The Path of Life

The Path of Life

Monday, May 25, 2015

The truth of baseball

Sometimes you win.
Sometimes you lose.
And sometimes it rains.

That's a quote from the 1988 film Bull Durham, which in my book is the best (and funniest) baseball movie ever made. Although unnecessarily irreverent and risque at times, the films's baseball situations, characters, and dazzling dialogue ring true. These days, as I lament the misfortunes of my Cincinnati Reds (who have lost nine straight, are hampered by some significant injuries and under-achieving players, and possess a remarkably consistent inability to locate home plate), I might add a fourth line to the quote above:

Sometimes you wish
it WOULD HAVE rained.

( another great quote from Bull Durham goes: "This is a simple game. You throw the ball. You hit the ball. You catch the ball. You got it?")

Easy for me to say, right? In any case, let's get it together, Reds! I'm sure they're listening, and that such an exhortation will provide just the boost they need, right?

As an aside, my brother Kevin actually lives in Cincinnati, sees Reds games in person much more often than I, and is in no way lacking in any kind of sports knowledge. Still, my chagrined mother (somewhat scandalized, I suspect) tells people, "If you want to know what's going on with the Reds, ask the one living in a monastery." One of my vices, I suppose. We all have them. 

But I tell you, these days it ain't easy being a Reds fan--especially when you're living in the same monastery with a monk who is an ardent St. Louis Cardinals fan (the Cardinals, for those lacking in knowledge of such matters, are in first place within the same division, and seem to find as many ways to win as the Reds do to lose. I hate them with a perfect hate, as the psalmist says). Since 1990, the last time the Reds won the World Series, the stupid Cardinals have been to four World Series, and won two of them. Have I mentioned how much I hate the Cardinals?

It's just a game, I know. The fate of the world is not at stake. The sun will come up tomorrow (unless it rains). But these days, especially, baseball is a counter-cultural icon of sorts, and I like that. Baseball is a grind--it's a long (six-month) season played out nearly every single day of the week, with plenty of ups and downs, batting slumps and winning streaks. You're never as bad as it sometimes appears, and you're never as good as it sometimes appears. The long haul is what counts--and you can't do it all alone. In that sense, baseball is an excellent metaphor for life in general. Like life, being successful means failing often enough to learn and adjust accordingly (a .300 batting average, the universal measure of offensive accomplishment, means that a hitter has failed to reach base safely 70 percent of the time). It means being patient and hanging in there, picking up the slack for a slumping teammate. And if things still don't go all that well, just wait until next year (after all, only one Major League team in 30 wins it all each season). 

Baseball is a game of hopeful, even stumbling, perseverance in a world that demands instant, even if fleeting, success and glory. Those who love the game realize that at its core, baseball is about seeking and striving for authenticity along a winding, arduous road. As such, it has many parallels with the spiritual life of any Christian. As John Sexton, the author of Baseball as a Road to God, says,"Conversion is not for the faint of heart. It is a difficult process, requiring effort and perseverance." Every day, win, lose, rain, or shine. Most of all, as with the Christian life, baseball is about hope amid this struggle. As the late Bart Giamatti, the short-lived commissioner of baseball in 1989, wrote, "Baseball is about going home, and how hard it is to get there, and how driven is our need."

And the Reds really need to find home right now. It's essential. It's a simple game...

First pitch tomorrow is 7:10 p.m. ET. Unless it rains (and I kind of hope it does).


  1. Wonderful reflection, I've alsoread Sexton's book and it really gives new insight into baseball vs Christian life, both are to be savored and practiced over the long haul, day in and day out, with reverence to the game and rules / prayer and dogma. Nice post by you, as a Yankee and secondarily a White Sox fan I am having a good season so far!

  2. Thanks, John.

    Sexton's book is great. Yankees, especially, seem to be in the hunt thus far.

    Play ball!

    Br. Francis