These recent months as the Atlanta Braves’ celebrated third baseman, Chipper Jones, has made his final appearance in cities around the country, he has been feted and honored. These days it is a rare baseball player who plays his entire career with one team. Chipper has done this in addition to compiling Hall of Fame-like accomplishments. Folks attending Braves games are mindful of the reality that they are seeing Chipper Jones playing his last games. For many of us, the ultimate prize would be that his final game would be a fourth winning game in the World Series.
So, I’m a baseball fan. I grew up with a very basic Arvin radio next to my bed with an antenna tailing out on the roof of my upstairs bedroom window. Late at night I could pull in the familiar voices of Harry Carey and Jack Buck from St. Louis and Mel Allen from the Rochester, N.Y., affiliate of the Yankees. The first Major League game I saw in person was in Metropolitan Stadium in Bloomington, Minn., in the first year the Twins were in Minnesota as they hosted the New York Yankees for the first time. I remember being amazed that Mickey Mantle and Yogi Berra were really just normal-sized people.
One of the beautiful things about sports is that we can find ourselves coming together around the support of a player, a team or just the sport itself. Religious conservatives, moderates and liberals can stand and cheer the accomplishments of a Chipper Jones. We can give up our divisiveness over faith to cheer a player who by his own acknowledgement has evident flaws in his personal life. We love his game and we enjoy the sport.
Likewise, you might find a tea partier and an Obama supporter sharing some baseball joy. It is a beautiful thing to celebrate commonality!
Sports fans can legitimately be criticized for spending an inordinate amount of time watching games and pouring over statistics. I sometimes lament how much less of a Jesus disciple I have been due to my reaching for the sports section or watching yet another baseball game. I could have been reading and studying theological texts. I could have been planning more astutely for mission and ministry.
Just think if I had been born in a non-baseball country like Sweden or Namibia or Turkey. But I suppose I would have gotten involved in some other extra-curricular activity.
Would that we might be able to come together around the love of neighbor just as we come together around the accomplishments of a ballplayer. Would that we, Republicans and Democrats, could come together around matters of justice for the poor. Would that we could devote the necessary resources around the very doable task of alleviating hunger in our country and in the world. Would that we might heed the kernel of the gospel of Jesus to provide welcome and acceptance to all of God’s people. Would that we could come together to celebrate hope and cast out fear.
We live with our interests and, sadly, our biases. I pray that the real issues of faith and life might be our “real” game. And I will continue to believe that Chipper can rise to the occasion one more time!
Find a link to Darrel Peterson’s entry at ELCA Southeastern Synod Blog at Lutheran Blogs.