Before the beginning of the 2010 baseball season, I made a conscious decision: I was going to be a Cincinnati Reds fan and would raise my boys to root for them as well. Why? Well, this has been coming on for years.
Growing up, I had moved all over the place, but due to my older brother I began rooting for the Los Angeles Dodgers. In the mid ‘80s, I started pulling for the New York Mets because a lot of their players had played in the Mets AA affiliate in Lynchburg, VA (my hometown), so I identified with many of those players (Len Dykstra, Darryl Strawberry, Dwight Gooden, etc.). When I moved to Kentucky, I began rooting for the Florida Marlins because of the ties there and I got to follow a lot of their players as well.
But since 2003, I’ve lived in Lexington, Kentucky, about 70 miles south of Cincinnati. Now that my boys are getting older, I want them to have what I didn’t have—a hometown team. So I went to the local Dick’s Sporting Goods store and bought my kiddos some Reds garb—my boys got their hats hanging on their bedposts or usually on their heads. My girls have their Reds T-shirts. We were ready to go.
So we intentionally started keeping up with the games: either via ESPN GameCast or on their coverage on 700 WLW with Thom and Marty Brennaman and Jeff Brantley. Soon, they grew excited about seeing the Reds on TV (since we don’t get ESPN or Fox Sports Ohio, we had to wait until they were on FOX Game of the Week or playing the Cubs on WGN America).
But as the season began drawing to a close, an interesting thing happened: the Reds were winning their division over the St. Louis Cardinals. Neither team played great down the stretch, but the Reds kept their distance.
Then last night it happened: Jay Bruce’s walk-off home run in the bottom of the ninth clinched the National League Central for the Reds for the first time since 1995. It’s been a long time since I’ve felt that time of sports-fan euphoria. Our family has tickets to see the Reds play the Brewers at the beautiful Great American Ball Park in Cincy on Saturday, October 2nd. Let’s just say, I’m glad that they clinched beforehand—I’ll be able to enjoy the game so much more, even though they may be resting a number of their players.
A Christian Perspective
One thing that has been circling in my mind for a number of weeks is this: should I be this wrapped up in a ball game? John Thorn commented during Ken Burns’ new documentary on Baseball (“Tenth Inning”) that there is nothing inherently earth-shaking about a man being able to hit a ball a long ways. In a sense, that is true. But is there anything redeeming that one can learn from sports? Yes.
- Herman Edwards was right. During a press conference, Herman Edwards while coach of the New York Jets, ranted, “Hello! You play to win the game.” I know that in Little League, we are told that it doesn’t matter who wins or loses, it’s how you play the game. But isn’t the point to improve your skills (whatever they might be) to help your team win? Shouldn’t Christians, whose life is viewed as a warfare, have the same God-glorifying ambition to win the race set before us (1 Corinthians 9:24-27; Hebrews 12:1-2).
- You cannot win it alone. Joey Votto is an MVP Candidate. He is an absolute beast. Yet, there are 24 other players on the roster. Votto cannot pitch, and he cannot play all nine positions at the same time. Even the Christian church needs more than a pastor or deacons. All of us as Christians are members of the body of Christ (1 Corinthians 12), each serving a particular purpose and function.
- It shows our need to identify with something greater than ourselves. Hats, jerseys, bumper stickers, flags—all of these items we wear, showing our allegiance to our favorite team. We connect with the present and the past, the ups and downs, the good and the bad. But the fact is, we identify with all that this team epitomizes. We are on an infinitely greater level identified with Christ as Christians—and this allegiance is never superseded by any earthly allegiance. We show our identity by the fruit we bear, not by Christian hats and T-shirts and bumper stickers and flags (John 15:1-11). Sports is fine when kept in the realm of recreation—not addiction. Recreational activities can turn into worship very, very easily.
What think ye?