Sunday, 18 September 2005

Not so breezy threesey

(Yes, I know “threesey” isn’t a real word, but I was attempting a rhyme.)

Today was game three of our fall season, and I must confess I have never before been embarrassed to wear the jersey of my team as I was today.

Oh, we won, 15-10. The embarrassment was due to the conduct of a few of our teammates.

The ump behind the plate was being very inconsistent with his pitch calling. Wildly inconsistent, with regard to what constituted a ball for one team versus the other. You can intuit the inconsistency was not in our team’s favor.

As I have gotten older, I have mellowed with regard to sports officials. For the most part. These are guys and ladies who have to make a decision in a nanosecond, including times when the call could honestly go either way. Umpires, referrees, they’re not perfect. They’re human, and like all of us are prone to mistakes. I understand that, and respect their authority.

The remaining issue I have with sports officials is a lack of consistency. If pitch A is a ball, and pitch B comes across in exactly the same spot, it should be called a ball, too. Today’s umpire was not being consistent. By the fourth inning, the ire of the team had been raised to a fever pitch. We were on our third pitcher, and not necessarily because the first two were throwing junk. Mind you, there were balls being thrown, but as I murmured to one of my teammates on the bench (I switched off every other inning with Dave at 3d), the law of averages dictates that some of these pitches had to be strikes.

In the top of the fifth, some words were shared from the dugout by one of our teammates, loud enough for the umpire to hear. This was after an exchange while this player was at the plate. The umpire called our coach over, and the team was informed, via this conversation, that if anyone uttered another such comment, they would be ejected. It was a sad moment, I feel, for our team.

After the game, our coach informed us that while she was catching in the fourth, she had asked for some consistency in the pitch calling from the umpire. His reply was a simple nod. The only failing I see here was that our coach should have informed the entire team of this at the end of the inning. The unpleasantness might have then be avoided.

I’m sure some of you are thinking, so what’s the big deal? The big deal is that this is a church league. Yes, we are out there to play, have fun, and yes again, to win. However, we should be doing so in a manner worthy of the God we call Lord. We failed to do so today.

It has been said on more than one occasion and by more than one person that Christians are their own worst enemies. More often than not, our words bear no witness for us to the world. Rather, it is our conduct which bears that witness, and we failed in that regard. Our opposition, which was losing, showed what good sportsmanship should look like.

Our league’s games are not the only ones in progress. At the park we play at, there are two other fields in operation. There are spectators, and kids playing on the jungle gym. Sometimes, you may get only one chance to witness to another human being, and you may not even know it. Again, the witness may be through your conduct and never through your words. Who may have been watching our game today, and saw what happened? Who may have thought about checking our church out, but now won’t set foot inside of it? Who may have thought, Gee, if those Christians are just like everyone else, what’s the point? Playing softball is fun, yes, and we play to win, but we should keep in mind we are playing to witness, too, and today, we blew it. Personally, I would rather lose with dignity, with our witness to the world intact.

The cliché goes, “Christians aren’t perfect, just forgiven.” It’s true; we’re still human, though we work to emulate the one Who’s name we bear, the one Who called us to follow Him. People will lose their tempers; that happened today. But we should always be mindful of the consequences of losing that temper.

For the record, I went three for three at the plate, with two RBIs. My defense could have been better; I had a guy cold at first, and my throw is four feet off my baseman’s stretch. The team won.

And we lost.

posted on September 18, 2005 9:56 PM




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