Saturday, June 2, 2012

Suffering in Baseball and in Real Life

With so many New York transplants in Lower Bucks, it's disappointing that the Courier Times shies away from coverage of New York sports.  We do have an interesting history….

Despite being the most popular franchise in the National League, the Dodgers abandoned New York City's boro of Brooklyn in 1957, quickly followed by the Giants' abandonment of upper Manhattan.  Though they had spent nearly three quarters of a century in the town, the Brooklyn Dodgers only captured the World Series in 1955 (the same year, by the way, that Morrisville, Pa won the Little League World Series).  So, Brooklyn Dodger popularity had little to do with on-the-field success.  And even a half century after their departure, they maintain a mythical hold on the town.  Brooklyn Dodger attire sells like hotcakes in Brooklyn's sporting goods stores.

After the departure of the Dodgers and the Giants, didn't New York City still have a major league baseball team in the phenomenally successful Yankees?  Yes, but for those without New York connections, it's hard to understand the sentiments of many New Yorkers toward the Yankees.  Historically, there have been 107 World Series with the Yankees appearing 40 times and winning 27 times.  No other team has appeared in more than 18 World Series!  For many New Yorkers, rooting for the Yankees is akin to rooting for gasoline prices to rise or to rooting for the hare in its race against the tortoise.  The Yankees just can't tug at our heartstrings as underdogs or teach us about the character building which can come from long suffering.

In 1962, the Mets entered the National League, to try to make up for the loss in the hearts of Dodgers' and Giants' fans.  Over the years, the Mets have nurtured phenomenal pitching talents in the likes of Tom Seaver, Dwight Gooden, and David Cone, only to see them pitch no hitters - AFTER they have left the Mets.  Most painful is the Mets' experience with the CEO of the Texas Rangers.  Though he began his Hall of Fame career with the Mets, Nolan Ryan pitched NONE of his major league record 7 no hitters for the Mets.  On June 1, 2012, the Mets finally saw their first no hitter, in the 8020th game in franchise history.  As a famous Brooklyn native would have said, "How sweet it is."

Something about the popularity of the Brooklyn Dodgers and the extra sweetness of the Mets' first no hitter speak to what we inately know about the value of suffering.  Though we try to run from pain and suffering, the Bible indicates that we can actually "glory in our sufferings, because we know that suffering produces perseverance; perseverance, character; and character, hope" (Romans 5: 3, 4 - NIV translation).  Now don't get me wrong - I am not intending to suggest an equivalence between a baseball fan's frustrations and the genuine human suffering associated with such things as serious illnesses.  It's just that to a culture which finds the slightest inconvenience to be anathema, the value of enduring suffering seems to have become increasingly difficult to understand.

Though the phrase has become unfamiliar from disuse, many Christians can recall their parents and/or their grandparents admonishing them to "offer up" their sufferings.  As per the Apostle Paul, "Now I rejoice in my sufferings for your sake, and in my flesh I am filling up what is lacking in the afflictions of Christ on behalf of his body, which is the church" (Colossians 1: 24, New American Bible).  In a mysterious sort of way, our elders better understood that we are allowed to use our sufferings to gain graces for ourselves or for others.  While some will try to discredit this perspective by suggesting that it is tantamount to massochism, that's NOT what God has in mind in any manner, shape, or form. 

Our failure to appreciate that there can be a meaning in suffering goes a long way toward explaining the selfishness of being unwilling to make sacrifices for the benefit of others.  It goes a long way toward explaining the failure to appreciate the absolute dignity of each human being, no matter how vulnerable she or he may be.  It goes a long way toward explaining how we could rationalize ending human lives at their very beginning or at their end.

Maybe, sports analogies can help us to recover certain truths which we know at our core.

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About Me

I am an enormously blessed husband and dad. In regard to my Catholic theological background, I have a certificate in social ministry & a master's degree (moral theology concentration), as well as a catechetical diploma from the Vatican's Sacred Congregation for the Clergy (Nope, I am not now - nor have I have ever been - a seminarian, deacon, or priest.). I feel particularly proud to have a mandatum. I also have a doctorate in Christian counseling psychology.

And yup, that's me!

And yup, that's me!
(from page 1 of the NY Sun, 3/22/04)

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