Tag Archives: Playoffs

Home Runs and Hail Marys

As the heat rose outside to 102° last weekend, I chilled in front of my television, cheering on my home teams:  The Dodgers, Angels, Trojans and Bruins (Los Angeles, Anaheim, USC and UCLA, respectively).  I am still in shock as I write.  “There is no joy in Mudville.  [All my teams] struck out.”

Nevertheless, the don’t-ever-give-up attitude of the Cardinals, Royals, Razorbacks and Utes (St. Louis, Kansas City,  Arizona State, and University of Utah) inspires me.  Each was expected to lose.  Three fought back from significant deficits.  The fourth – Kansas City – was a dark horse.  None of them lost heart.  They played hard until the end of the game.

Here are the basics:

  • The Dodgers were ahead, 6 – 2 at the beginning of the seventh inning and had the country’s best pitcher on the mound.  St. Louis scored eight runs in the seventh, including a three-run homer.  St. Louis won, 10 – 9.
  • The Angels, with the best record in baseball, were playing Kansas City for the division title.  The Royals had not played in the post-season for 29 years and were the odds-on favorite to lose.  Instead, they won the first two games and did so with home runs in the ninth innings.
  • In college football, USC expected an easy win over Arizona.  They were so far ahead that, at one point, I felt sorry for the Razorbacks.  When Arizona scored three touchdowns in the last four minutes, my sympathy evaporated.  Arizona won with a  jaw-dropping 46-yard Hail Mary pass to the goal line in the final second of the game.
  • In my final blow of the weekend, UCLA lost to Utah Saturday night.  UCLA was down at the half (7 -17) but rallied for what eventually looked like a certain victory.  The Utes refused to give up.  In the last minutes, they scored again.  UCLA missed a field goal with 34 seconds remaining and Utah won, 30 – 28.

After winning Game One of the series, Eric Hosmer of the Kansas City Royals, said,  “It’s fun to be the underdog — you don’t have anything to lose.”

I wish I had known that as a child.  I grew up with two older brothers against whom I don’t believe I ever won a game of Monopoly, Risk, or Ping-Pong.  I didn’t have a chance against razor-sharp brothers who were four and eight years older than I.   But I was gullible or delusional, because I kept agreeing to play.  About halfway through each game, I usually gave up and resigned myself to losing.

Years later, I still hear those tapes in my head telling me to pack it in.  I know what it is like to be in the shoes of those who look at the scoreboard and see a chasm.  It takes guts, resilience, and a devil-may-care attitude to persevere and play hard to the end.

Sure, my teams suffered what were for us, heart-breaking losses.  But by the fourth time I watched a team battle against the odds and win, I was not only depressed.  I was inspired.

Yadier Molina, the Cardinals’ catcher, said, “When we [were] down 6 – 1, it seemed improbable.  What else can you do?  Just keep fighting . . . . We really had no other choice.”

Yes they did.  Many people choose to give up.  The Cardinals made a choice and chose to keep fighting.  My take-away for the sports weekend:  Play hard with all your heart until the last whistle blows.



Can a Muslim Tebow?

With millions of people watching, Denver Bronco quarterback Tim Tebow drops to one knee on the football field and prays to his Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ.  Tim Tebow is such a phenomenon that “Tebow” is now a verb.  Whether it’s due to his public display of religion, or his ability to succeed (usually) as a quarterback who doesn’t throw the football well, Tebow elicits discussion about the public roles of religion and faith.

I respect Tim Tebow’s faith in and faithfulness to Jesus.  Tebow walks his talk: playing flashlight football with his family while many football players are clubbing, visiting hospitals and prisons in his free-time, and traveling to the Philipines during the off-season to help in a ministry with orphans.

Tebow’s faith isn’t just visible under the spotlights, but in the shadows of the world, too.  As I watch him pray, however, I’m always troubled by words from Jesus and Abraham Lincoln: 

“Beware of practicing your piety before others in order to be seen by them; for then you have no reward from your Father in heaven….And whenever you pray, do not be like the hypocrites; for they love to stand and pray in the synagogues and at the street corners, so that they may be seen by others.  Truly I tell you, they have received their reward.  But whenever you pray, go into your room and shut the door and pray to your Father who is in secret; and your Father who sees in secret will reward you” (Matthew 6:1, and 5-6).
“Both [Union and Confederacy] read the same Bible, and pray to the same God; and each invokes his aid against the other….The prayers of both could not be answered–that of neither has been answered ” (President Abraham Lincoln, Second Inaugural Address).

I can’t help but wonder:

  • What would happen if a Muslim player spread a prayer rug on the sidelines during major football games, faced Mecca, and prayed?  Would we hail his faith and faithfulness as much as we do Tebow’s?  (Imagine it, and see what your own gut response is.)
  • Is Tebow praying that God will help Tebow’s team win, or that God will help Tebow do his best?
  • What do men of faith on the opposing team pray during the game?
  • Whose prayers and which prayers does God hear and answer?

“Can a Muslim Tebow?”   On one level, the answer is an obvious “no,” if “to Tebow” means to pray publicly to Jesus as Lord and Savior.  Muslims pray to Allah and consider Jesus a prophet.  On another level, if “to Tebow” means to pray to the Divine publicly–seeking Divine help or giving thanks–according to the patterns and language of that person’s faith tradition, then maybe the answer could be “yes,” even if it means a prayer rug on the football field.

Another former U.S. President says,

“It is O.K. to say you believe your religion is true, even truer than other faiths, but not that you are in possession in this life of a hundred percent of the truth. . . . As the Apostle Paul says in talking about the difference between life on Earth and in heaven:  ‘For now I see through a glass darkly; but then face to face; now I know in part, but then I shall know even as I am known by God.’

“….Not that there isn’t truth; it’s just that we don’t know all of it.  Most religions teach a lot of the same thing–a kind of spiritual integrity that is good for any society.  We’d be a lot better off with an honest dialogue about our differences provided everyone ‘fesses up about not knowing the absolute truth” (President Bill Clinton, quoted in Madeleine Albright, The Mighty and the Almighty:  Reflections on America, God and World Affairs, 2006, pp 277-278).

One thing is for sure:  this is the first playoff year I can remember when religion was discussed during halftime.