Wednesday, October 28, 2015

What MLB is Wearing Around its Neck

It bothers me just how close to Halloween the World Series falls these days. Something doesn't feel right about baseball games in November. Two years later, I still remember thinking to myself when I walked into Giordano Brothers—a popular sandwich shop San Francisco that offers the Pittsburgh delicacies found at Primanti Brothers—Is tonight Halloween? The waiters were dressed from head to toe exactly as the Pirates on the television were: ball cap, jersey, stirrups, cleats—yes cleats—and the crown jewel: eye black. I thought to myself—I love sports fans. Some of them stop at nothing, including the lead waiter who went so far as to wear a gold and black "Tornado Necklace." You've seen these—the braided chain that comes in multiple colors that many athletes wear. If you are like me, you might wonder why do athletes wear them? During Game 1 of the 2015 World Series, I thought what other "necklaces" that ballplayers wear. So, with this blog posting, I'd like to offer a thought on what you see....
The Tornado Necklace
We know that athletes are continually looking for a physical edge—they want to get stronger, fitter, faster, jump higher, etc. But, the most competitive ones also seek a mental edge. I suppose that is what this jewelry, also known as "energy" or "titanium" necklaces have to  offer.

Power Energy Sports writes
Germanium, Titanium, and Anions (negative ions) - three very powerful chemical elements, are being blended together into the necklace fabric to help relieve stress and fatigue by improving blood flow & circulation.  
Many professional athletes are finding positive results in enhancing their sports performance while wearing these necklaces. Perfect for all types of sport: Baseball, Softball, Tennis, Martial Arts, Gym, Golf, Basketball, Fishing, Hiking, Hockey etc. We are the largest & most reputable tornado baseball necklace retailer offering you over 150 color combinations to choose from.
Wow, even in his solo shot Jonathon Niese
wears his tornado necklace
Like many material goods, these necklaces have morphed beyond three colors. They are linked to specific causes—breast cancer or prostate cancer awareness and others offer inspirational messages such as "hope" or "stay strong." I have a feeling that a lot of young athletes wear them because their favorite ones do. And I'm not convinced that they offer all they claim to provide, but the concept (or at least the marketing) is interesting. The placebo effect, mental edge, stylish splash—all reasons point to the fact that sports psychology never runs on empty.

The Rosary
I would love to think I am the type of athlete who could be a closer. This ballplayer comes into the game to complete a very specific task; the weight of the world is on him (0r her) and they like it that way! They are skilled, strong and mentally tough. Truth be told, I would totally crumble under the pressure, so I probably would wear not only a tornado necklace but what Jeurys Familia, relief pitched for the New York Mets had under his jersey—a rosary. 

But as many Catholics want to know: should we wear a Rosary as a necklace? I did some research on the topic and here's my answer.

I write for Cora Evans, a blog on the life of a woman who is now considered a "servant of God." The purpose of the blog is to draw attention to the holy, loving and heroically selfless life of a woman we hope will be canonized in the near future. The blog brings readers to pray to and for this witness of Christ's love and to think about issues that many Catholics confront. One of them is the wearing of the Rosary around ones' neck. Here is an excerpt from what I wrote
Even at a young age, I understood that the Rosary is to be prayed and not worn. Why is that? 
Ginny Kibityz Moyer captures an answer quite well. She says, “The rosary isn’t jewelry; it’s a sacramental, which is an object meant to help bring about spiritual effects through the prayer or devotion it inspires. (Sacramentals don’t have any sort of magic power in and of themselves; the positive graces come through the prayers.) Many people argue that if you wear a rosary around your neck, you are treating it more like a fashion accessory than a sacramental and are thus distorting its intended purpose.” 
Ultimately, only the one who wears the Rosary can speak to why he or she is wearing it, but I think it’s important to understand—although a distinction: between jewelry and sacramental, it is an important one. Rosaries are never mere jewelry or “fashion accessories” and yet, I can understand how there might be some confusion and/or need for clarification. 
For example, when I went to purchase a gift for my God daughter’s First Holy Communion, one gift I considered was a Rosary ring or bracelet. Both include ten beads; they can help people count the decade of the Rosary as they pray. As one who often “prays on the go” both pieces of jewelry (which they are) can serve as helpful prayer resources. 
Again Kubitz Moyer adds some insight. She writes, “The only official Church document I could find that addressed this, even obliquely, was the Code of Canon Law, which says, “Sacred objects, which are designated for divine worship by dedication or blessing, are to be treated reverently and are not to be employed for profane or inappropriate use even if they are owned by private persons.” (1171) So it seems that it all depends on the intent of the wearer. If you’re wearing it as a way to deepen your prayer life, there shouldn’t be any problem with that.”

Catholicism, in its “both/and” approach allows us to find the sacred in everyday things. And yet, that outlook doesn’t mean to compromise what is in fact sacred. This may be a tension for some, but ultimately, I see it as an invitation to probe deeper into the mystery of God…to love the Incarnation…to connect with Our Lady and pray as you go—Rosary in hand or around my heart. 
You can see the rosary in this photo
I cannot speak to why Familia wore his Rosary, nor do I want to. But seeing this sacramental reminded me that athletes, especially those playing the World Series stand on a remarkable platform whereby they can evangelize and give witness to a life of faith. Daniel Murphy, Familia's teammate is an outstanding example; he has certainly been what he set out to be: a light for others.

I don't wear a cross around my neck, but I have often commented that I should. I hope that what it stands for is evidenced in how I live my life, whether or not I wear it. But wearing it could serve as the reminder that I need....

Photo Credits
McCutchen necklace
Jonathon Niese
Familia Rosary

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