Sunday, October 28, 2018

To Stay or Not to Stay: A Question in Sports and Spirituality

During the top of the 8th inning, when John Sciambi of ESPN radio reported that Dodger fans were starting to leave the ballpark, I wasn't surprised. San Francisco Giants fans love to explicate their reasons for despising our NL West rival (*notice I didn't say hate). We find it unacceptable that Dodger fans show up late and leave early. Such behavior calls us to question their loyalty. Randy Newman may sing, "I Love LA!" but we wonder how much LA loves its Dodgers. Having been to Dodger Stadium, I understand that Chavez Ravine isn't the easiest venue to enter and exit; I know it's never fun to sit in a parking lot and move but 500 feet in 30 minutes. But, the choices we make about what we attend and how we attend them are worth considering. These are real questions that pertain to both Sports and Spirituality.
At the back of the church where I went to grade school—St. Mary's in Walnut Creek—hangs a small placard above a font for holy water. It reads "The whole mass, not less." As a child, I didn't totally understand its meaning. Though terse, those words stayed with me. They may have formed my conscience. In fact, I know they did as they returned to me years later subconsciously in my faith practice and consciously in an unsuspecting way. I was at a weeknight Giants game and Bonds tied it up at the bottom of the ninth inning. My friend asked if I wanted to stay. In what could have been a simple "yes/no" question I responded with a story about that sign. I concluded it with the words, "the whole game, nothing less." He replied, "that's the greatest thing I've ever heard." We left the yard three innings later.

At mass this evening, I had an internal debate with myself for about 3 minutes before I went to the altar to receive the Eucharist. My preoccupied mind was assessing if I could get to where I needed to go after Mass on time. Should I "dine and dash?" as some millennial Catholics quip. This has rarely been my practice (see conscience formation). I took a deep breath and decided to focus my heart and my mind on where I was and what I was doing. 

Mass is a time to listen to the Word of God, to pray with and for others. I offer thanks and learn more about my community of faith. When I leave early, I pray less. I don't have that conversation with friends and families as we exit, grab a donut or walk to our cars. There's a reason the pastor hung that sign and yet, I can't help but notice fewer people are even going to Mass. I look around the Church in awe of the people who continue to show up, faithfully, in light of recent events. I don't take for granted the fact that anyone will show up. I'm glad they do.

A World Series ticket, however, is a different ball of wax. I've been to numerous NLDS and NLCS games, but never the big show. Thinking it might never happen, I used to joke that I would rob a bank if the Giants got there. It did. In fact, the Giants made it to the October Classic three times in five years. No banks were robbed. I hope to get to a World Series game—someday. However, it baffles me that any Dodger fan would leave early. The stakes couldn't be higher or the quality of the games any better. In Game 3, the men in Pantone 294 tied it up in the bottom of the 13th inning with two outs. They ended up winning five long innings later. As we now know the Red Sox prevailed, but as the fans who stayed now know, we don't call it "the bitter end" for nothing.
Analytics aren't my thing, I would certainly love to know how many fans stayed for all 18 innings of Game 3. They have a story to tell. Don't get me wrong, I have left Giants game early before. I can't write that I am a total purist. but I do think the rule of thumb should be "the whole game, nothing less." I believe the arguments for staying are better than they are for leaving. Game 3 took place on a Friday night. I will only speak for my situation because I know others have various obligations and responsibilities: the only thing I would be leaving early for would be my bed. Some would argue that they don't want to see the final out—the loss and the celebration of another team. Though not fun for the losing team's fans, I think it's important to see these moments too. I need to see my team hug one another. I too hang my head in disappointment; I want to see their tears and their ability to support one another in victory and in defeat!

The World Series is as close as a baseball fan gets to Kairos—God's time. Let Chronos—chronilogical time be gone! And maybe that's the what these questions are really pointing to. We are always fighting Chonos. Father Time is a powerful figure. And yet, Kairos is what makes our lives worth living. How do we reconcile our obligations, pursue our passions, have both fun and faith? These are questions worth considering. Sometimes, a simple sign can point the way.
I admire those who did stay.
Congratulations to the Boston Red Sox and to the Los Angeles Dodgers. Thanks for another exciting World Series and thank you to the players, managers, coaches and fans who made this year memorable in its own way. Until mid-February....when hope Spring Training's eternal...
Photo Credits
Game 3
Empty Seats

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