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  • Reverend James Squire

The Phillies

Vicki and I have been watching the play offs and, like others viewing on TV or in the stands, are living and dying with each swing of the bat. I have this “fair weather friend” relationship with the Phillies because I never played baseball and more to the point, I don’t understand a thing about the it. I can diagnose what is happening on the football field because I played it and understand it, and coached younger players. I can understand most things that happen on a football field on both the offense and the defense. I love college football and the Eagles.

The game of football seems faster than baseball. There is no hurry up with plays that can be run. No two minutes drill. I don’t know why they can’t get better gloves when baseball players are at bat because they are always taking time between each pitch to readjust them. I am sure that they don’t have one size fits all as their only choice. I wonder why there is so much spitting by the players of, what I believe, are sunflower seeds. If you don’t want to eat them, don’t eat them. Spitting spreads germs.

I am envious of the announcers as there seems to be little silence in their commentary. They can tell you what pitch the pitcher should throw and why and the complications of pitching against a right hander versus a left hander. There is all this unfair criticism that a group of women can’t stop talking when they are together. To some degree that is true as women generate intimacy through conversation more so than men. However, I would say that an analysis of the baseball announcers who are male could be described as the “greatest talkers.”

So why am I watching as a fair-weather friend only when they are in the playoffs. Part of it is the influence of Bart Giamatti who was President of Yale. However, all of his life he had desired to be the Commissioner of Baseball. I wouldn’t change my life’s work for anything. He left Yale to be Commissioner of his beloved baseball. He was so passionate about the game in high school that his coach made him a manager because he had no skills but his deep passion for the game was contagious. Giamatti died as a young man, four packs of cigarettes a day.

So why do I watch it during these final moments of greatness? I love Giamatti’s ethics and his writings. He thought baseball should be a view of America where no cheating is acceptable. No one refers to another sport as a national pastime or an American Family Tradition. He is the person who came down so hard on Pete Rose and his cheating scandal. He set an ethical tone for the sport.

I am captivated as I watch the game, understanding nothings about it, but because I see black, brown, and white men acting as a team supporting one another. I have always said that sport is the greatest national vehicle that we have in diversity efforts. Giamatti put it this way: “Baseball has the largest library of law and love and custom, and ritual, and therefore, in a nation under law, well baseball is America’s most privileged version of the LEVEL PLAYING FIELD.” Do yourself a favor before the next Phillies game. Read Giamatti’s most well-known essay on baseball titled Green Fields of the Mind. It begins with, “Baseball will break your heart…” Giamatti’s essays should be read by politicians to remember what America should be about. In essence, we should be an example of a nation of laws and ethics.

This current series with the Phillies and the Padres has done something to me. I can’t stop watching it even though I don’t understand it. I am blind to understanding it and seeing its nuances, but the spirit of teamwork on the field and the fervor of support for the team off the field does something to you. It matches life as we know it where you can become a goat or a hero in just one play.

I know I will not become a seasonal fan. I don’t understand it and it seems to me like watching the grass grow. That is not true of people who understand the game and love it for the same reason that I watch the Eagles. However, you will always see Vicki and me when the team is in the playoffs which we hope will be a fait accompli in years to come. We are yelling at the top of our lungs and scaring Sadie, the wonder dog. She gives us a funny look that says, “Are you guys all right?”

Nelson Mandala said it best, “Sport has the power to change the world. It has the power to inspire. It has the power to unite people in a way that little else does. It speaks to youth in a language they understand. Sport can create hope where once there was only despair. It is more powerful than government in breaking down racial barriers.”

I am all in on Giamatti, Mandala, and the Phillies. Now if only our citizens could translate the heart of this national pastime to our daily lives and our political life.

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