Thursday, May 22, 2008

God, I Love Baseball

Reader Sara Kniffen -- who has two young boys and a two month old baby at home, so God knows how she's getting to watch any baseball -- caught the Young/Pujols smackaroony last night and has this to say:
As can be seen in the highlights, while the team gathers around
Young, Adrian Gonzalez leads Pujols a short way from the mound, and (I assume)
they pray together. I'm not a Christian, and I usually get the ookies when
religion and sports performance get conflated, but this act seemed a spontaneous
and genuine response to an unsettling situation. It was nice to see players from
opposing teams comforting each other unselfconsciously. Didn't help
Young's nose, but it did warm my heart a little. God, I love baseball (pun

Thanks Sara. I'm an agnostic, but I greatly respect and am heartened by genuine and spontaneous demonstrations of faith. There's a beauty and wonderfulness to that sort of thing that gives me faith in human nature, even if I don't have any faith in the supernatural.

While we're on the subject, though, I do have a theological question that is a little less reverential than the previous paragraph. Why is it that athletes are so quick to credit God for helping them to catch those touchdowns and hit home runs in tight spots, but no one is suggesting that God was attempting to smite Chris Young for some unknown perfidy?

UPDATE: Commenter Mark Runsvold has officially ended this conversation with what may be the comment of the year:

Chris Young, like a modern-day & human Tower of Babel, is being punished for
trying to reach the heavens.


Mark Runsvold said...

Chris Young, like a modern-day & human Tower of Babel, is being punished for trying to reach the heavens.

How's that, Craig?

Craig Calcaterra said...

That may be the comment of the year so far.

Jason said...

well played, Mark.

Anonymous said...

It's because athletes (and people in general, I suppose) rarely think about the theological consequences of foolish statements like "god helped me score that touchdown," or whatever. I would pay good money to have a reporter ask that athlete why he supposed god wanted the other team to lose; or if that means he thinks god bet the spread that day.

JDS said...

Craig -- I believe that if you asked athletes about God's role in "misfortune" most of them would have an answer. As a Christian (a left-wing, politically radical Christian, might I add), one of the things that is most difficult to explain to non-believers is how God asks us to accept the world as it is, which is imperfect and difficult (as opposed to the life promised us after we die). I get that question a lot: "If God is so wonderful, why does he let bad things happen?" IMHO, we don't know what is "good" or "bad" (there's a story about Adam and Eve that illustrates this point very well), and we ask in the Lord's prayer "Thy Will Be Done," not "Please give me good things and not bad." I think human nature is such that when good things happen, Christians don't want to take credit, they want to give glory to God, but when bad things happen, they tend to take personal responsibility (hopefully) and not "blame" God, though most of them will agree that anything that happens is God's will.

I'm delighted that people are skeptical about religion and God, I think that leads to some very productive personal growth, but personally I think it's much easier and less challenging to say "I don't believe" than to take the leap of faith that there is a force in the world bigger than any of us. As a Zen proverb once put it, "For the non-believer there is no answer; for the believer, there is no question."

JDS said...

Anonymous: religious people think about the role of God in their life frequently, if not all the time. I've never heard an athlete say "God helped me score that touchdown," I hear them say "God was with me." And if you talk to them after a tough loss, some of them will say "God will give me the strength to deal with this loss." You can call that logic "foolish" if you want, but it is not ill-considered. (Incidentally, most religious people believe faith supercedes logic: that's a debatable point, but pointing out what appear to be logical fallacies in matters of faith is a fool's errand -- the whole point is that faith/God/fate/whatever are beyond human logic, language and comprehension).

Alex said...

Ravech mentioned, when he showed the clip, how shaken up Pujols was, and then they showed Pujols and Gonzales praying. I was really impressed and pleased by Pujols' humility in that situation.

On a slightly related note: does anyone else think Young uses the "drop and drive" style delivery that Oswalt and Tim Hudson use? I noticed that recently and can't believe he'd do anything to lower his release point.

Mr. Thursday said...

Alex: Young totally does, but there is a benefit that is more distinctly his. Instead of throwing a pitch with a really steep angle, he throws with a moderately steep one. The drop and drive, coupled with his length, shortens the distance from his release to the plate so much that the pitch SEEMS to be coming in about 5-10mph faster than it actually is. It's a big part (I think) of why his BA against is usually crazy low.

As for the theological what-have-you happening. Citing The Lord's Prayer, specifically the "Thy Will Be Done" about bad things/good people is no good. I mean, just before that there's "give us this day, our daily bread", and I believe it's 1/5 people in the world who are presently starving to death. The fact is, I think, that when good things happen, people are responsible. When bad ones happen, people, again, are at work. I believe in God, and I think he allows this to happen, but let's give credit where credit is due. Ryan Howard hit 2 homers last night NOT because he's a good Christian, or because God is just and merciful and all that. He hit them because he's a crazy good baseball player.

Daniel said...

When I pray before/during/after sporting events I participate in, I thank God for the opportunity to play, the ability to perform whatever it was I did, safety and enjoyment for all of the participants, and a spirit of sportsmanship and goodwill among the teams. When Albert Pujols or Vlad Guerrero point to the sky after a homerun, my opinion is that they're thanking God for blessing them with ability and health, not for choosing them as his minions of destruction of pitching staffs. God isn't rooting for Pujols over any particular pitcher, but he did bless him with ability and opportunity to play. Why not give thanks?

I agree that it is a wonderful thing to see those two praying together, and I'll pray for Young myself. That's a scary thing to see.