I have not lived life inoffensively.
How’s that for starters?
No, this won’t be a litany of sins, evidence of waywardness.
Rather, it’s a “drill” on what happens when you are competitive.
Shorthand, that means sports.
Of course, my NFL interest these days has waned. Guess that makes me a win-please fan of the Denver Broncos. I do, though, have some interest, albeit lessened considerably, this weekend on who wins and who goes home.
I read this morning, Sunday, January 13, 2019, that a rift—the mild version—exploded after the Rams Cowboys game…between a wide receiver of the Cowboys and a safety of the Rams.
For whatever reason it took me to a rift I had—or it had me—when I pitched in college. I remember the incident clearly. It was our opening league game…we played in Los Angeles against the UCLA Bruins. They were good; we personified mediocrity. I was a sophomore, circa Spring, 1960.
Our coach, God rest his soul, Dutch Fehring gave a speech before every game, ending, “Fellas, give your best and let the chips fall where they may.” We knew it by heart…it was memory and not inspiration.
Once following the speech one of our players, his guilt will be shrouded in anonymity, got up, walked in the dugout, stumbled and fell. He got up and remarked, “Damn, sure a lot of chips in this dugout.”
Back to the game. For whatever reason [this is not false humility], “Chips” Fehring designated me as the starting pitcher. I had developed my “out” pitch, a slider, and was pleased in the first inning to get the Bruins star hitter to hit into a double play.
The crucial moment, though, happened before the game.
I had been chosen over another player. I didn’t realize he was hurt at his non-selection. That was mild matched to his fury I was chosen.
After I warmed up, I went to the dugout to mentally prepare myself.
I was alone. But in a breath I looked up and the other pitcher stood before me. He pointed and not obviating much, he looked at me, “Miller? You aren’t worth shit. No way you will pitch well today. No way.”
Not exactly words of encouragement.
Well, I lasted until the 6th inning, labored but the slider saved me a couple of times. The bases were loaded with Bruins. Coach Fehring came to the mound, waved to the bull pen and in came Pitcher Acid. As I walked to the dugout he said, “See? I was right.”
He ended up walking the first batter in 4 pitches, letting in the tie-breaking run, then gave up a double clearing the bases. We lost. He smiled. No, correction. He smirked even though the losing runs came when he pitched.
Because I’m thinking about it. Which leads to my weakness, my vulnerability, where I need help.
I have trouble dealing with people who shaft me. Who make life miserable. Who pay scowl rather than a helping hand.
I have no idea what happened to the tirading pitcher. I knew he cheated. Saliva didn’t always stay in his mouth. He would push dirt over the pitcher’s mound and stand a foot closer to the plate.
Yet. My ability to move on from the untoward is minimal. I’m willing to admit that.
How about you?
Even if you throw a wicked slider, I bet. I bet many of you can name a few someone’s who have messed you up.
I have work to do on that.
My first step is this blog.
My next step…well, I’m working on it.
Oh, I did pitch again, and once, when in relief, quieted the best bats in college, the USC Trojans, and we won the game.
My nemesis said nothing. Neither did I.
At least I didn’t smirk or say something ratty in condescension.
Well, well, well. On a Sunday morning as I drive to church. Guess I know the prayer I need…will try to make a good pitch during the Prayer of Confession…need it.
Just maybe. You do, too.
And now a postscript which has become a prelude.
During worship this morning, focused upon the baptism of Jesus, the preacher said, “We are not loved because we are baptized; we are baptized because we are loved.”
That hit me like a fast ball—right in the heart.
Following the sermon, we celebrated the Renewal of our Baptism. I participated fully. And felt so much better…that forgiveness and love were delineated. But, more important, I now have the emotional depth to know that living can be less conflictual…because I am a child of God and I am beloved.
And so. So is everyone. Everyone. Including the guy who didn’t keep all saliva in his mouth.