Saturday, October 19, 2013

A Case for Temperance...and Prudence: Thank you Boston Red Sox

For non-Boston Red Sox fans, watching the AL East Champions play in the post-season can only prompt one question: What's up with beards? As a San Francisco Giants fan, said facial hair and the "Fear the Beard" is nothing new. Hockey fans, Oregon State football and plenty of other sports fans understand. But the sheer number of them on the field at Fenway coupled by their length, has given pause. What's the deal?
Would it be inappropriate to create a similar chart for the 12 Apostles?
I believe the article "Bonding with Beards: The Red Sox Repair their Clubhouse Chemistry" provided some answers.  
The Red Sox’ fun with facial follicles started innocently enough when Napoli and outfielder Jonny Gomes grew beards during spring training. It became something more than a fad when Pedroia, a second baseman and one of the team’s most popular players, joined Napoli and Gomes in taking a sabbatical from shaving cream. 
There was suddenly the sense around the clubhouse that beards were not merely a fashion accessory but a way to build stronger bonds after the Red Sox’ struggles last season, when they lost 93 games, finished last in the A.L. East and bid adieu to Manager Bobby Valentine. 
Valentine was replaced by Farrell, who was part of the Red Sox’ coaching staff when they won the World Series in 2007. Farrell took the job with an understanding of Boston’s unique clubhouse dynamics — as a team that had a carefree spirit. That was most apparent in 2004, when a band of self-described “idiots” won their first World Series in 86 years. 
To quote Joe Cussen re: Mike Napoli "What a beast!"
The Red Sox are known for doing things their way—in a way that speaks to the good, the bad and the ugly. Perhaps you think those bushy beards meet all three descriptors. But one thing is worth noting that separates this team from the 2003 "Cowboy Up" crew as well as the 2004 "idiots." Their unique clubhouse dynamics have been tempered.  Perhaps, their success is more than just good team chemistry. I think it's a call for the virtue of temperance.

I can't wait for ESPN to complete a "30 for 30" on the final day of the 2011 MLB regular season. In a crazy series of events, a number of teams either gained entry into the wild card play-off and/or post-season playoffs by a combination of wins and losses in one single night. 
That Red Sox team had a nine-game wild-card lead with less than a month in the season. When Johnthan Papelbon blew his third save of the seaon in the ninth inning to Baltimore, the BoSox essentially waded in their own demise. And that goes back to their "unique clubhouse dynamics."

The starting roation, specifically Jon Lester, Josh Beckett, John Lackey and occassionally Clay Buchholz had been accused of regularly drinking beer and eating fast-food fried chicken while play video games in the clubhouse during games. 

Although I find such antics amusing, I know it was at a cost. Fraterinzation helps teams. However,  when and how men (and women) do so, requires another virture—prudence. 
According to the Cathechism of the Catholic Church,
Prudence is the virtue that disposes practical reason to discern our true good in every circumstance and to choose the right means of achieving it; "the prudent man looks where he is going." [Prov 14:15.] "Keep sane and sober for your prayers." [1 Pet 4:7] Prudence is "right reason in action," writes St. Thomas Aquinas, following Aristotle. [St. Thomas Aquinas, STh II-II, 47, 2] It is not to be confused with timidity or fear, nor with duplicity or dissimulation. It is called auriga virtutum (the charioteer of the virtues); it guides the other virtues by setting rule and measure. It is prudence that immediately guides the judgment of conscience. The prudent man determines and directs his conduct in accordance with this judgment. With the help of this virtue we apply moral principles to particular cases without error and overcome doubts about the good to achieve and the evil to avoid. [17881780]
Moreover, virtues never work alone. Had this team practiced temperance, that nine game lead may have stayed in tact.  
Temperance is the moral virtue that moderates the attraction of pleasures and provides balance in the use of created goods. It ensures the will's mastery over instincts and keeps desires within the limits of what is honorable. The temperate person directs the sensitive appetites toward what is good and maintains a healthy discretion: "Do not follow your inclination and strength, walking according to the desires of your heart." [Sir 5:2; cf. 37:27-31] Temperance is often praised in the Old Testament: "Do not follow your base desires, but restrain your appetites." [Sir 18:30] In the New Testament it is called "moderation" or "sobriety."
Perhaps fate would have taken the course that it did...but I know Red Sox management changed rules and expectations of players during games as a result. 

I don't doubt that the 2011 team had good chemistry—it sounds like that had a lot of fun, but teamwork, focus and intention must be disciplined. Prudence allows for an individual to determine how, temperance sees that practice is put in place. This year, it appears as though a collection of beards has kept the focus not only on the field and very close to every individual. A beard divided will not stand...right?

Manager John Farrell noted “The characteristic of this club is to grind all the way through to the end." I love when you can use the verb grind to describe what a team does. I think that's true for what this team has done on the field and one their faces...

Good luck Boston....

Photo Credits
Mike Napoli is such a beast
2001 Clubhouse Antics

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