I was a basketball guy. Still love the game, but hung up the high-tops roughly a decade ago when all of a sudden my dead-eye jumper couldn’t even find the rim, all of a sudden I was Bill “floor” Laimbeer minus the 3 ball. (Tangent warning, the NBA has become interesting again. Sir Charles is always talking about match-ups. The NBA game is all about if you have someone who can minimize the other team’s skill-freak-of-nature, or exploit your own. For a long time all the NBA teams seemed to be about trying the same thing (2 guard & big man). But now you’ve got radically different team visions competing. Maybe it is that only one team can have LeBron, so it became obvious you had to try other strategies. The Bulls have trouble scoring (especially since they lost their second unit from last year), but that is one of the best rebounding/defense teams I’ve seen. The Spurs, the Clippers, the Nets, the Rockets (my vote for most interesting team to watch), and none of those are the OKC Thunder, yet all are serious teams with different strategies.)
Anyway, enough basketball, this was about baseball. What I like about baseball is the stories. Baseball is a complex game filled with characters. Unlike basketball which is really “just about buckets”, and only has two stories (plucky team from nowhere and street smart flashy greatness, which once upon a time were racial tropes, but today Durant in OKC and Paul at the second LA team are plucky nowheres); unlike basketball baseball can have multiple stories on the field at the same time. Part of that is the timing, part is the history, part is the game design, and part is who covers it. The history which starts in mythology, the slower pace, the wide open spaces of the field and specialized skills at every position all beckon great writers. (Anyone who argues for taking the hall of fame ballot away from the writers is an idiot. Ok, the veterans committee can be a House of Lords making some tweaks.) If you don’t have the time to pay attention everyday but still enjoy the game and the stories it produces, a good journalist has made it easy. Michael Brendan Dougherty is editing something called The Slurve, a daily edited email newsletter of the stories around the league, along with game summaries.
The story that he highlighted yesterday and continued with a link today is pitcher Barry Zito. The Slurve’s essay was insightful – how Zito’s production in terms of wins and losses is defying his raw stats in terms of k’s and ERA and WHIP. The Slurve talked in terms of balance, crossing into the theological almost “Sinners in the Hands of an Angry God” territory. The Angry God being the raw stats and the thin thread being balanced upon. But that isn’t where I’d go. The link to the GQ interview talks a different insight in Zito’s own words.
To what degree are you a different person than the person you were in Oakland?
I think I’m a little bit less of a seeker these days. I’ve found something that I just really love, which is the Christian faith, and it’s new to me. I grew up being a seeker and being completely out of the box and testing and reading and trying all different religious things and kind of philosophical approaches and such, and it’s kind of a backwards route. Most people are raised very rigidly in an organized religion and then they try to fight their way out of that. I needed structure [laughs]. A lot of these kind of spiritual things are all based on the self and that was just too—I couldn’t handle that anymore. I don’t know. I think it led to a form of—it can lead to narcissism, I think.
What led the two of you to this particular faith?
It’s hard to pinpoint one thing, but I think a lot of pain, you know, a lot of tough times and basically a need for strength outside of myself.
The strength outside of myself. Christ or the Word comes extra nos – outside of us. Faith comes by hearing. We are proclaimed righteous by grace through the work of Christ. Having trouble living up to the expectations of a $100M contract? Having trouble finding peace by and in yourself? Tired of the search? Maybe its a larger magnitude and a bigger stage, but those are things that we all feel one time or another. From where comes our strength? I look to the hills, my strength comes from the Lord. (Psalm 121:1ff) From outside myself. And that peace passes understanding. The LORD will keep your going out and your coming in from this time forth and forevermore. (Psalm 121:8) That doesn’t mean an 84 MPH fastball will get it done forever, but resurrections are great to see while they are around.