Sports and Spirituality
Using the lens of athletics to more fully understand the spiritual life
Thursday, August 31, 2017
To Be Spiritual is to Be...
A friend sent a photo from last night's baseball game at Angel Stadium in Anaheim, CA. The LA Angels beat the Oakland A's 10-8 in a game that was...well...meaningless. The Angels are 11 games out of first place in the AL West and the A's, a depressing 21.5. I won't waste anyone's time by calculating Wild Card potential here. There were a lot of empty seats, it's the middle of the week. school is back in session, and both teams are lack luster in star power and performance. A question can and should emerge: Why go to the yard?
Any number of responses might suffice: free tickets, great give away, beautiful night, time with my cousin, fan loyalty and more. But when a colleague shared a quote by Abraham Joshua Heschel, I found my answer. Live sporting events are spiritual. Games and contests, even when the stakes are low, can offer feats that are amazing. To witness a web gem in person, a player hit for the cycle, throw a no hitter, or even a manager get tossed from a game. Wow!
Earlier this summer, I caught word of incredible catch by Austin Jackson, one that was so remarkable, two great things happened. One, when the batter, Handley Ramierez saw it, his eyes nearly popped out of his head—which he swung in disbelief—as he said "Wow." Even the fans in Boston, of the opposing team, gave him a standing ovation. When I see a catch like this live...or over and over again on Sports Center, I can't help but get fired up. I feel a spark of joy. I can't help but smile.
Kevin Pillar's feat is no less impressive. Michael Wilbon must have talked about this web gem for about three minutes on Pardon the Interruption. He said, "Pillar is often running like Carl Lewis out there, but x, y and z." If I had been on the air with him, I would have told him how disappointed I am that more young people are unfamiliar with the term "web gem." What's that? They've asked. A great catch....a gem....the glove looks like a web. I think they got it. Regardless, the Pillar's team, the Blue Jays is 14 games out of first. Didn't stop him from doing something phenomenal. I'm amazed (and so are many others, there is a video clip of his Top 10 catches).
At work just yesterday, a friend recalled the first time he had really great seats at a major sporting event. Sitting just three rows behind home plate, he commented on how big and athletic the Yankees were, an attribute that may get lost on television. But he also said he noticed how bored a number of the players were. The baseball season is looooonnnng, and when the games are (also) meaningless, September can be a tough month. Still, I wonder if the players, and the fans, shifted their attitudes toward what Heschel has offered, September baseball might be different. Here's to more web gems and other amazing feats. Play Ball! Photo Credits Heschel
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