- The Washington Times - Tuesday, July 15, 2003

Sean Gilbert once sat out a season rather than sign with the Redskins for a piddling $4million a year. As his agent, Gus Sunseri, so memorably explained it, “It’s over money, but it’s not about money. It’s a spiritual thing. Sean feels he’s had a revelation from God that this should be the figure.”

The figure, as it turned out, was $4.5million. (And Carolina’s gullible Panthers, bless ‘em, eventually paid him that much and more.)

Deion Sanders also has had a revelation from God, and he, too, has been given a figure. The figure, a lawsuit claims, is $1,500. That’s all the Neon One was willing to cough up for repairs done on his ‘61 Lincoln Continental convertible two years ago, even though the bill was for $4,265.57. According the suit, Deion handed the repair-shop owner a check for $1,500 and said, “Praise Jesus … I follow in my heart what I’m told to pay.”

Of course, that isn’t all he said. Deion’s gift for gab is second only to his gift for self-promotion. “I mean, there’s so much of it, it was like a sermon,” the repair-shop owner told the Dallas Morning News. “I just can’t remember all of it.”

The owner also said that in 20 years of tending to the cars of Dallas’ upper crust, he’s been stiffed on the bill only twice before. To which Dan Snyder is probably thinking: Hey, tell me about it.

Dan, you may recall, was left holding the bag two summers ago when Deion weaseled his way out of his contract with the Redskins after just one season. Deion wound up keeping all of his $8million signing bonus — after spending less time on the field than mechanics spent on his ‘61 Lincoln (33.25 hours).

The name of God/Jesus/Allah/ Whatever is invoked often in sports. It’s invoked after victories. It’s invoked after defeats. After his football team went 4-6 last fall, for instance, North Carolina Central coach Rudy Abrams said, “I don’t want to bring God into it, but I don’t think God wanted us to win this season.”

Apparently, God had his money down on Fayetteville State, which went unbeaten in the Central Intercollegiate Athletic Association and advanced to the Division II playoffs.

To hear Gilbert tell it — and before him, Reggie White — God has even been an interested third party in contract negotiations. When White was mulling his free agent options in ‘93, then-Packers coach Mike Holmgren, knowing the Minister of Defense relied on God’s guidance to make important decisions, left the following tongue-in-cheek message on his answering machine: “Reggie, this is God. Go to Green Bay.”

And darned if Reggie didn’t go to Cheesehead Country, where he found not eternal damnation — as many predicted — but the Super Bowl ring he had longed for.

God is everywhere in sports — from postgame prayerfests to Touchdown Jesus to Hideki “Godzilla” Matsui. Earl “The Pearl” Monroe’s original nickname? Black Jesus. The Wizards’ first draft pick in 1997? God Shammgod. Why, just the other day, Louisville hoops coach Rick Pitino was quoted as saying that Conference USA is “god-awful.” (A quote, for what it’s worth, he later denied.)

Deion’s spiritual awakening is well documented. A former hell-raiser, he began to read books about faith on the advice of his attorney, a Christian, and then one night …

“I was lying there in bed at 4 a.m. when I was awakened by these awesome lights in my room,” he says. “It was like a 747 jumbo jet had landed beside my bed, and there was an incredible rush of wind that felt like a helicopter had landed. I remember opening my eyes just the slightest bit and saying, ‘God, if that’s you, take me, Lord,’ and I was trembling all over.

“Before long it was silent and the lights disappeared, and later that night I opened my bible to a passage that read, ‘If you confess with your mouth the Lord Jesus and believe in your heart that God has raised Him from the dead, you will be saved. For with the heart one believe unto righteousness, and with the mouth confession is made until salvation.’ That’s Romans 10, verses 9 and 10, and the words hit me like a ton of bricks. I knew they were meant for me, and at that precise moment I knew I had been delivered.”

It’s possible it happened just the way Deion describes it. It’s also possible he fell asleep with the “X-Files” on — and woke up just as Scully was being abducted by aliens.

Whatever the case, Deion now says he has received another message from the Lord, one instructing him to pay only $1,500 of a $4,200 car-repair bill. Memo to his future creditors: Insist on cash. It’s the only language Deion has ever really understood.

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