The Associated Press headline surprised me: ‘Opponents carry injured home run hitter around the bases.” The story by Joseph Frazier detailed how the hitter had blasted the ball out of the park, then apparently tore a ligament rounding first base. The unlucky athlete’s team couldn’t help, according to the rules so, ‘ …members of the Central Washington University softball team stunned spectators by carrying Tucholsky around the bases Saturday so the three-run homer would count — an act that contributed to their own elimination from the playoffs.”
I was surprised until I realized that it was members of a womens’ softball team that did it. Then I said to myself, ‘Oh, I understand.” Most men’s teams would never do that. They’d see their opponent writhing in pain on first base and think, ‘Wow, what a break for us!” Or, ‘That’s divine justice. We’re supposed to win this.” But carry him around the bases so he could beat you? C’mon! Get serious.
One year at kids camp I was paired with a lady counselor who berated me because of my competitiveness. Me competitive? I just want to WIN! ALWAYS! We were the black team and one day while playing softball, we were in the process of wiping out some other colored team. Counselors got to play and my tender-hearted colleague was pitching. We were beating them so badly that she wanted to let them score, which wasn’t a widely-held feeling on our mostly-boys team. One of the hitters on their team blasted a line drive up the middle and I made one of the catches of my life to get him out. The boys ‘all-righted!” And the lady counselor? She scolded me! ‘Let them score!” One of the last things she said to me, through the window of the church bus I was going to drive back home was, ‘Don’t be so competitive.” Killjoy. It seems the ladies are a bit more spiritual than us in this realm doesn’t it guys?
When I started this Coffee Stain I was going to write about how we should get in touch with our feminine side in our relationships with others, and be more helpful and less competitive. But then I started to think about some great fusses I’ve seen in life and I remarked that not all of them were masculine. I’ve seen some ‘cat fights” that rivaled any ‘dog fights” you can imagine for ferocity. (The worst of them, back in high school, usually concerned a dog). Men would probably never carry an opponent around the bases. Let’s give women a point there, but I’ve seen ladies rip other ladies mercilessly with their tongues, acts, and attitudes. Maybe it’s not just the feminine side we need to get in touch with. Maybe, it’s the Lord’s side we need to think about. He actually expects more of us than a simple lift around the bases during a softball game. Here’s Jesus’ side:
‘You’re familiar with the old written law, ‘Love your friend,’ and its unwritten companion, ‘Hate your enemy.’ I’m challenging that. I’m telling you to love your enemies. Let them bring out the best in you, not the worst. When someone gives you a hard time, respond with the energies of prayer, for then you are working out of your true selves, your God-created selves. This is what God does. He gives his best””the sun to warm and the rain to nourish””to everyone, regardless: the good and bad, the nice and nasty. If all you do is love the lovable, do you expect a bonus?” (Matt. 5:43-45, The Message)
Or try this one on:
‘Get along among yourselves, each of you doing your part. Our counsel is that you warn the freeloaders to get a move on. Gently encourage the stragglers, and reach out for the exhausted, pulling them to their feet. Be patient with each person, attentive to individual needs. And be careful that when you get on each other’s nerves you don’t snap at each other. Look for the best in each other, and always do your best to bring it out. ‘Be cheerful no matter what; pray all the time; thank God no matter what happens. This is the way God wants you who belong to Christ Jesus to live. (1 Thessa. 5: 13-18, The Message)
One of the principal actors in our softball story had this comment after it was all over, ” ‘In the end, it is not about winning and losing so much,’ Mallory Holtman, one of the players who carried her opponent around the bases, said. ”˜It was about this girl. She hit it over the fence and was in pain, and she deserved a home run.'” That is the way you should respond. I know the Lord is pleased when we react like that, but … but … Can’t we suspend Biblical principles when we’re playing ball? Yeah, I know, I know. See you next week.