Whither The Scientologist Athlete?

Illustration for article titled Whither The Scientologist Athlete?

San Francisco 49er quarterback John Brodie, who was featured in an SI cover story in 1971, was a practicing Scientologist for 12 years, yet there haven't been anymore popular athletes that have come forward since then. It's kind of odd.


Amusingly, about half of the SI story centers around Brodie's quasi-hippie-philosophical leadership and how Scientology provided him with the foundation for his success after an arm injury almost cost him his career. Obviously, this story predates any Tom Cruise furniture hopping antics but there's no question that Brodie was heavily devoted and determined to follow-through with his quest for The Clear. The author of the piece, Robert F. Jones, can't help but snicker when describing the role of Scientology in Brodie's comeback:

The hierophant in question is L. Ron Hubbard, a reformed science-fiction writer and the founding prophet of Scientology. And what, you might ask, is Scientology? Gather around the Sacred Computer, heathens, and harken to the Holy Bleep.

After going into explicit details about this newfangled "California" religion, Jones relies upon Brodie to fill in the blanks about how L.Ron Hubbard saved him. Brodie is a little less heavy on the Thetan-speak than some of the more vocal celebrity Scientologists we see popping up today, but he was definitely hooked on L.Ron's gospel:

"Early last season my arm was bothering me. Ever since I broke it in 1963, it hadn't been completely right. A friend of mine suggested that I take a crack at Scientology, just to see if I couldn't clear it up. Maybe it was psychosomatic-a 'service facsimile' that I called up from the past to justify my failure or, in fact, to set up another failure and another gratifying session of self-pity. Well, I know it's hard to believe, but after just two hour-long sessions my arm got better and it's been right ever since. I've gone a long way since then-I'm just a step short of 'clear.' For the first four months of my preclear, I didn't say a word to my wife or kids. But Susan could tell that something was going on. Finally she asked me what I was doing, what was changing me. Now she and the four kids are into Scientology, too. In fact, Susan will probably beat me to clear."

Brodie continued to practice Scientology for the next the next 11 years and was one of the first celebrity members to reach OTVII, one of the highest levels of Scientology super-advancement, a level recently held by Cruise, John Travolta, Jenna Elfman and other wacky celebs. But Brodie soured on it around 1982 after some Scientology henchmen were overly-aggressive with some of his friends and he denounced Scientology's methods by saying The Church "didn't treat certain members fairly."

I'm kind of amazed more popular athletes aren't practicing Scientlogists, given how malleable (and super rich) these guys are coming out of college. And most athletes are already hard-wired to process various self-help and motivational techniques, so this would seem like a logical extension of their professional m.o. You know, the tenets of "Live Strong" and Dianetics aren't that different.


But how would the public react if they find out that, say, Tom Brady's remarkable comeback was partially from aggressive rehabilitation, but also helped along by a thorough self-auditing? Orif Brett Favre's resistance to retirement wasn't motivated by a desire to keep wining, but because he needs to maintain his public appearances in order to achieve OTVII. Coincidentally, the first person Favre did an on-air interview with was Greta Van Susteren — a practicing Scientologist. Dun..dun..dun...

The Prime Of Mr. John Brodie [SI]