Chris BaldwinThis Week at April 10, 2007

Let Masters champ Zach Johnson thank Jesus all he wants, for God's sake!

Thanking God after winning a major sporting event can get you almost as much scorn as throwing a sucker punch and backpedaling like a rat fleeing one of those sinking cruise ships the Greeks have.

Masters Champion Zach Johnson thanked his Lord All Mighty so many times after denying Tiger Woods that Jesus probably headed to the caddie shack to wait for his cut.

And you know what? Everyone just needs to get over that, those who find it ludicrous that a supreme being cares about pro golf tournament, and those who want to make Johnson a Christian hero.

The actual words often don't really matter. Instead, the broad boundaries are drawn and another sporting event becomes a discourse between supposed God Squaders and supposed loony liberals.

It's all a disservice to Zach Johnson.

The guy obviously spoke from the heart after his "who can believe it?" win. This wasn't Phil Mickelson calling in the kids for a photo op and Jim Nantz beam. It's Zach Johnson for goodness sake, the former Hooters Tour no-name, the guy once ranked 174th - on the Nationwide Tour. He's not scripting anything at Augusta. You don't prepare for the unimaginable.

So Johnson went spontaneous. (He's an Iowan. For an Iowan, Johnson went off-the-cuff crazy.) And isn't that what we want from our sports champions? Or at least what we say we want?

Genuine emotion is too often missing in today's corporate-ruled sports world where a teenage Michelle Wie is already polished enough to turn a press conference question into an advertisement for a sponsor's watch. A 31-year-old hick from Cedar Rapids let his feelings fly in Butler Cabin and people are obsessing over his Jesus talk?

I used to be one of those sportswriters who gnashed his teeth over repeated God references from winning athletes, wondering if they were appropriate. Then I grew up and realized it's a really stupid thing to worry about.

Now it's sort of funny to see Nantz trying to figure out how to follow up "Jesus was with me."

Zach Johnson won the Masters. He gets to let his emotions out. Whether you like it or not.


As always, welcomes your comments.

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