Baseball and Forgiveness

Go Red Sox!

Red Sox Nation!

Okay, it’s out of my system now. Thank you for your indulgence.

verlanderThe Detroit Tigers and the Boston Red Sox are locked in a heated battle for the American League Championship. During last night’s game Tiger’s pitcher Verlander was interviewed in the dugout about a previous game that the Tigers lost. A grand slam to tie the game, and a walk off later for the win was exciting for Red Sox fans, but a hard loss for Tiger fans. Verlander shrugged off the loss and with a comment about moving on from the past, being in the present, and looking toward the future. With that comment, baseball once again took its place in the realm of theology.

Baseball isn’t just a game that exists in a vacuum. Embedded in the game is great philosophy, and it opens up such concepts as morality, faith, mysticism, and ethics. It also teaches us important lessons in forgiveness. Forgiveness is one of the most important features of Christianity. Baseball, and Verlander’s comment last night, brought that important aspect of our faith right into our living rooms.

When it comes to championship games, passions can run hot, and team loyalty can quickly turn ugly. In a series like this, a spectacular win one day can be followed by a devastating loss the next. Emotional rollercoasters like that can bring out the worst in people. When Verlander was questioned about the loss, it felt like the interviewer was looking for a revenge statement. He didn’t get one. There was no grudge, no venom, no vows to avenge the team in Verlander’s response. This indicates more than just good sportsmanship. This demonstrates right living.

Forgiveness means not holding grudges. It means allowing the past to be the past, and not letting a difficult past dictate your present or your future. Painful events in our past – those times when we were hurt, embarrassed, injured, or in some way suffered – continue to cause us pain so long as we let those events dominate our present and future actions in negative ways. Forgiveness doesn’t just serve to set free the person who wronged us. It serves to set us free from the burden of living that pain over and over.

bill-bucknerIn 1986 The Red Sox made it to game 6 of the World Series against the Mets. In the bottom of the 10th inning, a slow rolling grounder up the first base line – an easy play to end the series – went through the legs of Bill Buckner. The Sox lost the game and were forced into game seven, which they also lost. Bill Buckner took the blame for the loss, and was essentially run out of town. For years mere mention of his name made people visibly shudder. In 2008 he was finally forgiven. Boston was able to let go of the pain of the World Series loss, and Buckner was invited to throw out the first pitch. He wiped tears away as he walked to the mount to a long, loud, standing ovation from Fenway Park. Forgiveness has set them all free.

That game was a Red Sox – Tigers match up as well. Hhmmm…

bucknerBaseball may be just a game, but it still shows us glimpses of the most important things in life, like living in the present, looking forward to a positive future, and the power of forgiveness. Where have you experienced the power of forgiveness in your own life? Were you able to forgive someone else or perhaps yourself? Have you ever been the recipient of forgiveness? How did it make you feel?