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Cutting to the Heart of "Sports Talk"
TSN co-host Gino Reda says titles and trophies don't bring meaning to life.

"People paint their faces and watch a game for hours," says TSN co-host Gino Reda. "They cheer or boo then discuss it, but when the rush is over, it's over. Life can be lived like that, as if it were a quest for exciting experiences or about reacting to runs of ups or downs."

Reda follows every victory and loss in the world of professional sports. He is the co-host of TSN SportsCentre's weeknight Pacific Prime edition, one of Canada's most popular sports news and information shows. To help produce it, Reda interviews pro-athletes and reports breaking developments in sports.

In response to the suggestion that most men might covet his job, Reda says attaining it proved to him that his faith has to be "the foundation" of his life.

"No job is, in and of itself, important unless it saves lives," he says.

In addition to his role on TSN, Reda hosts the nationally syndicated radio show Junior Hockey Magazine. He's worked for TSN for 14 years, having started there as a news correspondent. At 16, he landed his first television job as the host of a cable station. He went on to host and produce a weekly sports talk show for Maclean-Hunter.

*****People follow pro-sports because they reflect life's victories and disappointments—they showcase how volatile our world is.*****

"Achieving a career goal gave me the chance to see that what I do is entertaining, fun and pays the bills, but that what I believe and how that shapes my actions is the substance of my life," says Reda. "It's been said that the sports world is tremendous passion with very little consequence. I hope no one describes my faith like that."

As a TSN sports news correspondent turned co-host, Reda's watched many pro-athletes' lives unfold. He says they are like everyone in the sense that they're on a quest for what will bring meaning to their lives. He says sports can bring a sense of identity and allow for camaraderie that diffuses socio-economic, racial and religious tensions. But, sports cannot satisfy people's hunger to know God, he says.

*****… 'sports talk' can turn to 'faith talk' in the appropriate setting.*****

"People follow pro sports because they reflect life's victories and disappointments—they showcase how volatile our world is. This is the reason 'sports talk' can turn to 'faith talk' in the appropriate setting. Sports bring even the strongest and most talented men in touch with their vulnerability and the fact that they can be a hero today and forgotten by tomorrow."

After athletes become famous and sign multimillion-dollar deals, Reda says many discover "those things are great but empty." He says those who aren't religious tend to find the meaning of their lives in their family bonds or charitable giving and some seek God.

Reda admits journalists tend to edit out moments when athletes thank God for their victories or protection. He says this is partly because a half-hour interview often has to be reduced to a minutes-long sound bite, but adds that he's "explained" to his colleagues at TSN that an athlete praising God does not mean he or she thinks God is "on my side."

"When you stick a camera in an athlete's face and ask them what they are feeling at that moment, if that person says they are thanking God, that's their reaction," he says. "A journalist should see that as no different than a sports star thanking his or her coach, spouse or mentor."

Reda doesn't claim to be a "hero" or "model" of the Christian faith. "My colleagues know I'm a Christian and they've seen me be a poor witness," he says. "I believe we all blow it in really reflecting God's nature, but it is how you handle your mistakes and defeats that is telling—they show people where your strength is from."

Reda became a Christian at age 16. He credits a Campus Life worker who met with teens at Kipling Collegiate High School in Etobicoke, a Toronto suburb, with changing his outlook.

"The worker said, 'Going to church no more makes you a Christian than visiting a garage makes you a car,' then explained what it meant to have a relationship with Jesus," says Reda. "That relationship has made a profound difference to me."

Reda was a host on World Vision Canada's most recent TV telethon and is a member of the board of YouthUnlimited Toronto, an affiliate of Youth For Christ Canada. His passion for helping young people is rooted in work he did as a Youth For Christ volunteer in his early 20s. He worked with at-risk teens in high schools across Etobicoke for three years, coaching their sports teams and mentoring some.

"We were there for kids who weren't knocking on church doors and shared our beliefs," says Reda. "We wanted them to know that who they were mattered."

Reda believes no message can damage a young person more than telling him or her "you can be anything you want to in life if you just believe in yourself." He says trusting in one's abilities puts enormous pressure on individuals to measure up to the standards others set.

"When you know God, you realize He gave you the talents and opportunities you've had," says Reda. "God can raise people up and clear the path for them to succeed and tell them the next day He wants them to serve Him in a different way."

Reda credits his wife, Jacqueline, and his son and daughter with ensuring he reserves time to pray with them and share family devotions. This August, he and his wife will celebrate their 15th wedding anniversary. Reda says without her spiritual influence, his career pursuits and the pressures on them would have diverted his attention away from God and his responsibility to "be there for" his children.

Reda says he's rarely missed his son's hockey games or his daughter's dance recitals. He often ferries the kids, ages 11 and nine respectively, to their lessons.

He says Christian athletes are not necessarily "better parents" or have "more together lives" than non-Christians do. He says journalism has given him the understanding about why he should not be biased about people of any religious persuasion. That, he says, has been beneficial to his faith as well as his ability to share it.

"I don't think being a Christian makes me a stronger or weaker sports co-host," he says. "I think Christians play into the trap of thinking they have to try to be perfect or somehow better than others. My faith is not something I sport, it's integral to who I am as a person; it's shaped my life story but in the end it is God who should shine through."

Reda says he's frequently prayed the following with his family: "While we are on earth may we dwell in Your will; when we're done may we dwell in Your heavenly kingdom."

"It reminds me," he says, "that when I step out of God's will, I've made a wrong move and I'd better re-think it."

Carol Lowes can be contacted at carol.lowes@total.net

Faith & Friends, July 2002, SalvationArmy.ca/magazines/faithandfriends

 

 
 
 
 

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