Tag Archives: Joe Montana

Is God a sports fan? A question for a spiritual slump

I’m in a spiritual slump.

Like a hitter than can’t get good wood on the ball, or the San Francisco 49ers QB Colin Kaepernick against the Seattle Seahawks, I am not living up to my full purpose lately. So I’ve tried to spend some time with God sorting it out. But true to my slump, my energy and focus during those times isn’t sharp at all, certainly not enough to reconnect me to the God who inspires most everything I try to do these days.

That discordant reality brought me around to a basic primer I often employ in my ongoing 11th step process of Daily Moral Inventory taking. I often ask myself how do I spend my time? How do I spend my money? Both reflect my priorities better than my hopes, talk, and wishful thinking of well-intended beliefs. They are true tests of my spiritual condition.

Which brings me full circle to the opening question: is God a sports a fan? Because I spend a lot of time lately watching sports. I spent some money lately on sports, like San Francisco Giants playoff tickets and a World Series Giants sweatshirts and a big spread for the Oregon Ducks thrashing of Stanford.

Despite it being Thanksgiving with my family and a really beautifully simple day, I found my mood turn plenty sour watching the 49ers beating by the defending Super Bowl Champs. It all feels a bit out of balance.

I am not one of those sports fans. You know, the crazy eye-black wearing fans, the dropping numerous C-Notes on the latest gear fans, the watch a full slate of games Saturday and Sunday and watch two hours of ESPN fans. I don’t “live and die” with “my” team. But the current 49er offense sure can ruin any given Sunday.

During the season I watch the Giants most nights, but the Bride and I do that together while doing other tasks. Our whole family loves baseball. I rarely feel guilty about my lifelong love of the beautiful game because it binds us all together.

We are also a family of Ducks. Three generations have ties to the University of Oregon. My loyalties to the Green and Yellow (back when they still wore their colors… before they became a weekly habashery of Nike fashion) go back prior to the Kenny Wheaton interception that turned the Ducks into a real college football team back in the 1990s.

It remains one of the top five favorite moments I’ve ever had in sports.

And of course the San Francisco 49ers, my longest standing loyalty to a team, dates back to when I was a kid and watched a fellow Catholic become the team’s new quarterback in 1980. Joe Montana remains my favorite player of all time and The Bride’s favorite player, so much so she chose to name our youngest after him even though she’s a girl.

So while I may not one of those fans, I’m still pretty invested in sports. It still takes a decent amount of my time, and a chunk of my money and assumes a priority in my life that could very well be outweighed with other things if in fact, God is not a sports fan. 

Even as an athlete I mocked the idea of praying for victory. I roll my eyes at the gyrations players go through to cross themselves and point to the sky and even pray after games, all in an attempt to bring God into the arena of sport that seems … well… weird, if you consider it for very long.

It’s hard to see God giving a rats ass about the 49ers injuries and ridiculous front office sniping. I see Her rolling her eyes at me as I pout following the 49ers loss on Thanksgiving.

The easy answer of course is hell no, God is not a sports fan. Consider that about the only thing God gets really, really pissed at in the Bible is idolatry, then look at the idol worship, egoism, gross extravagance and insular narcissism of professional sports and even thinking there is a chance that God is a sports fan seems ludicrous.

But…

But…

But, I think God may well be a sports fan. I could make a list the length of the the Book of Isaiah on the good sports does and the values it instilled in me. But it’s easier to recall that impressive speech in Chariots of Fire, when the humble servant of God who would become a missionary and die in China after devoting his whole life to God says, “But when I run, I feel His pleasure…” and I get all chocked up and know God is a sports fan.

If Eric Liddell could compare faith to running in a race, much like St. Paul himself did, then its not hard to believe God can be a sports fan.  I remember back when I was a young athlete and young believer and heard this comparison. I felt inspired both as an athlete and a follower of God.

I could use some of that inspiration these days. Perhaps God’s not a sports fan. Perhaps She is. Perhaps it doesn’t matter and like many things I obsess about it has little to do with my spiritual slump. Perhaps. But I know that by taking the time to consider what God thinks and what God wants and what God prefers for both my time and money, I get closer to breaking out of the slump than if I go on without a care.

Is God a sports fan? I dunno. But what matters is that I care about it one way or another.

So what do you say? Is God a sports fan?

Building a SF Dynasty: don’t re-sign the panda

Let’s just get the bad news out there first: Pablo Sandoval, beloved, chubby, enigmatic, playoff heroic third baseman for the World Champion San Francisco Giants should not be re-signed this off-season.

It will be a disastrously unpopular move if the Giants, but it is the correct one. This will feel like John Lennon leaving the Beatles or Joe Montana in Kansas City Chiefs uniform. But it still needs to be done.

The ticker tape is over, the billion-dollar debacle that is Levi’s Stadium is now open and our beloved AT&T Park closed for the winter. The love remains, but if we want to celebrate at City Hall again anytime soon, the tough love part of the thankless job of general manager must begin now.

Yet I know it likely won’t. GM Brian Sabean will likely overpay the Panda out of loyalty and love. For the next six years we will have a ginormous dead weight on the books that will rival Barry Zito’s awful deal. (Note: Barry Zito is a true member of the Giant. He is a better person. He saved us in 2012. His grace under fire proved him a true role model. I love the guy, but his contract remains one of the worst in baseball).

Because that’s what Sabes does. He overpays for veteran talent, even when it’s not ours. Remember Edgar Renteria’s $18 million?

Bill Simmons of ESPN did when he wrote simply of the Renteria signing, “Does Brian Sabean even watch baseball?”

Old, disinterested and slow are not what you pay over-market for a shortshop, but Sabes did and it was disaster right up until the 2010 World Series where Renteria made his last stand as a clutch ballplayer and led the Giants to a historic first championship. $18 million for a World Series is a steal. But toss in Barry Zito’s nine-figure albatross and Marco Scutaro’s millions not to play, Angel Pagan’s $40 million for part-time work and Tim Lincecum’s $35 million for long relief and well, you get the picture. Loyalty pays a dear price, which may just explain why the Giants can only win every other year.

Pablo Sandoval

Of course it sounds ridiculous to expect better than three World Series in five years. It’s astounding and nearly historic. But I’ll say what most everyone really believes: The Giants overachieve and win unlikely championships despite Sabean and his obvious problems in the roster because of sure-fire Hall of Fame manager Bruce Bochey.

The reason the Giants are always underachievers? Because of those loyalty contracts weighing down the roster every single year. The team has a $150 million payroll that in reality is like a small-market $90 million payroll because of the dead wood contracts.

Sandoval is a charismatic talent and a great playoff player. During the season, he is prone to huge slumps, excessive weight gain, up and down years and a decided lack of power for a guy so… robust. Those Octobers makes you see what you miss during most of the season except for a few hot streaks when he single-handily carries the team. We love Sandoval because his energy is terrific, he is a model team player, he comes to play every single day and plays through pain. He loves baseball and plays like it.

He has vastly improved his defense, but remained a guy Bochey subbed for in the late innings. He couldn’t hit left-handers this year. He was a platoon player in disguise. You don’t pay $100 million for a platoon?

But what happens when he turns 30, gains another 30, and his love for other life’s pleasures tips the delicate scales of his unique talent toward debauchery?

Sandoval hitting .330 when he was a spry, agile catcher who had to train to stay in the lineup was a budding superstar. But since moving to 3B, he’s added weight, become a .270 hitter who never really did have much consistent power.  Now he wants — and some fool team like the Yankees will pay him — superstar dollars in excess of $100 million guaranteed. This is a man who ate his way out of the lineup in 2010 and couldn’t keep the weight of this season with a huge contract on the line. Do we really think he’ll stay in shape with $100 million bucks?

Just think of the third, fourth, fifth and sixth years of this deal? For a guy with a clearly neurotic compulsion to avoid waste, the thought makes me anxiously scan Google for a shrink.

I love the Giants. I love Pablo and the Panda hats. I’d hate to see him go, and knowing Sabean’s past I suspect I won’t. Instead I’ll see his contract become dead wood over a painfully long period that will cost the Panda all the love he’s stored up over his wonderful time here in San Francisco. Some good things must come to an end. This is one and it likely won’t and there won’t be much good to come of it.