What the Body of Christ Can Learn From Fantasy Sports

Buster Posey – photo by thedigitalstory on Flickr

A few months ago my family and I were out at some pizza joint and there was a baseball game on the TV. Being San Francisco, the Giants were playing someone and up stepped catcher, Buster Posey. Now for those who now me, I am not simply a huge baseball and Oakland Athletics fan, but I dislike the San Francisco Giants something fierce. I know, I know, I live in San Francisco, how can I not support the hometown team? Sport allegiances as in musical tastes, sometimes you just like what you like.

Anyhoo . . .

As Posey stepped up to the plate, my eyes were glued to the screen and I found myself hoping he would rip away. And then without thinking I said to my middle daughter,

Hey honey, Buster Posey is up. He’s on my fantasy baseball team, so I hope he gets a hit.

Without looking up from her plate, she responded,

Dad, please never again say that out loud in public.

Well played young one, well played.

Now I do not want to overstate the fantasy sports metaphor as there are many problems with it, but as I have jumped into fantasy sports this year for the first time, I found myself watching the game differently. For those who have no idea what fantasy sports is, each year fantasy teams are formed from all of the players in the league. Fantasy teams are not just made up of players from the same real life teams, but are an amalgamation of the best players from all of the teams. What this means is that no longer can I solely root for my own favorite team, but I must also hope that players on other teams also do well. What fantasy sports forces you to do, if you want to succeed, is to acknowledge that there are some positives aspects about all of the teams. It might only be one batter or one pitcher, but still, you need them to do well no matter what team they play for . . . yes, even if the team is the dastardly New York Yankees.

I wonder what would happen if we applied this same kind of lens to those things that we church folks so easily demonized every day. The ways we so easily and wholeheartedly dismiss certain types of churches, styles of worship and denominational traditions might my not be so easy to do if we could, not only acknowledge that there are parts of all of these things that meet someone’s need and someone’s spiritual growth, but also hope those aspects do well.  “Success” in faith, which I believe is about being prophetic, pastoral, priestly and poetic in the world, will only be achieved if we engage in these things together. We will never agree on all aspects of the faith, between or within church families, but are there not a few aspects of faith that we can find pockets of common ground and mutual encouragement?

I think so.

WWJP? Baseball.

[Photo by gregor_y]

No offense to you football, basketball, cricket, shuffleboard, spelling bee and hockey fans, but let me tell you why baseball, the greatest sport IN THE WORLD, would be the sport of choice had Jesus had the opportunity to sign up for T-Ball as a child.  While each of the above mentioned sports may carry some of these traits, I dare say no other sports weaves them together in the way the national pastime does.

  • The Mascots // Angels, Padres and yeah, why do you think that the team fro, Tampa Bay are now known simple as The Devil Rays. - Jesus likes them.
  • The Team // Baseball  is a unique team team sport in that there are so many working parts that make up the team: starting pitchers, pinch hitters, closers, power hitters, base-stealers, etc and each player has a unique skill set. I dare say the 25 player roster has more diversity player to player than football’s 52 player squad - Jesus likes communities that bring all their gifts together for the common good.
  • The Individual // In baseball, ones individual contributions and skills can both take over a game as well as be part of a team.  Each person plays a particular role on the team, but if need be a player can carry a team for a game or two at a time pitching a shut-out, hitting a couple of home runs, making a game saving defensive play, etc. - While this can go wrong sometimes when a player tries to do too much, in the end Jesus liked Peter, he tried to much, but also carried the disciples through time of struggle.
  • The Utility Player // Not everyone can be great at all things, maybe not even great at one thing, but many can be really good at a great many things. Utility players are a crucial part of a team’s 162 game season: outfield, infield, pitcher, catcher, you name it . . . there are a few folks who can do it all.  Bert “Campy” Campaneris was the first to play all nine position in one game.  - Paul, all things to all people.
  • The Long Haul // Spring training followed by 162 games in a season allows a team to start with a clean slate each year while requiring them to think with the Big Picture in mind. – Hope and perseverance, hope and perseverance.
  • The Nuance // While some think Baseball is boring to watch on TV or in person, the nuances of the game, if open to seeing them, make every pitch and every play an exercise in imagining the possibilities and seeing a glimpse of grace. - Sorry literalists, but I think Jesus likes a nuanced approach to scripture, faith and sports.
  • The Bodies // Short, tall, thin or chunky all are welcome on the diamond. – I have got to believe that Jesus would get a kick out of the husky reliever, the slight base-stealer and the behemoth of a power hitter.
  • The Beauty // Some of the most beautiful sights in sports: The 6-4-3 Double Play, the Suicide Squeeze, hitting the cut-off, OBP, The Diving Stop, the Triple Crown, the Perfect Game and the Screwball. - Jesus like beautiful things.
  • The Movies // Best Sports Movies EVER: Bull Durham, Major League, For Love of the Game, Field of Dreams, 8 Men Out, The Babe, A League of their Own, The Natural, The Bad New Bears, The Sandlot and the ULTIMATE DOCUMENTARY, Baseball: A Film by Ken Burns.

And one last thing. I do think Jesus would pick sides when it comes to teams fandom. I suspect he would root for small market teams like the Oakland Athletics and Minnesota Twins over teams those teams that shall not be named, but rhyme with New York Hankees and Boston Bread Box.

Okay, I’ve made my case. Feel free to push back and defend your sport of choice.

This is a remodel/update of my post from 2007.


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