The way a lot of us think, the Constitutional guarantee assuring us freedom of religion is a de facto promise that we’re entitled to be free of religion if we choose. (In fact, there’s no informed way of reading the clause otherwise.) Sadly, there are way too many religious extremists in the country who think that the 1st Amendment says we all have the right to worship Jeeezus just like they do. I guess this is part of the price we pay for living in a country founded by Puritans, and most days it’s more of a philosophical annoyance than anything.
I don’t mind people believing what they want and living in accordance with those principles, up to a point. And that point, of course, is where you begin intruding on my rights. I’m a real old-school live-and-let-live conservative in that way. But the Wide Right won’t leave it alone. They insist on projecting their narrow beliefs into every corner of American life they can reach and they seem not respect the rights of anyone to be left the hell alone.
This leaves a lot of Americans – a lot more than I suspect we realize – feeling like they’re being beat over the head with Jesus. Instead of focusing on political policies that will make our nation stronger, we have to devote way too much effort to fending off the theocratic impulses of our worst element, and even when we do address our most critical issues – say, education – we don’t talk about how to foster the smartest crop of young minds in the world, we talk about whether Genesis 1 is a suitable text for freshman biology. The 21st Century is presenting our country with the most brutal global economic competitive challenge in our history, with countless of European and Asian nations lining up to eat our lunch. I imagine China is laughing its ass off at “intelligent design.” In fact, if I were running the economic development arm of the Chinese government, I’d be funneling millions of dollars to American crusading conservative organizations and doing all I could to help get evolution out of US schools completely.
Call it an investment in my future.
Baseball, hotdogs, apple pie and Jesus Saves
So, what does all this have to do with baseball? Well, a couple fun little stories have my attention lately: the Colorado Rockies are built for Jesus and Faith Days at Turner Field.
First up, the Rockies. Now, anybody who has followed the Rox even a little bit in recent years knows that there’s something just not quite right about the organization. Yeah, they suck. Yeah, management is clueless and the ownership is so dim you want to give them a gold star if they can go five minutes without drooling on themselves. But there was always something else there. Something I couldn’t quite put my finger on. Until catwhite sent me this feature from The Nation.
In a remarkable article from Wednesday’s USA Today, the Colorado Rockies went public with the news that the organization has been explicitly looking for players with “character.” And according to the Tribe of Coors, “character” means accepting Jesus Christ as your personal lord and savior. “We’re nervous, to be honest with you,” Rockies general manager Dan O’Dowd said. “It’s the first time we ever talked about these issues publicly. The last thing we want to do is offend anyone because of our beliefs.” When people are nervous that they will offend you with their beliefs, it’s usually because their beliefs are offensive.
As Rockies chairman and CEO Charlie Monfort said, “We had to go to hell and back to know where the Holy Grail is. We went through a tough time and took a lot of arrows.”
Club president Keli McGregor chimed in, “Who knows where we go from here? The ability to handle success will be a big part of the story, too…There will be distractions. There will be things that can change people. But we truly do have something going on here. And [God’s] using us in a powerful way.”
The good news for McGregor is that Rox aren’t being overstressed by the demands associated with handling success. At this particular moment God’s Favorite Baseball Team® stands next-to-last in the NL West, the worst division in the Major Leagues. (Of course, given the degree of mediocrity parity in the NL this season, they’re only 3.5 games out of a trip to the league’s divisional playoffs, a sacred land the franchise has visited precisely one time more than has the senior league baseball team I play for. But hey, maybe Jesus likes drama, and if so the Rockies are perhaps poised for a late-season run to glory.)
And there’s no arguing with the power of faith. Says O’Dowd: “You look at things that have happened to us this year. You look at some of the moves we made and didn’t make. You look at some of the games we’re winning. Those aren’t just a coincidence. God has definitely had a hand in this.”
Is Jesus playing favorites?
Read that again. Read it closely. Then think about it. Let’s take a closer look at the Rockies’ dramatic July 27 extra-inning win over the Padres.
Colorado Rockies manager Clint Hurdle made a small move in hopes of generating some offense. Flip-flopping Brad Hawpe and Yorvit Torrealba in the batting order paid immediate dividends.
Jamey Carroll singled home the game-winning run in the bottom of the 10th, one inning after Torrealba had tied the game with a two-out, two-run homer off Trevor Hoffman, and the Rockies beat the San Diego Padres 9-8 on Thursday night.
“I had liked the way Yorvit had been swinging the bat,” Hurdle said of the catcher he moved to No. 6 in the lineup. “More importantly, I liked the way he found ways to drive in runs.”
A subtle move, but if you examine Hurdle’s record as a manager it’s hard to imagine that he could have come up with such an inspired bit of strategy on his own. Did Hurdle juggle the lineup, or did Jesus?
And what about the SD pitcher who took the loss, Scott Williamson? How is he with the Lord? I can’t find any news stories about public professions of faith on his part. Is it possible that Jesus was punishing Williamson for a lack of faith? Did he perhaps cheat on his wife with some LoDo bimbo the night before? And what about Padre closer Trevor Hoffman, whose 9th-inning gak put the game in extras to start with? Smoking pot? Closet queer? Free-thinking Hillary Clinton supporter?
Unlike Dan O’Dowd, I can’t speak for Jesus. But if this is all true, then what we have on our hands is a game-fixing scandal of Biblical proportions, and all of a sudden steroids is the least of the commissioner’s worries.
14 division championships and only one World Series? Maybe Jesus is the problem…
Then there’s the Braves, who are having another Faith Day at the park this weekend (they had one last month – ironically enough, it was on July 27, the same day that the Lord chose Jamey Carroll to deliver a stern message to the godless Padres, and if you don’t see a Divine Hand in that, you need to get on your knees and pray for wisdom.) In an odd little twist that ought to catch the attention of whoever is making marketing decisions for the team, Focus on the Family is being banned from Faith Day 2.
[sigh] I’ve been a Braves partisan for a long time. And I’ve always been a big John Smoltz fan, too. But I’ve had enough, and I think I may have just become a former Atlanta fan (despite the fact that you have to love anybody that shows James Dobson to the door). The problem, from a personal perspective, is that I’m pretty sure the Braves are only interested in certain types of “faith.” I haven’t called to check yet, but I don’t think they’re scheduling Pagan Night, Gnostic Wednesdays, or a weekly Kegs-n-Buddha all you can drink event. In other words, the Braves are engaging in exclusive marketing, not inclusive.
Never mind eternity – why this is bad business
From a professional standpoint, I’m baffled. Gettin’ yer Public Jesus on may be how we roll in 2k6, but even a novice has to understand that they have now aligned the team’s brand along criteria that are inherently troublesome. This is a lot like having Republican Night. In fact, having a series of Republican Nights, and having your team’s stars line up to praise Dubya. And having no Democrat Nights.
That works fine to a point, but before you do it you need to make sure that you don’t need any independents or Democrats to hit your profitability targets. Further, you need to be sure that you’re never going to need them, because there’s nothing the human animal remembers longer and with more clarity than being excluded.
I say they ought to realize this. When you align your marketing this way, you simultaneously invite some in while publically blowing others off. And you’re dealing with a market that has demonstrated this dynamic repeatedly. How many times have Conservative Christians staged or threatened boycotts when a business operates in a way they don’t approve of? Hell, how many times has Dobson done it? Right – so you already know that people will take their money elsewhere when they perceive you’re pissing on their values. (Don’t believe me? Let’s test the theory by staging Satanic Night next weekend and, you know, seeing what happens.)
In fact, this very phenomenon might be part of the reason the Bravos started Faith Day:
Five years ago, the Braves received hundreds of complaints for selling a block of more 1,700 tickets to a group leading the city’s bid to land the Gay Games. In return for the large purchase, the group was recognized on the field and got to pick someone to throw out the ceremonial first pitch.
The Braves said it was merely a business decision and they weren’t condoning or endorsing the homosexual lifestyle. The team took the same tack with its decision to allow Third Coast Sports to hold “Faith Day.”
They can say what they like, but you’re naive if you think these instances aren’t related.
Well, Braves, you better be right. You’ve made it clear that you’re trading in the title of America’s Team in hopes of being Jesus’ Team. The Christian base may sustain you and carry you to record profits. Or, when the socio-political tide turns, as it always does, you may find that hundreds of thousands of folks remember Faith Day in a less-than-favorable light. Maybe you’re permanently blacklisted by non-Christians and moderate Christians who see these kinds of practices as unseemly and counter-productive to their mission in the community, and maybe others look back and realize there was a whole lot of moneychanger/temple mojo at work.
Regardless, best of luck. After 14 years of division-winning success the club is below .500 and looking like it’s going to stay that way. And regardless of what kinds of moves they make in the off-season, it’s hard to imagine how they’ll be able to best the Rockies. I imagine Jesus is a lot less impressed by a couple of Faith Days than he is by the total acceptance of Him as the Organizational Lord and Savior of the Colorado Rockies.