Sports as a Religion

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We went to a game last night at Chase Field, the home of our baseball team, The Arizona Diamondbacks. It used to be Bank One Ballpark, which is how I still think of it, but that’s another story. It’s all about big business, mergers, big money and banks. And yet…..when I go there, despite all the hoopla and fanfare and technology, I am transported back to a simpler time. When it was just “the game” and not “the fame.” There’s magic in it still.

I agree that its gotten completely out of control, the fanaticism with sports, not only in America but around the world. I say, pay them what teachers make and see how many would still play the game. We build these huge facilities while schools are closing, and it’s just not right.

And yet, there I was. Paying too much for food and drink that I could have made at home. All because, well let’s face it. I’ve had almost a kind of romance with baseball ever since I went to my first game at the old Candlestick Park in San Francisco. Maybe it’s all the great movies about baseball. I mean, “Field of Dreams” and “The Natural?” Kevin Costner and Robert Redford…..I could go on and on. And maybe it’s just part of American tradition and I want to feel like it’s still all good out there.

The truth is, sometimes it’s just good in our crazy world to go along with the crowd. To go eat some bad food, maybe have a beer, wear your team jersey and cheer like crazy. And let’s face it, this is a really cool stadium…..it actually opens up!

I love seeing three generations with their arms around each other during “God Bless America” and “Take Me Out to the Ballgame.” You can still see that, even now. Last night was no exception. It was just good fun, and even though there were many LA Dodger fans in the house, things never got out of control between fans. It was a friendly rivalry.

There is something deeper in all this, though, and that is what I really want to focus on. The fact that deep down, there is something within us that wants to band together as a community and worship something bigger than ourselves. And when you attend a fame, the players, the game, the stadium……all of those things are bigger than ourselves at that particular moment. At that moment, we all join as a collective group and root for who we want to win. The thing that is bigger than ourselves. The thing that allows us to escape our jobs…….our problems…..that lifts us out of the mundane.

This is an innate desire in us. And there is nothing we can do about it, because it was placed within us by God Himself. So when we don’t attend church or practice a particular religion, we must find a substitute.

Maybe for you, it’s not sports, it’s music. Or movies and entertainment. Or nature.

Whatever it is, unless you turn that attention and focus to God Himself, that desire will never be fully satisfied.

Last night was a good night. And despite the fact that the seats in the Diamond level were less than desirable (we were right next to a wall) and they waited to long to close the roof (it was warm) it was a good night. We won, 6-10.

Happy 60th Birthday game Elaine! Thank you for introducing me to the love of the game long ago.

For the love of the game

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Back when I was growing up, my Mom had a special friend. Her name was Lorna Mae. Lorna originally came from Kansas and I think her husband Dale did too. They moved to California and lived on the street next to us. Lorna was a saint, and I have no qualms about saying that. She was one of the kindest, sweetest people I have ever known.

Lorna and her husband were staunch baseball fans. On game days, they would all pile into the car and go to see (to use Dale’s vernacular) “them A’s play.” Meaning the Oakland A’s that is. “Why, Haeeellll,” he would say to my Dad, “We got up early and Doug-brian-scott-roxanne-lornamae and myself went down for hat day. I still can’t think of them all without running all their names together. Though they had four kids, all names morphed into one on game day.

I know my Dad feigned interest. He didn’t care much about baseball, having been a “leather head” himself back in the days when football wasn’t “sissified” like it is now. A good game was not only when you won, but if you got through the game without serious injury or death. He didn’t think baseball players did all that much. “They’re not athletic,” he said, “and they just stand around chewing and spitting.”

Dale loved the game of baseball so much he actually bought and installed a professional pitching machine in the backyard. A couple of his sons actually were pretty good.

Dale was also a bit on the gullible side. My Dad once told him the model airplane they were flying came out of a Wheaties Box. “Noooo kidding…….” Dale said, shaking his head.

But back to Lorna. Lorna’s house was neat as a pin and you could have probably eaten off her garage floor. She hosed it out regularly. Lorna babysat other people’s kids during the day in addition to raising her own, like my Mom did. The whole family also cleaned Doctor’s offices at night for years.

When I was in High School, Lorna gave me rides to school on rainy days because my Mom didn’t have a car and neither did I or any of my friends.

When her kids were grown she got a job at a local business where I know she won everyone over with her work ethic and kind heart.

And it was at that same job, several years later that she started getting headaches and dizziness. She also started laying her head down on her station in the middle of the day.  Her co-workers were alarmed because that was not like her at all.

Doctors discovered a brain tumor. After brain surgery, chemo and radiation, and many trips to Mexico for alternative healing, (Dale, to his credit, didn’t give up) Lorna went to be with Jesus. I know He personally welcomed her home with open arms.

I was around 28 or 9 when I went to my first major league baseball game at Candlestick Park, to see the Giants play. I was captivated. I discovered the joy and the magic of the crack of the bat……being at the Ballpark and having a hotdog in a steamed bun that cost too much. And I thought of doug-brian-scott-roxanne-lornamae and dale.

And I have a feeling Lorna was smiling from Heaven.

When I moved here, I was excited we had a major league team and I took my Dad to a game when he was visiting. He got to see Randy Johnson, the Big Unit,  throw a one hundred mile an hour practice pitch in the bullpen right below us.

He just shook his head in disbelief. He never forgot it.

And Lorna was smiling.