Kicking the bucket through those great goal posts in the sky

casketI’m a huge baseball fan. If I could have dinner with anyone living or dead, it would be Albert Pujols. If I were ever to launch a political campaign, it would be to abolish the designated hitter rule. And I frequently begin statements with the phrase, “When I become baseball commissioner . . .”

So I had more than a few friends pass along this Reuters story about a deal signed with Major Leage Baseball that allows the Eternal Image company to reproduce the names and logos of all 30 league teams on a new line of caskets and urns:

“Fans incorporate baseball in nearly every aspect of life,” Eternal Image Chief Executive Clint Mytych said, adding that the caskets could appeal to “a market that is just waiting for a way to make team loyalty a final statement of a great passion in their lives.”

The urns and caskets will go on sale next year at prices from about $600 to $3,500, Mytych said.

“Our clubs receive these requests with some frequency. We have really passionate fans,” Major League Baseball spokeswoman Susan Goodenow said, adding that the deal gives the sport’s governing body control of the tastefulness of the product.

The Reuters story was all of a few hundred words and little more than a glorified press release.

Why are so many stories about sports and religion so shallow? The fact is that sports have superseded religion in most areas as the dominant means for communal interaction. Athletes are much more popular than saints or religious figures. Team colors are donned much more fervently than liturgical colors. Sports arenas are viewed by many as places for worship and devotion — and, sometimes, as sanctuaries — more than cathedrals are. Fans may spend more time tracking their fantasy stats than they do studying religious texts. And there’s little question that religious feast days are being displaced by more important days (Superbowl Sunday comes to mind).

These are all aspects of an interesting sociological phenomenon. So when Major League Baseball contracts with a company to use team logos on urns and caskets, I wonder if Reuters’ reporter might get a comment or two from folks who could provide perspective.

Photo via Flickr.

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  • Chris Bolinger

    Say what you will about “The Simpsons”, but it often is on-target when it comes to matters of religion and culture. I remember a Super Bowl episode years ago where Reverend Lovejoy, for inexplicable reasons, holds a worship service during the Super Bowl. There are about three people in the sanctuary, and Lovejoy says something about how he is glad that some people would rather attend church than watch the big game. A man in the sanctuary leaps to his feet, blurts out, “Oh, my G-d! I forgot the game!” and runs out.

  • Radoje

    Or as Bobby Bare sang, “Drop-kick me Jesus, through the goalposts of life…”

  • Filipe

    One note, and a true story:

    1st. Team symbols on urns and caskets is not new. In Brazil Caskets have been made with team colours for several years, people are often buried with their team shirts on.

    2nd. Regarding the Simpsons story, a very similar thing happened to me last Sunday. I am one of those people who plans his weekend around the sporting calendar. If the game is on Sunday I’ll go to church on Saturday and so on. Last Sunday, however, my wife and I were on duty as a eucharistic ministers at 19:30 mass in Lisbon. Portugal played Holland at 20:00. I couldn’t switch mass times, and that mass is always packed, so it makes a difference if the minister doesn’t show up, specially being two of us. So we went, knowing that we would miss pretty much all of the first half of the game.

    First surprise was when I walked through the door to find about 30 people there (I really shouldn’t have been surprised…). Next surprise was that at 20:00 mass was over. I’d never seen a Sunday mass go by so fast. The small congregation helped, but that wasn’t all.
    So yes, a few of us still prefer church over sports, but if we can get them both into the schedule, that’s great!
    God can’t have been too angry at us. Portugal did win after all.

  • Chris Bolinger

    The other day, I noticed that a large church in the Cleveland, Ohio area (Great Lakes region of the U.S.) was advertising that it was showing World Cup games on a big-screen TV. The event was scheduled on three consecutive Saturdays, at the same time each week. As Homer Simpson would say, Doh! Why would someone go to an unfamiliar church to watch the World Cup when the “home team” (U.S.) isn’t playing? Just as the press doesn’t “get” religion, many churches don’t “get” sports.

  • Bob Koch

    A good deal more cumbersome than trading cards…

  • Steve

    How many churches use athletes as “speakers” as a way to get people to come?

    In St. Louis, a local “non-denominational” church would routinely feature Kirk Warner (formerly of the St. Louis Rams) as a speaker during their worship service. Kirk Warner has a much training to be a pastor as the pastor has at being an NFL quarterback.