT

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UNPACKIN’ IT

MALE ATHLETE OF THE YEAR

Stephen Curry is Sports Spectrum’s Male Athlete of the Year BY BRETT HONEYCUTT

Jamie Squire / Getty Images

Top 5 Headlines of 2015 & Top Wishful Headlines for 2016 BY BRYCE JOHNSON

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David Liam Kyle / NBAE / Getty Images

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AFP / Getty Images

OPINION

ANOTHER ANGLE

Another Level of Learning BY STEPHEN COPELAND

Photo courtesy of Sara White.

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Olympic swimmer Katie Ledecky

Harry How / Getty Images Cover photos: (Simone Biles) Harry How / Getty Images (Stephen Curry) David Dow / Getty Images

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AIRING IT OUT BY BRETT HONEYCUTT

OPINION

b h o n e y c u t t @ s p o r t s s p e c t r u m . c o m | F o l l o w @ b re t t _ h o n e y c u t t

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robably the most devastating thing that can happen to us is to mess up publicly. When you’re someone known by only a few people, messing up publicly is bad, but it can be overcome. But when you’re a pro athlete, the public mess-up can be more damaging. When you’re a pro athlete in the NFL, the most popular of the major four U.S. sports, and that mess-up comes in a playoff game that will rank in the top 25 pro sports events watched on TV that year, it can be devastating. Add to that a fan base that can be merciless. And add to that the fact that your mess-up was a missed field goal, of a makeable 27 yards, that denied “their” team a victory in the closing seconds of the game and put “their’ team within two victories of the Super Bowl, and, well, you get the picture. It’s damaging in an apocalyptic-like way—apocalyptic at least to the fans of “their” team. Sure it was 6 degrees below 0 (that’s 38 degrees below freezing) when Minnesota Vikings kicker Blair Walsh kicked the ball, and sure the laces were turned the wrong way, but fans had seen him make those easily all year. In fact, he had kicked field goals from 22, 43 and 47, in that order, to put the Vikings ahead 9-0 at the end of the third quarter. But Seattle came back in the fourth quarter to take a 10-9 lead and the game was on Blair Walsh’s shoulders. And he missed. And “their” team lost. And he heard about it in a harsh way. Except from the first-graders at Northpoint Elementary in Blaine, Minnesota. They were slightly more supportive. To see, let’s observe how first-grader Tasha Lee handled the situation after a game that she, or the fans, had no part in determining the outcome: “For Blair Walsh. Keep on trying. Puppys are cute.” :) I know putting those silly emojis aren’t normal in a column, but it’s also not “normal” for grown people to be so involved in “their” team that they lose their minds and start mercilessly bashing a kicker who led the NFL in made field goals, with 34. And all of those successful field goals were for “their” team, mind you. Lee’s response was innocent. It was pure. It was child-like. Like someone with no care in the world, except to encourage someone she doesn’t know personally, but who her teacher, Judie Offerdahl, wanted to encourage because she was trying to teach her kids about empathy. Believing her teacher, Lee exhibited faith like a child. The kind of faith I wish I had more of and the kind of faith Jesus mentions that we need so that we can come to Him and believe He is the one who can take away our sins, give us joy despite hardships and allow us to spend eternity in Heaven, even though we don’t deserve it.

Jamie Squire / Getty Images

Mess-ups are hard, but can be overcome

When Blair Walsh was told by his dad about those first graders writing encouraging notes, Blair delayed his plane flight home by a day and visited their classroom. It was a welcome respite for all of the feel-bad sentiments he had been experiencing since his miss. He signed autographs, the kids smiled, and he smiled back, and they went back to seeing cute puppies in the midst of all of the hardships this life has to offer. I know, what do cute puppies have to do with anything? Nothing, and fans of “their” team should feel the same way even after a missed field goal in a game where they watched from the stands or from their recliner or couch. Why? Because in the whole grand scheme of things, it means very little. Caring for people, despite their Brett Honeycutt is mess-ups, is more important than all the managing editor of that. of Sports Spectrum Much more. magazine. Follow him on Twitter: @Brett_Honeycutt.

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OPINION b r y c e j o h n s o n r a d i o @ g m a i l . c o m | F o l l o w @ B RY C E R A D I O

Bryce Johnson is the host of the nationally syndicated sports and faith radio show UNPACKIN’ it and is the president of UNPACKIN’ it Ministries. Their mission is to challenge, inspire, and encourage sports fans to follow Jesus and become more like Him. He is a regular contributor to Sports Spectrum and the voice of Power to Win. Connect with Bryce on Facebook at UNPACKIN’ it and on Twitter @UNPACKINIT.

My Top-5 Wishful Headlines for 2016 1. Golden State Warriors win 73rd game of the regular season The 1995-96 Chicago Bulls still hold the NBA record for wins in a season with 72, but I think it would be fantastic to see Steph Curry and the Warriors knock them off. If they stay healthy, I think they will do it.

My Top-5 Sports Headlines of 2015 1. American Pharoah wins Triple Crown I’m not a huge horse-racing fan, but I enjoy witnessing rare accomplishments in sports. American Pharoah became the first Triple Crown winner since 1978 by winning the Kentucky Derby, the Preakness Stakes, and the Belmont Stakes. We may not see another Triple Crown for many years or ever again, so it was worth soaking in the excitement. 2. Brett Favre returns to Green Bay after 7 years in exile The legendary quarterback had a terrible ending to his career, but the accomplishments in Green Bay should be celebrated. I was glad to see the reconciliation take place between Favre and the organization as well as the fans. It’s wonderful that he is now in the Packers Hall of Fame and his No. 4 jersey is retired. Soon enough everyone will forget he wore a Jets jersey at one point! 3. Carolina Panthers start NFL season 14-0 This headline had the potential to read much better, if it wasn’t for their loss to the Falcons in week 15, but their hot winning streak during the regular season was truly impressive. I admit I’m a Panthers fan, so 14-0 was much sweeter to see for me, but I still think NFL fans should root for a team when they have a chance to accomplish what hasn’t been done since the undefeated 1972 Miami Dolphins. 4. Jim Harbaugh makes Michigan competitive again After a 5-7 record in the 2014 season under Brady Hoke, Jim Harbaugh took over his alma mater and led them to a 10-3 year with a dominating win in their bowl game. I think college football is better when Michigan is relevant and I like seeing a coach have success for the same school he played at. 5. Duke’s Mike Krzyzewski wins 1,000th game It’s still amazing to think that in 2015 “Coach K” became the first Division 1 men’s basketball coach to earn 1,000 wins. In an era where college coaches seem to bounce around to different schools constantly or try to coach in the NBA, Krzyzewski has sustained an extremely high level of success at Duke, including winning the 2015 National Championship.

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2. Cleveland Cavaliers win first NBA Championship The Warriors can get all the attention and admiration for an incredible regular season, but I think it would be great for sports if the Cavs win the championship. It would be wonderful for the loyal and tortured fans of Cleveland to be champions. 3. Derek Carr leads Oakland Raiders to NFL Playoffs Derek Carr is my favorite young quarterback because of his character, leadership, and style of play. The Raiders took some positive steps forward this year to regain relevance, and I’d enjoying seeing them make the playoffs in 2016. 4. Jordan Spieth and Rory McIlroy split Majors Jordan Spieth’s dominance in 2015 was impressive, but Rory is still one of the best. Wouldn’t it be great to see both of them win two majors each this year and be paired together on Sundays? That would get the sports world really excited about golf again! 5. Chicago Cubs win 2016 World Series One of these years it has to happen, right? Last season they got much closer and if their young phenoms continue to develop, a World Series dream might actually become reality.

PGA Tour golfers Jordan Spieth (left) and Rory McIlroy (right).


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FEMALE ATHLETE OF THE YEAR NOMINEE: KATIE LEDECKY, SWIMMING

Katie Ledecky KATIE LEDECKY SET A STANDARD THAT MAY NOT BE DUPLICATED FOR YEARS, BUT HER FAITH IS WHAT DEFINES THE TEEN PHENOM

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o one in the world was as dominant in the pool as Katie Ledecky in 2015—or in the history of the sport. In August, just before the 18-year-old Ledecky could begin her freshman year at Stanford University, she won five World Championship gold medals (200-, 400-, 800-, and 1,500-meter freestyles and 4x200-meter freestyle relay), set two world records (800- and 1,500-meter freestyle), and be-

came the first swimmer, male or female, to win four freestyle gold medals at a world championships or Olympic Games. Not surprisingly, she was named World Female Swimmer of the Year and U.S. Swimmer of the Year by Swimming World—for the third straight year. “She goes into a race with the understanding that this is a gift from God, and it’s my job to maximize that gift,” USA swim coach David Marsh told the New York Times in 2014 concerning how Ledecky views her talent. “That’s what I see…She reminds me of Michael Phelps when he was 16, 17.” Being compared to Phelps, one of the world’s greatest swimmers in history, could be a lot to handle, but Ledecky sees something else that she focuses on just as much. “My faith has always been important to me,” Ledecky said in a recent interview with reporters. “It defines who I am.”

- BRETT HONEYCUTT

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FEMALE ATHLETE OF THE YEAR NOMINEE: ALLYSON FELIX, TRACK AND FIELD

Allyson Felix WITH ANOTHER WORLD TITLE AND SEVERAL RECORDS, ALLYSON FELIX PROVED ONCE AGAIN WHY SHE REMAINS ONE OF THE BEST TRACK AND FIELD ATHLETES IN THE WORLD

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fter winning two gold medals at the 2001 World Youth Championships in Debrecen, Hungary as a 15-year-old, Allyson Felix has been a fixture at or near the top of the track and field world. She doesn’t appear to be fading anytime soon. In November, Felix was named USA Track and Field’s Female Athlete of the Year for the fifth time after winning a gold medal in the 400 meters at the World Track and Field Championships in Beijing in August. “Growing up as a preacher’s kid has really grounded me,” Felix said in a USA Today story several years ago concerning her upbringing. “I’ve grown up with these amazing parents who are hard workers, and they truly live out their faith. They’ve been amazing role models for me. I feel like I really picked up on what they taught me and kept that with me all along in my running and in my career. “For me, my faith is the reason I run. I definitely feel I have this amazing gift that God has blessed me with, and it’s all about using it to the best of my ability.” That was on display more than just winning world title, though.

The 400-meter gold (her ninth career world championship gold medal) helped Felix become the first woman in history to win world titles in the 200 and 400 meters for her career. She added two World Championship silver medals (4x100-meter relay and 4x400meter relay), and also won a gold medal in the 400 meters at the U.S. Championships for her 10th career U.S. title. In the 4x400-meter relay, she turned in one of the best individual performances in history. Her 400-meter relay leg of 47.72 seconds was the third-fastest ever and best ever by an American. Her nine world championship gold medals and 13 overall medals (13) are the most in history by an American. Adding to her success at the World and U.S. Championships, she won the 200-meter title in the Diamond League, a series of 14 meets designed to promote track and field around the world. It was her fourth overall Diamond League title after the series began in 2010, winning the 200- and 400-meter titles in 2010 and the 200-meter title in 2014.

- BRETT HONEYCUTT

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FEMALE ATHLETE OF THE YEAR NOMINEE: STACY LEWIS, LPGA

Stacy Lewis CONSISTENCY ON THE COURSE AND IN HER FAITH IS WHAT PEOPLE HAVE COME TO EXPECT OUT OF PRO GOLFER STACY LEWIS

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onsistency is key in any sport, but especially a game like golf that demands patience if players want to be successful. Consistency is also a trait pro golfer Stacy Lewis showed again this season on the LPGA Tour, ending the season ranked No. 3 in the world (for the fourth straight year) after finishing runner-up six times, third three times and recording 14 Top-10 finishes in 26 tournaments. That two runner-up finishes came in a playoff, and one of those was a major (the ANA Inspiration), and that one of her third-place finishes was in the U.S. Women’s Open, showed how competitive the relatively quiet Lewis is on the course. But consistency doesn’t only describe her play, it describes her faith, as well. Lewis, along with LPGA players and friends Brittany Lincicome,

Kristy McPherson and Angela Stanford, regularly attend the tour’s Christian fellowship. That same faith led Lewis to travel to Rwanda on a mission trip in 2011 with former LPGA great Betsy King, who told Golf Week that the trip was “life-changing” for Lewis. “It changed the way I looked at golf and what I do,” Lewis told golfgrinder.com. “I struggled with if I am going to play for all this, what do I do? So I figured out when I was in Africa, I realized the better I play the more I can help their people so it just gave me this new, better sense of doing it and a purpose to be out there.” And she’s kept that focus each year since, ranking seventh or better in the world after finishing 14th in 2010 and 43rd in 2009.

- BRETT HONEYCUTT

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FEMALE ATHLETE OF THE YEAR NOMINEE: MAYA MOORE, BASKETBALL

Maya Moore MAYA MOORE’S ACCOMPLISHMENTS ARE MANY, BUT HER STRENGTH DOESN’T COME FROM TROPHIES AND ACCOLADES

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his season was nearly as good as last, as Maya Moore played in the WNBA All-Star game, was the game’s MVP, and helped the Minnesota Lynx win their third straight WNBA title. But she also accomplished a lot overseas, as well. She helped the Shanxi (China) Flame win their third straight Women’s Chinese Basketball Association title. The WNBA and WCBA titles helped her accomplish an interesting feat (six championships in three seasons) because she was a part of the previous titles for each of those teams, as well. Something else that has remained consistent is her faith. She regularly shares her faith and continues to be involved with sports ministries. “Faith is the core of who I am,” she told NBC Nightly News concerning her Christianity. “I feel like everything that I do, it comes from a perspective of: am I glorifying God? and what my purpose is. And I think God’s created me in a way that I have certain talents, I have certain gifts, I have certain passions, and the more I try to develop those and live them out, I feel like I’m fulfilling my purpose. And it’s bigger than just scoring in

basketball, it’s the impact that I can make on somebody, the relationships I develop with my teammates and coaches.” Moore’s family provided spiritual stability as she was growing up as the only child in a single-parent family in Jefferson City, Mo. But the turning point in her life came when she and her mother moved to Georgia. “My family was and still is pretty solid in their faith and always had a very positive environment for me,” Moore shared with Sports Spectrum in 2011 concerning how she was raised. “Then in middle school, when my mom and I moved away and we were on our own for the first time, we took our faith in as our own, and found a really good church that fed us.” As Moore’s faith developed, it filled a father-shaped void. “Growing up without really having a relationship, I was just all over the place, not really having a consistency in my life,” Moore says. “But God gave me something to work toward, something to aspire to be, some guidance. “I feel like I found purpose. When you find your purpose and you find what you’re supposed to do, it’s a beautiful thing.”

- BRETT HONEYCUTT

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FEMALE ATHLETE OF THE YEAR NOMINEE: SHELLY-ANN FRASER PRYCE, TRACK AND FIELD

Shelly-Ann Fraser-Pryce SHELLY-ANN FRASER PRYCE CONTINUES TO STAY AT THE TOP IN TRACK AND FIELD, BUT SHE REMINDS HERSELF OFTEN THAT SOMEONE ELSE IS GREATER

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amaica’s Shelly-Ann Fraser Pryce has been a consistent winner on the world scene since 2009, and 2015 was no different as she won two World Championship gold medals (100 meters, 4x100-meter relay), helping set a World Championship meet record of 41.07 in the relay. Even if Fraser Pryce didn’t win, though, she would still be focused on Christ. “Christ is in everything that I do,” Fraser Pryce told Sports Spectrum partner 2K Plus International Sports Media for a story in Sports Spectrum magazine. “I talk to Him every day. And I think that’s how I keep connected. Even when I’m running; when I finish running, if I come in second, third, fourth, fifth, I’m always saying, ‘Thank God’ in my head. You know, ‘Thank God. Thank you, Jesus. Thank you.’ When I get on my mark, you know, ‘On your mark. Get set.’ Before I get in the blocks, I’ve always repeated to my-

self that, ‘Greater is He that is in me than He that is in the world.’ (1 John 4:4) There’s no fear in Him because perfect love casts out fear. (1 John 4:18) So I’m constantly reminded of who He is and what He’s doing. He’s everywhere.” Since winning her first World Championships medal in 2007 in Osaka, Japan, (a silver in the 4x100meter relay), Fraser-Pryce has won nine World Championship medals (seven of them gold). Counting the World Indoor Championships, World Outdoor Championships, World Athletics Final, the Commonwealth Games and Olympics, she has 12 gold medals, and five silver in nine years. A testament to her ability to remain at the top over a long period, and success that likely will continue this summer at the 2016 Rio Olympics.

- BRETT HONEYCUTT

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FEMALE ATHLETE OF THE YEAR

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FEMALE ATHLETE OF THE YEAR: SIMONE BILES, GYMNASTICS

Simone Biles THE NEXT OLYMPIC GYMNASTICS QUEEN COULD BE SIMONE BILES, BUT JUST AS IMPORTANT AS GYMNASTICS ARE SO IS HER FAITH

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imone Biles has not yet performed in her first Olympics, but she is already one of the most decorated women in the history of gymnastics. In 2015, Biles became the first woman to win three consecutive world championships and the first woman in 23 years to win three consecutive U.S. championships. At the end of 2015, Biles was named the United States Olympic Committee’s Female Olympic Athlete of the Year, beating out tennis star Serena Williams and swimming phenom Katie Ladecky. Biles will be a favorite to win gold in Rio this summer. And, much like gymnast Gabby Douglas, who captured America’s attention four years ago with her two gold medals in London, what also seems to stand out is her genuine personality and the faith that carries her. Through social media, it’s clear that Biles is very vocal about her faith and spirituality. On January 18, she tweeted:

“faith: it does not make things easy, it makes them possible. luke 1:37”. On December 26, she tweeted: “look back & Thank God, look forward & Trust God”. On November 22, she tweeted: “God has a blessing with your name on it.” Also, attending church isn’t a rare thing for Biles, it’s just as natural as going to the gym. It’s something that has been a part of her life for a while, at least since her grandparent’s adopted her and another sibling 15 years ago. “love getting all dressed up for church on Sunday.” she tweeted on Dec. 16. If Biles continues building upon her success from 2015, it is likely that she will become a household name in 2016 when she participates in her first Olympics. And, like Douglas in 2012, her story and her faith might help inspire the world.

- STEPHEN COPELAND

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MALE ATHLETE OF THE YEAR NOMINEE: PAUL GOLDSCHMIDT, BASEBALL

Paul Goldschmidt ARIZONA DIAMONDBACKS STAR PAUL GOLDSCHMIDT WAS AT THE TOP IN NEARLY EVERY OFFENSIVE CATEGORY, BUT HIS FAITH IS WHAT CONTINUALLY HELPS HIM STRIVE FOR THE TOP

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aul Goldschmidt’s Arizona Diamondbacks may not have been one of the best teams in baseball (79-83, third in the National League West), but he had one of the best seasons of any player. En route to his second Gold Glove and Silver Slugger awards, he was second in the National League MVP voting, he earned his third straight trip to the All-Star Game, and he was second in the NL in RBIs (110), third in hitting (.321), fifth in home runs (33) and second in WAR (wins above replacement, with 8.8). It was a great season by any standards, but especially for someone on a losing team where losses can tend to affect individual performance. But Goldschmidt has always strived to be the best no matter the circumstances, and he’s always pursued what is good. In an upcoming story in Sports Spectrum magazine, Goldschmidt

came to Christ when other teammates and their families loved on him and his wife. It changed Goldscmidt’s perspective. Arizona Diamondbacks team chaplain Brian Hommel describes Goldschmidt as someone who initially approached Christianity with negative perceptions. “He didn’t understand the point of following a belief system when he, himself, was a moralistically good person.” “Without ever getting into the Bible and reading, I was making judgments,” explains Goldschmidt. “Just one example: I’m thinking so-and-so is a Christian and I’m looking at the mistakes they’re making. But when you read the Bible, every single person you know on this planet that’s ever walked has made a mistake, and every single person that God used in the Bible was a sinner.”

- BRETT HONEYCUTT

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MALE ATHLETE OF THE YEAR NOMINEE: DANIEL MURPHY, NEW YORK METS

Daniel Murphy DANIEL MURPHY’S OUT-OF-THISWORLD POSTSEASON HELPED THE NEW YORK METS REACH THE WORLD SERIES AND GIVE METS FANS, AND FANS EVERYWHERE, HOPE FOR THE FUTURE

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he National League Championship Series MVP, Daniel Murphy helped the New York Mets to their first World Series berth in 15 years (and fifth overall since playing in their first in 1969). In leading the Mets to the World Series, Murphy hit seven postseason homeruns (three in the National League Division Series against the Los Angeles Dodgers and four in the National League Championship Series against the Chicago Cubs), with six of the homers coming in consecutive games. And although Murphy cooled off in the World Series and the Mets lost to the Kansas City Royals, he still had a .328 batting average, a remarkable .724 slugging percentage and totaled seven home runs and 11 RBIs in 14 postseason games. “I wouldn’t be here without what the Lord has done with me in my life and the situation He’s put

me in with my family,” Murphy told CBN. “He’s put me, fortunately on this stage, on the greatest athletic stage in the world for a reason, and I think that reason is to try to be a light.” Murphy became a Christian in high school at a youth retreat to the Wilds, a camp in the North Carolina mountains. “The peace that you get, it’s something you can’t describe until you have it,” Murphy said of his faith. “I think that when you don’t have it, you go out your entire life searching for something to fill it. Is it money? Is it fame, fortune? Is it women? Is it alcohol? What is it to fill it? But when you find the Lord, it’s the peace that you have, and the relationship that you have, and I think we, as human beings, search for it all the time, and you don’t really find it until you find the Lord.”

- BRETT HONEYCUTT

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MALE ATHLETE OF THE YEAR NOMINEE: ZACH JOHNSON, GOLF

Zach Johnson PGA TOUR STAR ZACH JOHNSON WAS CONSISTENT THIS YEAR, BUT HIS BRITISH OPEN VICTORY AND TESTIMONY AFTERWARD PUSHED HIM TO THE TOP

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lthough Zach Johnson only won one tournament this season, it was a big one, the British Open, his first major since winning the Masters in 2007. He wasn’t a one-hit wonder, though, as he carded 10 top-10 finishes this season, including a ninth-place finish at the Masters. After his victory this year, Johnson wasn’t shy about letting others know where he gains strength. “I was reading bits of scripture to myself, things like Psalm 24:7 (which reads, ‘Lift up your heads, you gates; be lifted up, you ancient doors, that the King of glory may come in’),” he told reporters

after the victory. “I’ve been reading them all week. I thank God for the talent he’s given me, and I take it seriously.” The British Open victory was his second career major, with only the U.S. Open and the PGA Championship left for him to achieve the career Grand Slam. And even though Johnson turns 40 on Feb. 24, conquering the quirky St. Andrews course should let others know that winning one or both of the other majors wouldn’t surprise anyone.

- BRETT HONEYCUTT

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MALE ATHLETE OF THE YEAR NOMINEE: BEN WATSON, NEW ORLEANS SAINTS

Ben Watson PRODUCTION ON THE FIELD ELUDED LONGTIME NFL VETERAN BEN WATSON, BUT OFF THE FIELD HE WAS A STAR WHO GRACIOUSLY POINTED PEOPLE TO CHRIST

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ven when things seemed bad for Ben Watson and the New Orleans Saints, something good would seem to happen. One example of that was when Watson received the 2015 K-Love Sports Impact Award after his Facebook post in 2014 concerning race relations in the U.S. went viral. His production on the field wasn’t close to any of his career bests, but his presence off the field seemed larger than life and touched a nation. It was cause to celebrate an athlete, not for his superior strength, speed or agility on the playing field, but for his superior attitude in helping people see the truth behind tragedy: sin. At the end of his 650-word essay, he transparently expressed his feelings about the situation in Ferguson, Missouri, where havoc ensued after a grand jury decided not to indict police officer Darren Wilson in the shooting and killing of 18-year-old Michael Brown. He went through a list of feelings including anger, frustration, fear,

embarrassment, sadness, sympathy, displeasure, confusion, introspectiveness, hopelessness, hopefulness, and confidence. It ended poignantly when he wrote: “I’M ENCOURAGED, because ultimately the problem is not a SKIN problem, it is a SIN problem. SIN is the reason we rebel against authority. SIN is the reason we abuse our authority. SIN is the reason we are racist, prejudiced and lie to cover for our own. SIN is the reason we riot, loot and burn. BUT I’M ENCOURAGED because God has provided a solution for sin through the his son Jesus and with it, a transformed heart and mind. One that’s capable of looking past the outward and seeing what’s truly important in every human being. The cure for the Michael Brown, Trayvon Martin, Tamir Rice and Eric Garner tragedies is not education or exposure. It’s the Gospel. So, finally, I’M ENCOURAGED because the Gospel gives mankind hope.”

- BRETT HONEYCUTT

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MALE ATHLETE OF THE YEAR: STEPHEN CURRY, BASKETBALL

Stephen Curry STEPHEN CURRY’S HUGE SUCCESS ON THE COURT IN 2015 DIDN’T CHANGE HIS PERSPECTIVE OFF THE COURT

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or Golden State Warriors superstar Stephen Curry, 2015 was a whirlwind. Curry not only received the NBA’s Most Valuable Player award but also helped lead the Warriors to their first championship since 1975. In the faith and sports realm, it would be difficult to make an argument as to why Curry shouldn’t be named the Sports Spectrum Male Athlete of the Year. While captivating the nation all season with his wizardry on the hardwood—breaking ankles with his impeccable ball handling and putting on one of the best shooting displays in the history of the NBA—his rise to the top of the basketball universe has not led to him compromising the Christian ideals he was raised with. Though his stardom has exploded, he has remained the same at heart. Said Curry in his MVP acceptance speech: “First and foremost I have to thank my Lord and Savior Jesus Christ for blessing me with the talents to play this game, with the family to support me, day in, day out. I’m His humble servant right now, and I can’t say enough how important my faith is to who I am and how I play the game...When I pound my chest and point to the sky, it symbolizes that I have a heart for God, something that my mom and I came up with in college. I do it every time I step on the court as a reminder of who I’m playing for. People should know who I represent and why I am who I am, and that’s because of my Lord and Savior.” Gone are the days where people believed Curry’s size would be a detriment to his NBA career or thought that his ankle problems

would deter him ever excelling on the professional level. When Sports Spectrum interviewed Curry in 2012, the Warriors were coming off a season where they finished 2348 and did not make the playoffs; Curry only appeared in 26 games that season (less than a third of the team’s games) because of injury. Curry’s faith, however, was not circumstantial; it did not hinge on his success or disappointments on the hardwood. “He (God) has given me a lot of responsibility,” Curry told Sports Spectrum. “He’s encouraged me to really be the spiritual head of the house He has called all men to be. It’s easy when you’re by yourself to be selfish about it, but when you have other people you are accountable for—emotionally, spiritually, physically—it’s a different ball game. For me, being the one everyone is looking to for spiritual guidance when it comes to leading our family in the right direction, it’s a big responsibility, but I can’t thank God enough for that...It’s very humbling to know I’m able to be on the stage that I am, and I think God has put me in this situation to change this perspective on what it is to be a man of God and a player in the NBA. I want to use the gifts God gave me on the basketball court to uplift His name. That’s at the forefront of why I play the game.” Much has changed since his interview with Sports Spectrum three and a half years ago, but his purpose remains the same. He is using the gifts God gave him on the basketball court to uplift His name.

- STEPHEN COPELAND

SPORTS SPECTRUM ~ DIGIMAG 2016

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ANOTHER ANGLE

BY STEPHEN COPELAND

OPINION

stephen.copeland@sportsspectrum.com | Follow @steve_copeland

Another Level of Learning May this year be a marvelous exploration of that which we cannot understand, of stepping into another level of learning, of exploring a boundless sea yet always realizing that the horizon, though it looks like the edge of the earth, is only the beginning, only the very brink of our awareness of what is already true within, which, like the glistening waters beneath the sun, can reflect the flaming ball—hanging there in the blue, naked sky—in portions, yet cannot reflect all its light, and does not try to, for these waters know that they are not the sun and cannot be the sun (and do not even dare to “know”!), and therefore never cease to reflect sparkling slivers of its magnitude. Forgive us for believing we can see the edge. Forgive us for thinking that just because we see the ball in the distance we can therefore hold it in our palms. If I want to continue the voyage, if I wish to reflect the incomprehensible, then surely I cannot throw “You” at others as if I am flinging a baseball. You are not that simple and I am not that athletic. If no eye has seen and no ear has heard, then I am therefore blind and deaf— yet also free from dotting the i’s and crossing the t’s of mystery, for mystery has no alphabet, no words that can adequately describe the unfathomable, which is You...and You in me...and me in You. Won’t You forgive our ignorant simplicity?

I

Photo courtesy of Sara White.

n our Winter 2016 print issue of Sports Spectrum, I wrote a story about Sara White, widow of NFL Hall of Famer Reggie White, one of the most renowned outspoken Christians (nicknamed “The Minister of Defense”) to ever play in the NFL. In our interview, Sara transparently talked about some of the misconceptions that were floating around regarding Reggie’s faith before he died. In Reggie’s final years, the Whites stopped celebrating holidays like Christmas and Easter, and they decided to no longer call themselves “Christians” (this, Sara says, put God in a box in our culture of labels) but called themselves “believers” instead. Because of all this, some concluded that Reggie had renounced his Christian faith; others believed he might have become a Jew; there was one Christian minister, Sara says, who called him a heretic. My point in writing this column is not to rehash something that happened over a decade ago (Reggie died on December 26, 2004), but rather to explore a cultural trend that still takes place within the church today. Isn’t it interesting how some, specifically in the evangelical community, become irritated whenever someone comes along and begins to seemingly tamper with tradition, offer a different viewpoint, or peel back the wrapping paper of someone’s, or a denomination’s, perfectly packaged theological box? Reggie White, for example, began to draw some of the conclusions that he did, not to gain attention—it would have actually been more convenient (and maybe even profitable) for him to stay in the box where Christian culture wanted him to remain—but rather because he was learning. He was delving into the Torah

and the culture of the Old Testament, often studying the Hebrew language for eight hours a day. Ironically, it was Reggie’s diving into the Scriptures that led him to feeling ostracized by some of the church. When I was in college, I remember bestselling author Rob Bell being publicly shunned in evangelical circles for his book Love Wins. Others that come to mind might be Michael Gungor, who came under fire in 2014 for statements that he and his wife Lisa made about creationism; or Donald Miller, who was criticized that same year for his blog about church. Truth is, all kinds of leaders in church history have held some unlikely views. Augustine, perhaps the most influential theologian to ever live, didn’t believe in a literal six-day creation story. Martin Luther, who spearheaded the Protestant reformation, was persecuted by the dominant church of his day. Oh yeah, there was that Jesus guy, too, ruffling the feathers of the pious Pharisees and Sadducees. Is it possible that the most seemingly disruptive ideas, even if we disagree, actually have the potential to take us deeper into the mystery of the divine? Is it possible that the Bible’s words, being living and active, could continually evolve—meaning new and different things—as time unravels, or should Martin Luther King Jr. had taken 1 Peter 3:18 literally? Is it possible that God is bigger than the Bible and therefore cannot be adequately explained by the Bible? Now, I am not saying that ideas should not be batted back and forth or that people in leadership positions should not be asked to back up their theories, but I do think the evangelical church has, at times, made its theology into a god of its own, carrying the banner of absolute truth, therefore leaving little room for mystery— both in the divine and the scriptures. Donald Miller recently tweeted: “A map is not the same as the actual terrain. Our obsession with simplifying ideas is costing us a nuanced understanding of truth.” There was a time, not too long ago, when I exhausted myself not only attempting to the dot the i’s and cross my t’s of my own theology but also trying to convince others that I was right and to believe what I believed, you know, in an effort to save their pitiful souls. I was a real jerk back then—and also a byproduct of our either-or, black-or-white culture and oversimplified Christianity. Yet the second we try to oversimplify the divine is the second we rob ourselves of mystery and cheapen the idea of God. I have recently begun to discover wonder once more. This year, I hope that we, as believers, whatever that might mean to you, can continue exploring the boundless sea and continue reflecting something that no words can adequately explain. May we each move to a new level of learning in 2016, sit with disrupting ideas and explore our inStephen Copeland ternal lives while swimming in the is a writer at Sports chaos. May we remember that we are Spectrum. Follow far from the edge yet always close to him on Twitter His very essence—His “ruach,” His @steve_copeland. very Spirit—which is found within. SPORTS SPECTRUM ~ DIGIMAG 2014

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Winter 2016 Digimag #2  

This issue shows Sports Spectrum's Female and Male Athlete of the Year nominees and winners.

Winter 2016 Digimag #2  

This issue shows Sports Spectrum's Female and Male Athlete of the Year nominees and winners.