I am a huge Cleveland sports fans and am loyal to the Browns and Cavs, but baseball is by far my favorite. I absolutely love the sport and my Cleveland Indians team. Since childhood I have been surrounded by Cleveland fans in friends, family, neighbors, you name it! If you are not familiar with sports let me tell you that Cleveland fans are tried and true! Although our teams may not be the greatest, year after year we start each baseball, basketball, and football season saying, “THIS is the year!” Year after year we are convinced at the start that this season will be the one where we go all the way. And year after year, we watch things fall apart and end the season saying, “There’s always next year!” These two phrases have been unofficially named Cleveland’s mottos by many sports fans.
Yesterday was the Home Opener for the Indians. A feeling of excitement filled the air! The local media could talk about nothing else! You see, this year, really could be the year! We have a new, proven manager in Terry Francona who took the Red Sox to the World Series a few years back. We have new players including some great proven leaders like Nick Swisher and we still have some of the wonderful young guys who have really started to shine in the past year or so such as Michael Brantley or (my favorite) Jason Kipnis! Even our pitching, we seems to be our downfall almost every year, has a feeling of promise. Yes, this very well could be our year. The fans in this town were so excited to start off this season that, despite having finished last season terribly, yesterday’s game sold out within 6 minutes of tickets going on sale. Needless to say I did not get tickets. But I did follow the game listening to the radio and receiving text messages from family members as the game went downhill and we lost the Home Opener to the Yankees.
Despite the loss, I woke up this morning, sadly marked an “L” on my Tribe calendar where I keep track of all wins and losses, and promptly checked to see the time for first pitch of tonight’s game. You see, even though they lost, even though a stadium full of hopeful fans was let down, we are still ready for the next one. After all, it’s only one game. And if they pull through and win tonight, the loss will almost be forgotten as the city instead will be filled with excitement and joy. Year after year, game after game, we root for the team and players we love. We remain true to those teams and players, even when they let us down. We have faith in our teams! We have hope that they will give us the win we so desperately want. And, at least in Northeast Ohio, it is a shared experience. Growing up, after any big win we would go outside on the porch to cheer, and all the neighbors would be outside doing the same. You can strike up a conversation with anyone in line at a store about the latest trade rumors, who is pitching, what the prospects are for the coming year, and so forth. Even those who may not be huge sports fans get caught up in the excitement of a good win or a chance at the Playoffs. The faith and hope in baseball unites an entire region of Ohio.
What if that level of faith was in God? Not just by a few people, but by an entire city, region, or state? Can you imagine if everyone you met in the street was that invested in knowing God? Where you could be in line for any store and strike up a conversation about faith and the love of God. What if, even when times went bad in life, you could check off that day on your calendar, shrug and say oh well time for a new day. If we trusted that there must be a reason for it and chose not to dwell on the negative but instead got excited for each new day because it is a gift from God? What if we lived in a place where everyone was so proud of their faith that they shared it with everyone, much the way a sports fan will show their love for their team in every way possible?
There is certainly nothing wrong with being a sports fan. I proudly root for my team and will continue to through thick and thin! But we need to look at our lives and see where we place the majority of our energy and faith. If we can place all this hope, optimism, and love in a sports team, surely we can do even more for our God. Just as we might wear team colors to show our spirit, we can do the same through our actions for Christ. We can wear the love of the Lord as a smile on our faces or a kind word to a stranger. We can root for God by standing up for our beliefs even when they are not popular. We can wear a cross or other symbol of God’s love as a physical sign of our faith and perhaps as a prompt for faith filled conversation. We can make time for Church and the sacraments. We can start each day with excitement and wonder at what God has in store. Baseball is a wonderful sport. It can bring people together and fill us with delight. Let us take that bit of delight and turn it into praise and thanksgiving for all God has done! Let us thank the Lord for all He has given us – His Only Son who died to save us, our loving family, friends, food, shelter, the beauty of nature that surrounds us…and while we’re at it, how about some thanks for the little things…like baseball!