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PhD Candidate Examines Intersection of Sports, Religion


“Today, in the popular mind, if you think ‘sports and religion,’ you probably think Tim Tebow. You think evangelical.”

But there’s much more to sports and religion than what Tebow represents, says a Baylor doctoral candidate focused on the intersection of faith and athletics.

Paul Putz, a doctoral candidate in history at Baylor University, spoke with in a new online video interview about how the mixture of religion and sports has evolved over the last several decades.

Putz begins by explaining the term “sportianity,” coined by sportswriter Frank Deford in the 1970s.

For Deford, the blending of sports and religion was “a curiosity,” says Putz. “For him, sportianity is a derogatory term, mostly.” Putz says Deford, who died in May, saw the mixture of sports and religion as exploitative.

Putz, who runs the site, says he himself uses the term not in a derogatory sense, but merely as shorthand for this cultural intersection.

This intersection, says Putz, includes much more than just evangelical Christianity. He noted that scholarship exists on Catholicism and sports, and Judaism and sports, for example.

Putz points to the beginning of the Fellowship of Christian Athletes, founded in 1954, which included not just evangelicals but also liberal Protestants, Mormons and Catholics.

Putz is also interested in the types of spirituality manifested in sports.

“I also try to make sense of why it is that particular ways of being a Christian are more popular in sports than others,” says Putz. “There’s a certain type of spirituality that more athletes prefer than others.”

“What is it that gives meaning to the spiritual lives of Christian athletes and Christian chaplains and those involved in this world?”

Watch the interview with Putz at

Learn more about Putz and Sportianity at and

Watch other video interviews at