Church league softball (and some thoughts about sports in general)

Tonight was a softball night. I play in this church league headed up by the Christian youth center where I volunteer as a worship leader (Crossroads CYC in Big Rock, IL). My church has a team in the league, and we’re getting towards the end of our sixteen-game season. We’re not a great or even a really good team, but we have a lot of fun in spite of ourselves.

Mom and Dad have been coming out to watch the games, and tonight Dad took some pictures. This is yours truly taking a big swing.

Which ended as a single, pretty usual for me.

My older brother Dan digs in at the plate.

We play two games every night of the season for eight weeks, and then we have playoffs. This first game was against Family Life Church, who is probably the best team in the league. We made a strong showing, but they outhit us in the end.

Our first baseman Trace makes a dig. He didn’t get the out but it was a fine play nevertheless.

Dan marks up a run. 

Our team on the bench.

I grew up a huge Chicago Cubs fan and a lover of baseball but never got to play organized sports as a kid. I think that’s part of the reason I enjoy church league softball so much. I check in on the Cubs now and then (I followed very closely last year), but to me there is something almost more special and exciting about playing with friends, even if the stakes aren’t all that high. 

There was a time in my later teens when I was pretty much opposed to professional sports in general. I think it was a bit of an overreaction to the way I obsessed over sports as a kid and young teen. It was a bit of an idol and something that I turned to as an unhealthy escape from the problems of life. The time off was needed and I think I’ve found a good balance now. But I had the tendency then to feel like I had to objectify my preferences and personal decisions in order to justify them, and I’ve since grown out of that.

Sports are a part of life, and a legitimate profession for some. I don’t agree with those who argue that sports are pointless (acknowledging that I used to be one of those people) because, if you really think about it, all of life is something of a beautiful “just because,” and the point of it all is the glory of God getting through in our thinking and striving and making and laughing and crying and loving. Computer programming, for example, may be from one perspective more essential to the functioning of our society than baseball, but we were created for more than to simply sustain our own existence; like Lewis says, there are things which have no survival value but nonetheless give value to survival. Sure, it can be argued that our culture gives too much attention or the wrong kind of attention to sports, but I could also make an argument that we devote the same kind of idolatrous attention to our work in more mundane professions as well. 
All of this being said, I still do think that our culture invests perhaps a disproportionate amount of its attention in the spectacle of national sporting events to the neglect of more local events, that pro sports has become somewhat monolithic and detached from a sense of place and community. I don’t feel quite as strongly about this as I did at one point but I do still feel that there is something lost in our preoccupation with the best of the best of the best. What happened on the field tonight in our not-that-competitive church league may only matter to one out of a million people in the country and that is OK, but it matters to me just as much if not more than the Cubs do because these are my people.

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