God might love you and me, but his love for the Seattle Mariners is less certain.
If he does love the Mariners, it’s the kind of love that does little to benefit Seattle sports fans. He might have the grace to
forgive the Mariners’ sins (of which there are plenty), but I don’t think his love extends to healing their pitching woes or batting averages.
As a pastor and lifelong Mariners fan, I’ve constantly struggled with the question “Why won’t God answer my sports prayers?”
Mind you, as a Puget Sound native I haven’t been prone to extravagant requests. When I was a child I even tempered my sports supplications with many reasonable qualifiers. My adolescent prayers went something to the affect of “God … if it would not spoil some great eternal plan, could you possibly have the Mariners finish somewhere above .500 this year. And if it’s not too much to ask, could you please allow their playoff chances to remain mathematically probable until mid to late July. Oh yes, and bless my family! Amen.”
It is amazing what people will settle for when they are used to disappointment. While the Mariners securely defend their dominance of the American League cellar, we fans lament they have not lived up to our mediocre expectations. We expected so little from the M’s and still they have giving us even less than we could ever have imagined. Lowering one’s expectations is the favorite pastime of the tried and true Seattle sports fan.
Even so, the most pessimistic among us did not predict 2008 would be such a profound stinker of a baseball season. At our current losing rate, the Mariners might set a new record in futility. Sadly, the only bright spot in this debacle of a year has been the induction of Dave Niehaus into the Baseball Hall of Fame. Finally, something to cheer about.
For those of you unfamiliar with the name Dave Niehaus, he is and has always been the soundtrack for Mariner baseball. He is summer ball in the Pacific Northwest. Griffey, Randy, Alex and even Edgar have come and gone. They inhabited certain seasons, memories and plays. But Dave Niehaus remains, he is the constant narrative, the voice that bridges the years. He gives the nicknames, introduces the wide-eyed rookies and helps us say goodbye to fan favorites. Dave Niehaus is truly a Seattle sports legend, even though he has never played a single inning of baseball.
Niehaus certainly has made some amazing calls in his illustrious career, but what I admire most is his ability to make the dullest of moments interesting. As a child, I remember Niehaus narrating the late innings of long ago decided ball games. He had the power to paint a vivid picture with each ball and strike, while at the same time wax eloquent about barbeque he’d recently eaten in Kansas City. I’ve never heard anyone who could make a losing game, a losing team and a losing season so entertaining.
Many a night I would fall asleep, not to the serenade of crickets, but to the peaceful, hypnotic cadence of a baritone “looow and outside.”
Only to be awakened moments later as Niehaus’ voice climbed the register in volume and tone to announce a late inning home run. Even though a loss was most likely inevitable, a momentary jubilant “my oh my” would strengthen my resolve to listen just a little bit longer.
Dave Niehaus truly loves what he does. You can hear it in his voice and see it in his life’s work. For his love of baseball, he has been honored by his peers.
You can’t fool people when it comes to love. The people who know you best know what you truly value. They hear it in your voice, they see it in your work. There isn’t a Hall of Fame for life. However, there will come a day when your life will be measured. What will be said of you? What will define your heritage? Did you bring peace or strife, hate or love, hope or despair? Where was your treasure and what was the fruit of your labor?
These are worthy questions to consider before you “fly, fly away!”
Doug Bursch is the pastor of Evergreen Foursquare Church. Evergreen meets Sundays at 10 a.m. at the Riverside High School Theater. He can be reached at www.yesevergreen.org or firstname.lastname@example.org.
Niehaus’ soothing voice comforts a frustrated fan