Thursday, June 14, 2012

Matt Cain: Together we are Giant...and Perfect.

I love the number 22.  I can’t think of a more fitting pitcher to have executed the 22nd perfect game in Major League Baseball than the San Francisco Giants’ own Matt Cain.  The numbers that characterize the longest tenured Giant (at the age of 27) are deceiving.  Thanks to a commanding 8-2 record this season,  #18's lifetime record (77-75) is back over 500.  I can think of innumerable games that have resulted in a loss because of a lack of run support from the Giants. Fortunately, last night was different. The Giants scored a season high 10 runs for him.  They picked him us as he picked up all of SF today.  For once, all the numbers add up.  0 Runs, 0 Hits with 0 Errors = 1 perfect game.
And with it comes a great lesson for sports and spirituality. Matt Cain achieved true greatness on Wednesday night, but I can’t see his accomplishment without recognizing that he did not do it alone.  None of us can do it alone.  I would like to argue that this is why we need both authentic religion and authentic spirituality in order to live a life of faith.

When I caught the highlights, I couldn’t stop the tears from flowing when I saw Blanco’s incredible catch in the 7th inning.  99% of the time that hit is a triple.  He was positioned close to the gap and made a great angle to the ball.  He had no glove left on the ball.  If you look up “web gem” in the on-line dictionary, you will now see Gregor Blanco.
When he caught it, he immediately turned to show his teammates on the infield that he made it.  Blanco wasn’t looking for personal glory; no he already knew he was a part of something much greater—a perfect game in the works.  Cain took his hat off to salute the right fielder.  When the two reconvened in the dugout they exchanged an embrace of gratitude.  This is but one example that Cain’s feat was made possible with the hands and handiwork of others.

I would not be writing about faith if it hadn’t been passed down to me through my parents, grandparents and some great teachers.  I continue to learn the precepts of my faith through study, prayer and example.  When asked what is my religion, I identify as a Catholic.  Ask me about my spirituality, it’s Catholic too (heavily influenced by St. Ignatius.  Ignatian Spirituality.  But please note, Ignatius, the founder of the Society of Jesus, the Jesuits, always points us back to Him.).  I am incomplete without both.  Religion guides what I do and spirituality characterizes how I do it.
Many people find spirituality more appealing than organized religion because of its free form and personal nature.  The beauty of the spiritual life is that is a reflection of who we are and how we live.  It need not follow any order or ritual, tradition or even other people.  This is inviting but it can be tricky.  It can go unchallenged.  It can become undisciplined and isolated. 

Religion on the other hand provides a community of faith in the way that spirituality does not. It is defined by tradition and ritual. It is passed down from one generation to the next through this order.  Yet, many who identify with a faith tradition find that while some religious teachings do reflect who they are and what they believe, many do not.  This tension too often leads people away from organized religion rather than working from within.  What is the answer?

I believe spirituality and religion are two feet of the body of faith.  Sometimes we lean more on one foot than the other, but I firmly believe both are necessary for the journey!

An author I respect and admire, Andria Trigiani (who is not a theologian or overtly spiritual/religious person) wrote “There is no one path to learning faith.  You use the tools you have and if that includes gathering in community, then that’s for you.  Some people go to the gym and others put on a pair of sneakers and run as far as they can go.  Both build the body and so it goes with the soul, the path to faith is personal.”

While I appreciate the running analogy, ultimately, I disagree.  I really think you need both.  Religious without spirituality is bone dry.  Spirituality without religion is selfish. That is a VERY strong word, but ultimately, it only benefits the self.  I think back to Barry Bonds’ singular accomplishment in achieving the home run record. It was exciting but it wasn’t transformational.  I don’t think there’s a member of the Giants on the field last night who didn't wake up today saying “I was a part of something truly magical last night.  Matt Cain did it.  We did it. Go Giants!”  You may disagree.  Many do.

Matt Cain’s achievement was made possible because of Melky’s Cabrera’s catch at the wall in the 6th, Buster Posey's efforts from behind the plate..and the list could go on.  But it was also made because Matt Cain is a work horse.  He is talented, committed and fierce.  This game was in the making for many years.  His perfection was seen on June 13, 2012 and will be celebrated for weeks, months and years to come.  I believe our perfection or ultimately our salvation is no different. 

Special Shout out to Marc Rarden--the lucky dog who was at the game for first hand insight and the photo featured here as well as to my co-director/producer, Sean Lawhon for additional input
Photo Credits
Cain's Record
Gregor Blanco's Web gem

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