Friday, June 02, 2006

God Is My Long Reliever

It's 1-1 in the bottom of the 7th and the bottom of the order's up. The leadoff man draws a walk, and the manager's brain gets to work.

What's the plan? Bunt? Hit and run? Take some pitches to see if the pitcher's still wild? Pinch hit? Now's the time for the skipper to ask himself, what would Jesus do? There's managing by the book, and then there's managing by the Good Book. Let the Man Upstairs flash the sign to the third base coach.

This blasphemous scenario may well be the reality at Coors Field, where the Colorado Rockies are conducting a revival meeting in sanitary socks. USA Today revealed this week that the perennial doormat has embarked upon a quest to be the first "Christian" franchise in baseball. No cussing or magazines with dirty pictures in the clubhouse. Good citizens only, and a willingness to be saved counts as much as the ability to earn saves.

Christianity, or at least evangelical Protestantism, is taking itself out to the ballpark this season. In addition to the Rockies quest for salvation, the New York Times reported today that "Faith Nights" are the newest marketing craze sweeping the minors, and will soon come to some of the more attendance challenged big league clubs (for Florida Marlins' fans, every night is Faith Night. What else have they?).

Faith Nights are a perfectly appropriate and harmless way for religion and baseball to co-exist. Church groups have been making excursions to ballgames as long as have businesses, frateral organizations, Cub Scouts, Little Leaguers, naval personnel in port, and all the other secular communities looking for a pleasant excursion as part of their bonding process. It'll be tough on the children when Faith Night also becomes Bench-Clearing Brawl Night, but a pilgrim's progress is a slow one. The only news you can use in the Times article revealed that the Birmingham (Ala.) Steeldogs of the Arena2 Football League designed but did not use Bibically themed jerseys for their Faith Night. I want one! Badly!! Number 66!!!.

The Rockies' story, on the other hand, raises serious questions, about religion, not baseball. One can tell the Christians within the Colorado clubhouse felt they'd said a little too much, as they took pains to knock down the USA Today tale the day it appeared.

The religionists weren't too convincing in light of the following quote from Rockies GM Dan O'Dowd.

"Look at the way we're winning games," O'Dowd said. "This has to be more than coincidence. God has definitely had a hand in this."

Those of us on the interstate to hell immediately envisioned the Archangels Gabriel and Michael exchanging high fives in the Mirage sports book after another miracle win by the Rockies, ordering a round of Kristal and tipping the waitress big. But it's the serious Christians of the world who ought to be offended by O'Dowd's comment. The notion that any member of the Holy Trinity, Father, Son, or Holy Ghost, has the faintest interest in the National League West pennant race was heresy.

The belief that Christian faith is reflected by worldly success is the USA's unique contribution fo false doctrine. The Gospels and much of the rest of the Old and New Testaments denounce and/or refute that idea time and time again. Faith is a blessing, but sound theology teaches it's no help at all against Pedro Martinez.

So the Rockies' front office doesn't even understand the religion it's trying to promote. Worse for both secular and born-again Colorado fans, the Rockies are pushing a premise the culture of baseball is bound to reject. Sooner or later, the devout franchise will be forced to choose between hypocrisy and losing.

The first premise of the baseball clubhouse is "it takes all kinds." Winners come in all shapes, sizes, and souls. Many a Hall of Famer has been a model of their faith. Others, equally great, not so much. The imperative of victory forces different individuals into co-existence. Back in the '60s, Yankee second baseman Bobby Richardson was one of the prime movers in the Fellowship of Christian Athletes. He kept his opinion of philandering alcoholic Mickey Mantle to himself.

Premise Two flows from Premise One: "Don't Make Waves." Serious issues can lead to serious splits of opinion, so let's avoid them. Baseball's vicious in-house humor is all based on telling the butts of the jokes to get over themselves.

Curt Schilling has rubbed hundred of teammates the wrong way in his distinguished career. It's not because of the nature of his fervent beliefs in Christianity and the Republican party. The majority of players share them. But Schilling, born without an emotional thermostat, loves waves. In his life, the surf is always up. This wears other players out.

No one objects to a team selecting "good citizens" for its roster. A player's not much use to a club if he's in rehab or serving time. But by deliberately injuecting the ultimate serious issue-religion-into their franchise, the Rockies have set themselves up for a replay of the Book of Job as narrated by Bob Uecker. What's Colorado going to do if it acquires the second coming of sociopathic Ty Cobb, or worse, a pleasant, peaceful devout atheist with a 100 mph fastball?

The amateur draft is right around the corner. It'd serve the Rockies right if their first round pick has an agent by the name Mr. Applegate.


Post a Comment

<< Home