Your Moment of 80’s Baseball Zen

Philadelphia Phillies fans
Philadelphia Phillies fans (Photo credit: Keith Allison)

Wally Joyner to join the Phillies as assistant hitting coach.  Good for you, Wally!

Now, can anyone tell me where the urban legend of Joyner owning Fleer started?  Don’t tell me it was just something my cousin made up.

Chuck Klosterman Is Wrong About Football (and Temporal Relativity)

At Grantland, a great and not great venture I love and don’t love, Chuck Klosterman says, repeatedly, that football’s popularity has nothing to do with its violence.

He also says:

Now, I realize an argument can be made that eroticized violence is inherent to any collision spectator sport, and that people who love football are tacitly endorsing (and unconsciously embracing) a barbaric activity that damages human bodies for entertainment and money. I get that, and I don’t think the argument is weak. However, it’s still mostly an abstraction. People will freak out when they eventually see someone killed on the football field (which, it seems, is now inevitable). But they won’t stop enjoying football. They might feel obligated to criticize it, and maybe they’ll temporarily stop watching. But they’ll still self-identify as “football fans,” because what they consciously like about the game is (almost certainly) not tied to people being hurt. Football is not like boxing; violence is central to the game, but it’s not the whole game. You can love it for a multitude of complex, analytical reasons. And that allows this cognitive dissonance to exist in perpetuity (i.e., “I know this is probably bad for society, but I desperately want it to continue”).

That’s a lot of hedging.

Here’s the thing.  When we were kids, my cousin and I would get as close to the fence at the local high school football games as we could just so we could hear helmets crack and other things pop. We were not violent children, his BAD-era Michael Jackson studded leather jacket notwithstanding.  We enjoyed football because we were supposed to, because big kids were running up and down the field, but also because those kids were trying to destroy each other.  They were big and we were small.  They could do things we’d only seen on Challenge of the Superfriends. It was empowering, it was wish fulfillment, and it was totally sanctioned by everyone.

Today, professional football players moan and groan about rules that are making the game too soft.  The very people that stand to gain the most from a softer game are leading the chorus against it, because “that’s football.”

Chuck, you have to know that the popularity and violence of football intersect all the time, for players and for fans.  If my cousin and I were living through the juniors and seniors of the William Allen High School football team, how many millions of people are living through the stars of today’s NFL?

And it’s not like those stars aren’t bigger, stronger, and faster than ever before, leaving longer trails of CTE in their wake.  It’s not like that upward physical curve, which manifests as some kind of violence on every play, isn’t part and parcel to football’s always-increasing popularity.  These things feed each other.  It’s like the longball, steroids, and the 90s.

Klosterman is right that there are other things about football to appreciate, but they’re all predicated on violence or the avoidance of violence.

It may or may not be the case that football, as an abstraction, is too violent.  But it’s certainly the case the football in its current form is too physically dangerous to be sustainable over the long term.

Klosterman says:

If football’s ever-rising popularity was directly tied to its ever-increasing violence, something might collapse upon itself: Either the controversy would fade over time, or it would become a terminal anchor on its expansion. But that’s not how it’s unfolding. These two worlds will never collide. They’ll just continue to intensify, each in its own vacuum. This column can run today, or it can run in 2022. The future is the present is the future.

No, Chuck, THIS column will be always be true, forever and ever and ever, because the beginning is the end is the beginning, or another Smashing Pumpkins song from Batman.

Paul Pierce and Gospel Poetry

I spent most of the day working on a message inspired by 1 Corinthians 1:18- 25.  In that passage, the apostle Paul says that the cross and the message it sends are foolishness to the self-styled wisdom of convention, but to those who “are being saved, it is the power of God.”

I’ve spent a lot of time thinking about the ways the life of Jesus bucked convention. His birth and upbringing, his passion, death, and resurrection. let alone his passion, death, and resurrection.  Te irony, subversion, and poetry of Christ’s story is precisely what I find so compelling.

Last night, while I watched Skip Bayless and Stephen A. Smith throw down about the trade rumors swilring around Celtics point guard Rajon Rondo, I did a little reading up on lifelong Celtic forward Paul Pierce.  It’s not often that professional athletes quote Mark Twain and Blaise Pascal on the front page of their website, but as Shaquille O’Neal will tell you, “Paul Pierce is the Truth.”  As Pierce’s website reminds any nonbeliever:  After a Lakers’ victory over the Celtics in 2001, O’Neal pulled a Boston reporter over and gestured toward his notepad:

“Take this down,” said O’Neal. “My name is Shaquille O’Neal and Paul Pierce is the [%*$&ing] truth. Quote me on that and don’t take nothing out. I knew he could play, but I didn’t know he could play like this. Paul Pierce is the truth.”

Compare that wit the first three verses of the apostle Paul’s letter to the Corinthians:

“Paul, called to be an apostle of Christ Jesus by the will of God, and our brother Sosthenes, to the church of God in Corinth, to those sanctified in Christ Jesus and called to be his holy people, together with all those everywhere who call on the name of our Lord Jesus Christ—their Lord and ours: Grace and peace to you from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.”

My name is Paul and this is how it is with Jesus. 

My name is Shaquille O’Neal and Paul Pierce is the truth. 

Sometimes that’s how I feel about the poetry of Jesus’ story.  Whatever else, that poetry’s the truth.

“Fiction is bound by possibility,” Pierce quotes Twain as saying, “the truth is not.”  Pascal adds, “we know the truth not only by reason, but also with the heart.”

Gary Carter’s Dapper Look, 1984

Congratulations, Giants.

Now that the Super Bowl is over, let’s focus on the real sports story of early February:

Pitchers and catchers report in less than two weeks.

To celebrate, I thought I’d share this great photo of the 1984 press conference welcoming catching great Gary Carter to the New York Mets.  I’m not a Mets fan, but I always liked Gary Carter.  He was a great player, and baseball fans everywhere are wishing and praying for him as he continues his fight against brain cancer.  Blessings, Gary!

 

(Photo via SI).