Joel and me

The differences between me and Joel Osteen are clear, aren’t they?

He looks relaxed, at ease, hair shimmering, ready to go.

I’m tense, hunched shoulders, semi-perplexed, with a near buzz-cut.

Yeah, that’s me on the left.

I got a chance to sit down yesterday with one of the nation’s most prominent preachers — the most prominent? — to talk about his upcoming gig at the NEW Yankee Stadium. On Saturday, April 25 at 7 p.m., he will become the first non-baseball player to “perform” at the new house.

How did Osteen get this opportunity? Apparently, the Yankees reached out to him. But Osteen told me that he had no idea WHO within the Yankee family decided to turn centerfield over to a Houston preacher.

When I say “turn over,” I don’t mean for free. Osteen’s people are paying a hefty fee to rent the stadium. But it’s a great opportunity, nonetheless. I heard that the Rolling Stones inquired about breaking in the new room, but Osteen — who has some of Jagger’s charisma, I would say — got the spot.

I’ll be writing a profile of Osteen soon, in advance of Yankee Stadium, of course. I talked to him about lots of interesting stuff — interfaith relations, the former Catholics who attend his church, all those unchurched folks out there.

He is certainly a unique guy. Pastor of the largest church in the country. Best-selling author. Beloved by conservatives and liberals alike, despite (because of?) his unwillingness to talk politics or political issues.

He is either truly humble or does a great job pretending to be. He says that his gift is to lift people up with a positive, empowering message — and that’s it. He’ll leave all the other stuff to other preachers with different gifts.

And he can’t quite explain his appeal. It must be God, he told me, because it’s not him.

More to come.

Gary Stern

Gary Stern covered education in the Lower Hudson Valley for several years during the early 1990s. Now's he back on the beat. He believes that schools are one of the main reasons that people live around here and that educational issues -- from curriculum to financing -- are among the most challenging things that journalists can write about. He continues to be amazed by the complexity of educational jargon. Gary got his B.A. at SUNY Buffalo and his M.A. from the University of Missouri Journalism School (where his master's thesis was about the best ways to cover education). He lives in White Plains with his wife and two sons, who attend public schools.