My wife and I lately attended a baseball tournament hosted in McPherson, Kansas, specifically witnessing three games on May 11 and 12 in which our son’s school participated. We were pretty shocked. Speaking for myself, as a Christian, an educator, and a human being raised in civilized circumstances, I came away feeling that the tenor of this competition was far too often disgraceful and disgusting.
Full disclosure requires me to admit that our team did not fare well, nor was my son’s single stint as a relief pitcher a success. On the other hand, CCU has under-achieved all season; and as for my son’s performance, he was actually victimized (as usual) not by poor execution on his part, but by the weak defenders behind him. In these regards, nothing made May 11-12 any different from what I’ve observed all season long.
I will further admit that the irritation caused to me and all the parents near me (not to mention, most likely, some sitting on the other side) during our first game with Ecclesia College was entirely owing to a single boisterous mother, whose bellowing surpassed anything I recall even from the earliest days of Little League. It’s a real jolt to observe such behavior in college grandstands… but only one such stentorian orifice is needed to spread a dark auditory cloud over the whole field of play.
Things became more concerning on Friday. We actually began the day by handing Dallas Christian College their second of two crushing defeats, and they handled their misfortunes with dignity and humor. The problem started when the Ecclesia squad collected in the grandstands to follow the game’s outcome and know of their own fate in the tournament. I myself didn’t witness the heavy tobacco chewing and spitting that went on among that group, because I was determined to keep a distance between myself and Foghorn Mama; but my wife and several other parents remarked that finding a clean place to pass on the sidewalk was growing difficult.
Tobacco-chewing is a squalid and unhealthy habit which is unbecoming of a well-groomed and self-controlled person, let alone a Christian gentleman. Bobby Richardson didn’t do it, and neither did Dale Murphy. By the way, it’s also against NCAA rules and the codes now enforced in most minor leagues.
Yet it happens, especially in our neck of the woods. Several levels worse, in my opinion, is the consumption of caffeinated substances before a game in such quantities that one’s “enthusiasm” cannot be reined in. This was the state into which I suspect Southwestern Christian University’s players had medicated themselves for our final game. I know enough about amphetamine use in the MLB (Hank Aaron once wrote that “greenies” were always overflowing a bowl in the clubhouse like candy) and various caffeine/alcohol/nicotine-laced cocktails (such as Ron Darling described in accounting for the 1986 Mets’ success) to understand that the game has long been riddled with such stuff. I do not know what the NCAA rules are in this regard; but again, though certain spiritual leaders tell us these days that Christians never judge another person, I’m pretty sure that deliberately impairing your self-control in order to reach Dionysiac energy and ecstasy isn’t something Christ would have approved.
For this team was out of control. Their manager, early on, protested a relatively routine and uncontroversial call by shouting and gesticulating angrily on the field. Everyone on the bench was howling, screeching, mocking, jeering, and chanting from the first pitch to the last. Naturally, the game has a long and not very respectable tradition of deriding opponents from the dugout; but such remarks are always sniper fire, not constant artillery barrages. I could scarcely sit back and take in any of the plays—which, I suppose, was probably the purpose of the display. If SCU’s members and boosters wanted the rest of us just to long for early and maximum physical distance from the ballpark, they were indeed a huge success. Never have I sat through such an annoying and repellent two hours at a baseball field.
It was in this atmosphere, of course, that I had to watch my son throw the last pitches he would ever make in a uniform. I would be less than honest if I denied feeling almost furious about that. But the less subjective, more important issue is that human beings can’t normally behave this way except under the influence of some kind of stimulant. If a drug test had been administered before the game, the SCU squad would have produced some very interesting results.
As we returned to our car afterward, my wife and I overheard one coach say to a player, “I’m so hoarse I can hardly talk. But we came out on top—that’s all that matters.”
NCCAA will forever remain tarnished in my memory. I suppose anyone who wants is free to participate in its events… but in my opinion, one of the “c’s” needs to be dropped. I can tell you as a teacher with almost forty years experience that the one factor most discrediting to Christianity in the eyes of young non-Christians is hypocrisy. The faithless perceive us as all-for-show, “do as I say, not as I do” phonies. It’s precisely because of occasions like the McPherson tournament that they come away with such an impression… and who can blame them? In its own small way, that tournament gave a black eye to our faith; and, as many such displays throughout our culture add their individual punches and kicks—all under an ostentatious Cross—we crucify our savior all over again.
Really, really sad.