Game one of the World Series was played Wednesday night. The series could be over in a few days, or it could play on into November. I admit, I am no baseball fan. Numerous people have told me that artful strategies are embedded amid the tedium, but you could never prove it by me. My attention this time of year is unalterably locked onto pigskin excitement. Baseball encroaches on the season suited much more for football, while baseball belongs more naturally to languid summer days. Maybe the Boston Red Sox and the Colorado Rockies will be greeted with snow in Coors Stadium in Denver, just to confirm my seasonal rantings!
A “back story” about the Colorado Rockies in Tuesday’s New York Times may cause me to pay a little more attention to this World Series. The article resurfaced coverage that first appeared in USA Today, a front page article on the Rockies, May 31,2006. The focus of the articles was on the Rockies’ managers building and running the team on explicitly Christian principles. Numerous publications, including The Nation, Fox Sports Online, and a host of others, ran highly critical, skeptical, and caustic responses to the May 31, 2006 USA Today piece. They lambasted what little they understood of the Rockies’ Christian faith. Most of the contrary articles used only brief quotations from the USA Today article, which quoted the Rockies managers and players explaining their faith-centered approach. Several more recent articles reported on their faith more positively. It made me want to hear more from the Rockies to try to determine if their Christian talk was just a gimmick, wedding sports and faith in all-too-common shallow and self-serving ways, or if they appeared to be actually putting their faith into practice on the baseball field, in the clubhouse, and beyond. I fervently hoped for the latter.
From the front office to the players, many Rockies personnel are quick to state clearly their faith in Christ, and the difference it makes in how they manage, play, and live. Rockies chairman and CEO Charlie Monfort became a Christian 3 years ago. He says it influenced how he wanted to run the ballclub. “Behind the scenes, they quietly have become an organization guided by Christianity … embracing a Christian-based code of conduct they believe will bring them focus and success. From ownership on down, it’s an approach the Rockies are proud of…” (USA Today, 5/31/2006) Daily Christian living is an attitude pervading team management. General Manager Dan O’Dowd says he has had prayer sessions on the telephone with club President Kelli McGregor and manager Clint Hurdle. (USA Today, 5/31/2006) Manager Clint Hurdle said the fact that he, O’Dowd and team president Kelli McGregor have strong Christian beliefs makes for good working conditions. “First and foremost, we talk about character, accountability and responsibility,” (Rocky Mountain News, 5/31/2007) General Manager Dan O’Dowd acknowledged that his Christian faith came into play, He said it guided him to find players with integrity and strong moral values. (New York Times, 10/23/2007)
Hurdle was a Sports Illustrated coverboy when he was drafted in 1975. He says that he lived the too-stereotypical “high life” of major league sports, drinking far too much, partying far too late, and ending two marriages in divorces. About 5 years ago Hurdle became a Christian. All facets of his life changed. He became a devoted husband and father, often taking time away from the Rockies to attend to the needs of his daughter, Madison, who has Prader-Willi syndrome, a genetic disorder that affects appetite, behavior and cognitive motor skills. (Hartford Courant, 10/23/2007) Commenting on some of the criticism leveled at him for his outspoken Christian faith, Hurdle tolled his local newspaper, “I don’t worry about what other people think of the stance I took. I don’t flaunt my beliefs on a lot of things. If I am asked, I will give an answer. I stand up for my relationship with Christ.” (Rocky Mountain News, 5/31/2007)
While being a professing Christian is not pressed upon any player, many Rockies also speak plainly about their faith. Relief pitcher Jeremy Affeldt called the team “a band of brothers.” “When you have as many people who believe in God as we do, it creates a humbleness about what we do,” Affeldt said. “I don’t see arrogance here, I see confidence.” (New York Times, 10/23/2007) First baseman Todd Helton said his Christian beliefs are not built around athletics. “I don’t try to be a Christian to be a better baseball player,” he said. “I try to be a Christian to be a better person and father. I struggle with it every day, like everyone else in the world. I want to be a better person, like everybody else.. . . We’re dirtbags, like 99 percent of the world. Maybe worse, because we are baseball players.” (Rocky Mountain News, 5/31/2006)
After reading more of the Rockies’ unfiltered testimony, my positive conclusion is that they are genuinely talking, playing, and living a “good game.” Their Christian faith rings true. They give evidence of incorporating Paul’s counsel to followers of Jesus in Ephesus as they lived in a culture inhospitable to Christians. Being faithful to Christ against rampant abuse of steroids and other drugs and alcohol, easy sexual conquests, excessive commercialism, and other temptations too common in major league sports, the Rockies seem to be living by Paul’s biblical standard:
Everything—and I do mean everything—connected with that old way of life has to go. It’s rotten through and through. Get rid of it! And then take on an entirely new way of life—a God-fashioned life, a life renewed from the inside and working itself into your conduct as God accurately reproduces his character in you.
8 Don’t grieve God. Don’t break his heart. His Holy Spirit, moving and breathing in you, is the most intimate part of your life, making you fit for himself. Don’t take such a gift for granted.
31-32 Make a clean break with all cutting, backbiting, profane talk. Be gentle with one another, sensitive. Forgive one another as quickly and thoroughly as God in Christ forgave you.
5:1-2 Watch what God does, and then you do it, like children who learn proper behavior from their parents. Mostly what God does is love you. Keep company with him and learn a life of love. Observe how Christ loved us. His love was not cautious but extravagant. He didn’t love in order to get something from us but to give everything of himself to us. Love like that.
5 You can be sure that using people or religion or things just for what you can get out of them—the usual variations on idolatry—will get you nowhere, and certainly nowhere near the kingdom of Christ, the kingdom of God.
8-10 You groped your way through that murk once, but no longer. You’re out in the open now. The bright light of Christ makes your way plain. So no more stumbling around. Get on with it! The good, the right, the true—these are the actions appropriate for daylight hours. Figure out what will please Christ, and then do it.
(Ephesians 4:23-24, 30-32, 5:1-2, 5, 8-10 The Message)
As the World Series becomes a default topic of office, shopping, restaurant, and general social conversation, the story of the Rockies’ faith may resurface. Perhaps it will provide an opportunity to speak a word about your own faith, playing off of the Rockies’ testimonies. Christian faith definitely will not guarantee the Rockies or any other team victories in the game of baseball, but victorious lives of Christian faith are so much more important. Is living for Christ as much a part of your daily life?