Tuesday, August 17, 2010

Baseball is far and away my favorite sport. I fell away when the St. Louis Blues hockey club was good in my childhood, and because my brother harbored not-too-farfetched dreams of being an NHL goalie. But "The Boys of Summer" (cue the Henley) are my obsession. Still, football (American, that is) has a place in the hearts of two brothers who watch pretty much every sport, and who, to this day, maintain that they could announce any of them should the need arise. (Call us, seriously.) But football needs a kick in the pants to approach "Distirbingly Misplaced Affection" status. And one man has kept me between the navigational beacons of "Casual Fan" and "John Madden" for the balance of my life...Brett Favre. That's right: the one that every self-respecting football fan is supposed to hate, because the current crop of announcers gets all in a lather at the sight of him, and because he's retired and unretired more times than Rocky Balboa. Well, if I may: Poppycock. Horsefeathers. Balderdash. Every male who has even dreamt of being an alpha loves Brett Favre (upon reflection, at least). Consider the evidence:

*A current consecutive starts streak that dates to September, 1992 (nearly 300 games).

*Super Bowl Champion and 3-time consecutive NFL MVP (1995-97).

*The all-time leader in touchdown passes, passing yards, and completion percentage.

*The only current NFL player to be a grandfather.

*Played perhaps his best game (21-30, 399 passing yards, 3 TDs) on the eve of Christmas, 2003, one day after his father, Irv, died suddenly. Irv would have wanted it that way.

*Had his best statistical season in 2009 at the age of 40.

*Led his team, the Minnesota Vikings, within one play of the Super Bowl in 2009.

And in what surely should please "Uncle Bryan" and family, the Favres are Catholic. Am I supposed to be upset that a guy 40 years old is so good at football that he can't make up his mind? Am I supposed to be mad that his right arm is a cash-cow for America's most popular sport? Are we supposed to be angry that he took a 4-12 Jets team to 7-9 and 1 game from the playoffs in 2008 with a torn rotator cuff in his throwing shoulder? Not to mention the torn biceps. All I know is that the hometown team was the worst in the league, but I barely felt the sting because "The Gunslinger" was at work. And now he's back.

Sunday, August 15, 2010

Hey, what's with all the Mormon TV commercials? Are those noted missions going more poorly? I can't dignify that theology by a link, but I'd be glad to tell you about it. It features attractive people (read: hot) telling us about all the perfectly normal roles they play in life and work, a humorous anecdote, and then the person says, "I am [name], and I am a Mormon." That last line ruins it all. Anyway, I should say some good things about Mormons, before I tear into them/it again. I'd venture to say, nearly all Mormons are extremely nice. Maybe it's fake in some cases, but everyone I ever knew that was remotely Mormon seemed/seems very kind. They're generally quite moral in their living, which may well be in stark contrast to the movement's early leaders. BUT...these commercials seem designed with this thought: "If we make them seem normal and well-adjusted, the evangelicals won't notice we don't believe Jesus is God." More pointedly, the question for all time is this: "Is Jesus Christ consubstantial with the Father?" It's a yes/no question. You answer yes, you pass, you're a Christian (but maybe not a good one, depending). You answer no, you're something else. And to be something else isn't the worst thing; we all learn things at different paces, God love us, and that's OK. But what makes Mormonism especially injurious is that it claims to be Christian. I said recently that Christology was the hill I'd die on (pardon the pun) and I meant it. What we have to answer as Protestant evangelicals is, "How far does our 'ecclesial deism' truly go?" Even if I should reject the characterization, the phrase, or even question just how ad hoc Protestant appeals to history and authority are, at the end of the day,--and it will come to this--when it's God's Church versus the kingdom of Satan, do we have the humble courage to turn to the Catholic Church (and the Orthodox) and say, "Come, brothers, we fight together"? Even if the rift isn't healed? Luther famously stated that the Church stood or fell on justification. Let me ask you flat-out, in light of everything we face: Are you sure? Doesn't the very nature of things in the world, the entropy of life, the multiplication of evil (which begins and ends with Christ-denial) teach us that this can't possibly be true? I'm not speaking as a person considering "the Catholic question." I don't want to minimize our differences. I merely note that the mercy of God may turn severe in His good pleasure, and what was once vitally important will become minor. It already happens in war-zones and oppressive regimes. It will happen for all of us. We ought to decide now what we'll do.
A brief note on baseball if I may: With apologies to Jim Palmer or whomever (wrong? AKR, get on the grammar case, stat) who noted with appropriate snark that the minimum qualification for a "quality start" in baseball (6 innings pitched, with no more than 3 earned runs allowed) still means a 4.50 ERA, (not particularly effective overall) I would say that today showed us that the stat isn't completely worthless. Chris Carpenter, a prototypical pitching "ace" if there was one, showed it again. He wasn't terribly sharp today; he couldn't locate, or place, any of his various pitches in the preferred location; he surrendered 2 runs in the first inning, 1 in the second. Yes, the Cardinals still lost; yes, Carpenter would surely entirely blame himself; yes, I am a homer...BUT, anyone who watches a baseball game knows: if your pitcher finishes 6 innings, surrendering 3 runs or less, you're definitely still in the game. Two bad innings...and 4 zeros following. The final score was 3-2. The Cardinals hitters loaded the bases in the bottom half of the sixth, pinch-hitting for Carpenter but failing to score. I remember saying, "Get us through 6, give 'em no more, I'll take it." And you're darn skippy we'll take it. I'd say about half the time, you win a game like that, at least. Admission: Chris Carpenter is one of the maybe 5 pitchers on this planet I will use 3-4 hours of my life to watch pitch. The current five (in no particular order):

5. Roy Halladay

4. Greg Maddux (retired)

3. Tom Glavine (retired)

2. Chris Carpenter

1. Adam Wainwright

Honorable Mention: Brad Radke (retired)

Note that the American League pitchers (Halladay, formerly, and Radke) deserve special honor, because I generally despise American League baseball. (The designated hitter rule.) The retired guys mean this: If any one of those kats unretired tomorrow, I'd be at the ballpark/in front of my TV, stat. Done and done. Radke should have won many more games; ask anyone.