A Weblog Dedicated to the Discussion of the Christian Faith and 21st Century Life

A Weblog Dedicated to the Discussion of the Christian Faith and 21st Century Life
I do not seek to understand that I may believe, but I believe in order to understand. For this also I believe, –that unless I believed, I should not understand.-- St. Anselm of Canterbury (1033-1109)

Thursday, June 03, 2010

Confession and Grace: Last Night Was a Good Night for Baseball

Sports fans who did not see it on TV last night are definitely talking about it today. Umpire Jim Joyce blew a call that took away a perfect game from Detroit Tigers' pitcher Armando Galarraga against my hapless Cleveland Indians. Replay was clear that Joyce blew the call. Perfect games are extremely hard to come by. There have been only twenty thrown in the history of the game.

While there has been much criticism of the umpire and calls for instant replay in baseball, I think last night was a shining moment for the sport (and no, I am not happy that the call was missed). I realize that Galarraga's very much deserved place in the record book last night was taken from him, and there is no doubt that many Tiger fans are disappointed and angry. But what we witnessed last night in reference to Joyce's heart-felt confession of error, and Galarraga's extension of grace suggests that there may indeed be something redeemable in professional sports.

I grew up in a household where sports was huge. I played sports, we watched it, and I have coached it; but in recent years I am not the fan I used to be. I still follow professional sports to some extent but not like I used to. Over the years I have become discouraged by overpaid players acting as if the ownership of the team was mistreating them for only paying them 12 million a season instead of 15 million. I have been appalled at the greed of the owners who want all the revenues from concessions, parking, and souvenir sales, while giving the municipalities who love and support their local teams nothing in the way of profits. And then there are the fans who are willing to be so taken advantage of because they just love their team and the game. (And I will refrain from going on a rant about steroid use in professional sports.) And finally, I have come to wonder about the hypocrisy involved on the part of Christians, who so passionately speak of social justice and concern for the poor, and who complain about the immorality of the salaries of CEOs, but won't even bat an eye when their hometown hero gets that multi-million dollar contract extension, but get angry when her or his team lets the star get away to play for the rival.

So, all this is to say is that while I am still a professional sports fan, I am a guarded one, which is why what happened last night between Detroit and Cleveland was even more significant than had Galarraga indeed been rightly awarded that perfect game he deserved.

After seeing the replay, James Joyce apologized face-to-face to Armando Galarraga. In his public confession he made no bones about the fact that he took away a rare perfect game from a young man who played and pitched hard. In a society where it is common to make excuses or to quickly blame someone else, Joyce owned his mistake and clearly understood the implications of that mistake in the lives of others. Even more impressive is the response of Galarraga, who did not even approach the umpire right after he made the call, and who said after the game that while he was disappointed, no one was perfect, and he appreciated Joyce's apology.

(Interview with Galarraga on the game here.)

I know very little about Joyce or Galarraga, but it just may be that the way they behaved last night during the game and after may reveal two people who have a sense of what's really important in life, especially as it relates to others. Joyce was clearly upset over how his missed call affected Galarraga, and Galarraga was quick to sympathize with the umpire who unintentionally kept him out of the record books.

Last night many witnessed personal responsibility, grace, and forgiveness on a baseball diamond of all places. Today some have argued that Bud Selig, the Commissioner of MLB, should reverse the call and give Galarraga the perfect game. Selig has officially said he won't do that, and I agree. We don't need to extend our current culture of the bailout to professional sports. Moreover, such a reversal would overshadow the moral behavior we witnessed last night in Detroit. Moral behavior does not guarantee desired results. Virtue is indeed its own reward.

Not only that, but life is unfair; and as much as we would like to, we are unable to undo all the injustices of life. Joyce and Galarraga present to us, in a small way, how to respond to life's unfair moments and unjust events. Let's not minimize it by reversing something so that we can pretend it never happened.

If the most unfair thing that happens in life to Armando Galarraga took place last night, he will have very little to complain about when he looks back on his days.


Mark said...

I always knew that baseball was divine.

Chuck Tackett said...

Excellent commentary Allan. I agree with you that their responses are the highlight of this event, well, maybe the one hit shut-out is the highlight, but ...

Now let's apply that humility and compassion to the church and maybe we'll have something worth people's attention.