Saturday, May 26, 2007

Baseball and God


Okay. We all need a diversion from the shock of the Lambeth 2008 invitations. (Or at least the Episcopal blogosphere needs something else to talk about). Fortunately, the Faith and Theology blog offers Ken Fabricius' Ten Reasons Why BaseBall is God's Game. Kim is an expat American serving as minister at Bethel United Reformed Church in Swansea, Wales, and he’s United Reformed chaplain to Swansea University.

Here is Ken's theological argument:

The story is told of the aristocratic English cricket supporter who dies and appears at the Pearly Gates. St Peter checks his list, but, alas, the old gentleman is not on it. “There must be some mistake,” the man protests, “I have a permanent seat in the Lord’s enclosure!”

Well, Lord’s may be the home of cricket, but if cricket is heaven – and I write as an American expat who has lovingly lived in the UK for over thirty years – then heaven is as the cartoonist Larson depicts it: a bored bespectacled soul sitting on a cloud, thinking (in his thought balloon): “Wish I had a magazine.” Cricket is indeed baseball on Valium, while baseball is “chess at ninety miles an hour” (Roger Kahn). Baseball is God’s game. And here are just ten reasons why.

1. “The game of ball is glorious” – Walt Whitman.

2. Baseball is about coming home. The whole point of the game is to finish where you begin – home plate – and once you are home you are finally safe.
“In my beginning is my end…
Home is where one starts from…
In my end is my beginning.”
(T. S. Eliot, “East Coker”)

3. Its rudiments come from another world, i.e. England (!); its beginnings are shrouded in myth and legend (Abner Doubleday, “Casey at the Bat,” etc.); and its origins are rural, its destiny urban, i.e. it began in a garden and ends in the urbs. And the Original Sin: the banning of black players.

4. Its believers are nourished on Word and Sacrament, viz. the umpire’s shout, “Play ball!”, and the pilgrim fare of Crackerjacks and soda, hotdogs and beer. And, amidst elaborate ritual, there is that numinous moment of stillness as the pitcher takes the sign, winds up, and delivers, and that most majestic of sounds – the crack of the bat (rubric: All stand).

5. It has its saints – e.g. Lou Gehrig (the Iron Horse) and Jackie Robinson (the first African-American player of the modern era) – and sinners – e.g. “Shoeless” Joe Jackson (who took a bribe) and Barry Bonds (who is alleged to have taken steroids). And there is the Great Satan: the New York Yankees.

6. It has its cathedrals – ballparks, awesome, hallowed grounds, the immediate playing area the “diamond” – and its Temple in Jerusalem, the National Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum in Cooperstown, New York – replete with relics!

7. It had a Reformation with a splinter church, viz. the advent of the American League – with, alas, its ultimate descent into the heresy of the “designated hitter”!

8. It has its Suffering Servant, viz. the Chicago Cubs, the “Cubbies,” a team annually “like a sheep led to the slaughter” (and crucial to the game is the play called the “sacrifice”). But “Cub fans love the Cubs, warts and all, no questions asked. This quality is called faith” (Peter Glenbock).

9. Truly I tell you, whoever does not receive this game as a little child will never enter it (cf. Mark 10:15). Magically, baseball always brings out the child in you, and draws you back to your childhood, indeed makes your childhood present (anamnesis). And it is a tie that binds the generations, communio sanctorum.

10. Finally, baseball abounds in hope (cf. Romans 15:13): “Next year!” – and, indeed, past-redeeming eschatological promise: “If you build it, he will come” (Field of Dreams). Maranatha!

Read it all.

Enjoy. Of course, knowing the Anglican Communion, this post might soon cause a huge theological fight between the Global South (insisting that Soccer is God's sport) and the Episcopal Church (which will agree with Ken that Baseball is God's Sport). And with the popularity of Cricket in many Provinces, a larger spit might indeed be in the works.

2 comments:

Andrew said...

Love it.

Once I was visiting Bermuda where Cricket is king. Once a year they have a weeklong match between a team representing one half of the island versus a team represting the other half. Everyone has their loyalty and wears their colours and flys their flags. I am told that the island essentially comes to a halt because everybody either camps out where the match is played or comes out and watches.

Of course, the island is so small that the colours mix up all the time.

I don't understand cricket. But I do so enjoy the passion!

Andrew+

Chuck Blanchard said...

Someday I will have someone explain cricket to me. The closest I have come to the sport is watching the game played on "the Wiggles", a children's show from Australia that my son loves to watch.