A few minutes after the Phillies lost game two of the National League Championship Series against the Dodgers last night, a caller was talking to the host on WIP610 about the game.
There was anger in his voice. He was furious. The caller could not believe the Phillies Manager, Charlie Manuel, would take starting pitcher Pedro Martinez out of the game when the Dodgers could not generate any runs against him. A stream of Phillies relief pitchers entered the game which concluded in the winning run for the Dodgers crossing the plate as a result of a bases-loaded walk.
Let’s give this some perspective. Under Charlie Manuel’s coaching since 2005, the Phillies have had a winning season every year. They have won three division titles and a World Series championship. This year, his team is just 7 wins away from back-to-back championships. They are returning to Philadelphia for three straight home games tied after the first two games in Los Angeles, a huge advantage.
And yet, the caller was in need of a sedative.
After the Phillies won the 2008 World Series, I was convinced I was satisfied. The Phillies could miss the playoffs in 2009 and I wouldn’t care. However, I find I am a bit anxious myself – I don’t want them to lose. Oh, I’m not anywhere near calling into a radio station and yelling. After a divorce and other personal crises, I’ve learned the success or failure of my favorite sports teams do not add value to my life or subtract value from my life.
But I still don’t want them to lose. If I had my way, the Phillies would win 10 straight World Series. With each championship, it would be harder and harder to become satisfied with what is already achieved and to be willing to allow the fans of some other city to enjoy a title for a season. The pleasure of your team winning unending championships could become a very selfish addiction requiring therapy.
The absurdity of living and dying by the success of our local sports teams cannot be explained by our contribution. If I was a player on a football team, I might be a huge factor in the team winning the championship. I might be the star quarterback and lead the team to an offensive explosion every game. I might also be the inspiring leader in the locker room, the one man on the team who inspires all the other players to achieve great feats. It would make sense to take great pride in a championship or to experience great disappointment in losing if I was a player on the team.
Our connection to our professional sports teams cannot be explained by regional pride, as if our particular region is directly responsible for the team’s success, other than purchasing tickets which pay for player salaries. Our sports teams may be owned by corporations that are headquartered in another state. The coaches most likely were born in another city and have only lived in the region for just a few years. In any sport, a team will draft or trade for players from anywhere in the country. The truth is, most of the players on any sports team are not the products of the sports organizations in the region in which they currently play. It makes no sense, therefore, for me to take pride in a sports championship when most of the players will, by free agency, trade or retirement, be living in other cities in the near future.
Why then do we measure the value of our life by the success of our local professional sports teams?
Could it be that deep down in our souls we were programmed by God to desire to be connected with Him? Imagine for a moment you and I understand fully what it means to be a child of God, to be one of His family. Your Father is the best. He is the champion of all champions. He is awesome and perfect. He cannot be defeated. He could take on all the best athletes throughout the history of the NFL, each playing their best game, and single handedly win 140-0 – before the end of the first quarter. His fastball cannot be hit – period. We would never find the baseballs He hits out of the ballpark. He has a laser wrist shot that He can thread through minute openings in the net from any position on the ice after every face-off in an NHL game. He can make the most powerful forwards in the NBA look like newborn infants. More importantly, our Father would have the decisive advantage in any battle against all the armies of the world united against Him. If His entire creation, including galaxies in the universe, all rebelled, He could be victorious in the blink of His eye.
Imagine being able to say that you belong to such a God! Imagine being able to say that He is your Father! Imagine being able to say He adopted you, He chose you to become His son or daughter! I believe we were designed to crave to be on God’s team – the ultimate champion!
However, we have turned our backs on God and we have rebelled. We refuse to become a member of His team because we refuse the conditions by which we must become His children. We must confess our sins and our need for forgiveness. We must confess we cannot do enough to please Him to become a part of His family. We must admit God had to pay the penalty for what we have done wrong because God loves us and we are so evil in our nature and incapable of saving ourselves.
In the end, we reject God and now we seek another champion we can belong to. The moment our champion fails, we call into radio stations and complain about relief pitchers.