Sonn: Be sure to thank the right parties

BY BARRETT SONN | JULY 23, 2014 5:00 AM

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When former NBA All-Star Tracy McGrady recently retired from a brief stint in professional baseball, one of the things he did was thank Jesus for everything he’s been able to accomplish, according to ESPN.

That is not a new trend; if you’ve ever seen a sports interview (especially after a big game) or even an acceptance speech at the Oscars, you’ve probably seen God/Jesus get a ton of credit, maybe making His ego inflate to the size of Noah’s Ark.

But it’s troubling when an absurd amount of credit is given to God. It’s not even about the existence of a god/higher being, much less “God” in the Christian, Jewish, or Muslim connotation. For me, this is a borderline irrational irritation founded on the basis of giving credit where credit is due.

Statistically speaking, becoming a successful actor in Hollywood is almost impossible. Even if your definition of success is equivalent to, say, one of those vague actors you recognize but can’t name, that’s still success — just on a more anonymous level.

In sports too, even making it into the NBA or NFL is in itself an arduous journey, not to mention becoming a star player. Think about all the hard work that’s needed to get where you want0 to go. That hard work may also come at the expense of others’ time and energy.

When I wrote about improving the Oscars, I advocated for the creation of a category applauding stuntmen and stuntwomen. Talk about getting taken for granted; someone needs to explain why there are two categories for sound and zero categories for a group of people that probably go through the most danger and get the least recognition.

Have you ever stayed long enough during a movie’s ending credits to see the names of the stunt crew? I didn’t think so.

The most interesting thing about thanking an invisible entity is that it takes credit away from the person who actually achieved that success. Why be so modest? There’s a scale or spectrum for appropriate behavior when winning something: On one end is the Richard Sherman System, where you antagonize and generally act like a nut.

On the other side is the Joe Pesci System, where you say, “Thank you” — literally — and walk off the stage to film a candy-bar commercial. Thanking God but neglecting to mention what you had to go through is leaning toward the Joe Pesci System, and really, people should learn that it’s OK to be proud of their accomplishments.

For actors and actresses, there shouldn’t even be an excuse about maintaining that delicate balance and not committing any grievous cultural faux pas. If you can win an Academy Award for Best Actor, you can probably talk about your own hard work for two minutes without sounding pretentious or condescending.

If you’re really that arrogant, then just, oh I don’t know, act like you’re not.

Look, if I’m being completely honest, maybe the existence of God does have to do with this. Nobody knows whether He exists or not, but wouldn’t it just be embarrassing to be crying and sniffing on the stage, front and center on national TV, then thrust your award high into the air and thank God, only to later learn He doesn’t even exist?

Why take that risk?

Besides, even if God does exist, surely you wouldn’t imply He favors Matthew McConaughey over Tom Hanks, right? And going back to sports, surely you don’t think He really cares whether LeBron James or Kevin Durant wins MVP, right?

Just try to thank the tangible: yourself, the others around you, and the journey.

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