Integrity vs. Steroids




I try to look for the balance between subjects that I – as a Christian – should be vocal about. More often than not, I dig to the core of the subject and find the God given moral code still dictates the difference between right and wrong, even in the smallest of subjects. When deciding where God belongs, we tend to treat right and wrong questions like they are a choice of favorite color, void of any right or wrong answer. Although I occasionally lack disciplined delicateness in my delivery of opinion, I don’t often find a good reason for a Christian not to have an opinion in everyday matters; if in fact their opinion is rooted in morals.

I encourage other Christians to speak out as well! Tom Minnery wrote in the book Why You Can’t Stay Silent: A Biblical Mandate to Shape Our Culture:

“The fact is, when hearts are changed by the gospel, sometimes those hearts begin to beat in new rhythms. These are the people who, renewed in Christ, begin to see with fresh eyes what is wrong, because the gospel has taught them what is right. They are the ones who cannot ignore what is happening around them, the ones who stand up and say, ‘Somebody has to do something!”

This is where you are now saying “but baseball…really…that’s a bit of a stretch”…You might be right, let’s take a look. Baseball might not be everyone’s forte, but since it is mine, I’m going to speak out about the recent steroid debacle.

The game of baseball – America’s pastime – is loved by many. I don’t take the score of my team as seriously as I take the game of baseball itself. As Jacques Barzun said, “Whoever wants to know the heart and mind of America had better learn baseball!”. In Apologies to Thucydides – Understanding History as Culture and Vice Versa, Marshall Sahlins writes:

“Perhaps we have underestimated sport the way we underestimate talk about the weather, as the integument of an otherwise divided and only imagined community. Tygiel notes DeLillo’s musing on this score: “Isn’t it possible that this midcentury moment [i.e., Bobby Thomson’s homer] enters the skin more lastingly than the vast shaping strategies of eminent leaders, generals steely in their sunglasses—the mapped visions that pierce our dreams?””

(NOTE: I’m not proclaiming alliance with all of Marshall Sahlins views, just noting a point worthy of discussion.)
Sports in general do not come close in rank of importance when compared to war, catastrophes, Presidential elections, etc., still though, pertinent moments of joy or sorrow in the world of baseball have left lasting impressions that bend the mind in a more memorable way. The shot heard round the world, the first time Jackie Robinson played in the MLB in 1947, or the game tying hit from David Freeze in 2011…These pivotal moments are there to stay in our minds.

Growing up, the most honorable man I knew was my Grandpa, he never won a purple heart, he never rushed into a burning building, and he never beat the career stats of Roger Maris. But he was a man of integrity, his compass between right and wrong was always facing true North. Every time I went to his house I would find myself walking through his music room to view the framed bat, ball, baseball card, and letters from teams that confirmed the talents that gained him a spot in the minor league HOF.

He may not have been Stan Musial, but he is my Stan Musial.

Though his career was cut short due to injuries, he was a true baseball purest. He had respect for the one sport that – for the most part – had remained the same since its beginnings. That is probably why my family has a love of the game that goes beyond the love of the players. As Yogi Berra said: “You can’t make up no trick plays” in the game of baseball. As the greats have noted time and time again, you can’t delay the clock, you can’t fake a play…There is an air of accountability and vulnerability in baseball that can’t be erased by time; you have to give the batter a chance, or you have to give him a base…either choice leaves you in inescapable vulnerability.

We encourage kids to strive for success, to be fair, and to live their lives with integrity. But those same kids who have dreams of becoming the next Pujols are now pressured into using steroids just to gain a name. Why do we know names like Hank Greenberg, Ted Williams, Lou Gehrig, etc? Because they achieved the impossible, they pushed the game to the limits by using pure talent. Sure, “chemically enhancing” ones game has been around forever, but not to the level it is today.

A little known fact is that Babe Ruth once tried to up his game by injecting himself with sheep testosterone, after missing a few games for “stomach cramps” he returned to playing the game naturally. Although people would like to point out the past attempts, we can factually state that today’s technology in the Performance Enhancement Drug development is far – FAR – beyond anything accessible before the 1980’s.

After Billy Hamilton had his final at bat in 1901, he had played 1591 games, had 1690 runs, 937 stolen bases, .455 on base %, and a .344 batting average. He did all of this without the use of performance enhancement drugs. He may not lead every category, and he may not be the best baseball player of all time, but what he did is nothing short of a gift. To be in the stands during that time and witness a God given gift – tuned and developed through hard work and dedication – was a gift in and of itself. And now to have players chemically enhancing themselves to outdo natural talent is appalling. Not only is it unfair, it is showing young fans all over the US that God given talent can be created in a lab and that chemically created talent deserves the same respect.

When Christy Mathewson played ball from 1900-1916. His nickname was “The Christian Gentleman” due to his devout Christian faith, he actually wouldn’t even pitch on Sundays. He is listed in the top 10 pitchers of all time, he was also the first to pitch the screwball. He lived with integrity on and off the field, his place in history was put there because of a God given talent, not a shot of steroids. For him to be knocked out of the top 10 by a pitcher playing without integrity would be the wrong message to send to aspiring kids everywhere.

Before 1998 Babe Ruth and Roger Maris were the only two players in history to have more than 60 homeruns in a year. After 1998 – within the next 3 years – Mark McGwire, Sammy Sosa, and Barry bonds had “accomplished” SEVEN times what only TWO men had accomplished in the history of baseball. The frequency of such events removes the wonder and excitement when those rare anomalies are legitimate.

I personally want my nephew to strive to be like Christy Mathewson, not Ryan Braun or Mark McGwire. I want him to look at the game of baseball and at his Faith and know that integrity will take you places. How do we encourage integrity when cheap antics get your name pushed up in the record books?

I am a diehard fan of the Cardinals, everyone that knows me is aware of the fact that I’m a fan of the name on the front of the jersey, not just the back. It is because of this that I support strict punishment and frequent testing on ball players, even if they are on my own team. Forgive the man, but rejoice in justice. Be a fan of baseball, not just a fan of a popular player. Support integrity.

There is always some kid who may be seeing me for the first or last time.  I owe him my best.” – Joe Demaggio

Kids don’t put baseballs and bats in glass cases or up on walls because those baseballs and bats are somehow superior in ability to other baseballs and bats, they put them in their glass cases and on their walls because of the hands that used them. Remember that when you defend a players poor attitude and actions.

“Players that are guilty of taking steroids are not only cheaters, you are cowards. … Show our kids that you’re man enough to face authority, tell the truth and face the consequences. Instead, you hide behind the skirts of your union, and with the help of management and your lawyers you’ve made every effort to resist facing the public today.” — Donald Hooton, father of a high school baseball player who committed suicide in 2003 after steroid use.

The more we allow steroid use to be a means of success, the more we will encourage youth to take unhealthy and disappointing steps to gain their dreams. My Grandpa may have made his way to a list with the greats of baseball if life had gone differently, or he may have been another run of the mill player, but I am proud to say that I am more proud of his integrity than I could ever be in his ability to play. THAT is where we should place value. You want to change the culture of professional sports? That’s how you do it.

Baseball is not life, don’t get me wrong….Though labeled a fanatic, I still live in reality. So many productive metaphors have come from baseball – “Keep your eye on the ball!”, “Don’t let the fear of striking out keep you from playing the game”, “It’s not over till it’s over”, etc…Please don’t encourage “If at first you don’t succeed, cheat.”… Because THAT does spill over into life, and unfortunately it’s another failing attribute running ramped in today’s society where hard work and dedication have been replaced with shortcuts and complacency.  

“Christy Mathewson brought something to baseball no one else had ever given the game. He handed the game a certain touch of class, an indefinable lift in culture, brains, and personality.” – Grantland Rice

Now that’s a legacy.

– MB

Sensory Overload

My car has been a constant companion to my headaches for what has been over 8 months now. If it’s not the battery, it’s the alternator; If it’s not the electrical system, it’s the engine. I can’t seem to get my car figured out. For a paid-off 2006 I’d rather run it until it dies since I’m past the point of a good trade in value, now the greatest return this car can give me is time.

It’s simple – From point A to point B, that’s what I need my car for.

After getting it “fixed” in November, my little amethyst pearl colored car was given a clean bill of health, then over a week ago I woke up to the all familiar sound… tick tick tick… I knew immediately that the battery had said it’s farewells and was boarding the train that leads directly to my bank account. I continued turning the key – knowing that the car wouldn’t start – for some reason I kept hoping that I’d hear the engine start and not the death rattle I so dread.

THOUGHTS PONDERED: Us Christians say some obscure things to inanimate objects when trying to avoid four letter words.

So there I am waiting for my ride for work and I go to Google search and type “How to carefully blow up a vehicle” “2006 Cobalt electrical issues”. To my amazement, I found that this is not a rare issue, but in fact, a very popular issue. I do not have a vast knowledge of cars, ok…let’s be honest, I don’t really have any knowledge concerning cars. Years ago during my first oil change I was asked what kind of oil I wanted, I responded with, “vegetable, mineral, olive, I really don’t care.”; However, I’ve learned a couple of things since then…maybe. So, after reading about the radio being a major issue, I thought “well then I’ll have the radio unplugged!”…It worked. With my battery healthy I now drive in stubborn silence.

I went through ALL of that to get to the point of my post…The beauty of silence.

Our world is full of constant entertainment, it controls us, manipulate us, etc. Just watch an infomercial for the Magic Bullet sometime.

*Takes break to make guacamole in Magic Bullet*

Anyway, being that I spend time on Twitter, I’ve been gifted with a revelation: 99.9% of celebrities are self-centered liberal mouth pieces…And that’s being nice. Whether they are telling you what to think, or saying that you’re an imbecile for being an individual and thinking something different from them, they’re there to remind you that they are the all-knowing elite. Before the election, the ladies from One Tree Hill actually posted a quote from Ann Romney: “who is going to want to marry a woman that thinks she’s the same as a man?” …One problem, it was from a satirical site, but they had thousands upon thousands of fans thinking that Ann Romney actually said those words. Upon being held accountable, they justified spreading such vitriolic lies by insinuating that since it was so believable, it’s still relevant. They don’t care about the truth, they care about what you will believe. If they can get you to believe lies, they can get you to support their false narrative.

So, while listening to the humming of my engine for the 20 minute drive to work, I had the chance to think. Not sing or listen to the news, just think. To say it was refreshing is an understatement. I then got home and turned on the TV, but I found myself missing the silence and instead turned off the TV and picked up a book. I found that Ray Bradbury had more intelligent things to say to me than Sheldon Cooper. C.S. Lewis painted a prettier paradise than Once Upon A Time. Ted Dekker constructs a scene that leaves you on the edge of your seat better than Revenge ever could. Ravi Zacharias explained the intricacies of Jesus in place of Wife Swap, which instead showed the many failures of the institution of marriage.    

Being a book-worm, I’ve always loved to read, but I had lost the beauty of silence. I would read with the TV on in the background, or fit my reading in between my XBox workouts and entertainment. Our lives are so incredibly full of cheap entertainment that we’ve forgotten how to simply be, how to imagine, how to be silent. We know the characters on our shows better than we know ourselves, our nation complains about weight and obesity while we continue to fund the multitude of couch potato inducing industries (not that the couch potatoes aren’t to blame as well, in the end it’s their choice to watch). We live in slow motion while the world rushes to keep us under it’s thumb.

We wonder why girls are obsessed with sparkling vampires and grey shades of porn when they finally do read. We’ve been conditioned for thoughtless entertainment, we accept simplicity because we no longer have to think. The entertainment industry tells us what to think…who to vote for,  what to wear, what makeup to use, what size we should be, 100 ways to be more attractive, what length of heals are in, what causes we should advocate, what makes a person, what makes a blob of tissue, what styles are acceptable for our hair,  how to keep it a one night stand without seeming like a jerk, what to read if we do read, how many partners should you have before you settle down, what electronics to use, 30 ways to turn your man on, 15 ways to get her in bed, what to believe, what to simply ignore, what should make you happy, how to raise your kids, how to be the queen bee, but most importantly, they tell us our worth. Many of the above examples I’ve seen articles for in the last few months, and in the silence of my cursed car, they all – and more – came flooding back.

Why do celebrities feel they have so much power? Because they do.

In 1953 Ray Bradbury wrote Fahrenheit 451. In the excerpt I’m posting Guy Montag is mulling over his career as a “firefighter”. In this depiction of the future, firefighters track down and burn homes that contain books. Montag’s Captain is speaking to him about the death of Clarisse, a very inquisitive 17 year old:

“Luckily, queer ones like her don’t happen, often. We know how to nip most of them in the bud, early. You can’t build a house without nails and wood. If you don’t want a house built, hide the nails and wood. If you don’t want a man unhappy politically, don’t give him two sides to a question to worry him; give him one. Better yet, give him none. Let him forget there is such a thing as war. If the Government is inefficient, top heavy, and tax mad, better it be all those than that people worry over it. Peace, Montag. Give the people contests they win by remembering the words to more popular songs or the names of state capitals or how much corn Iowa grew last year. Cram them full of noncombustible data, chock them so full of ‘facts’ they feel stuffed, but absolutely `brilliant’ with information. Then they’ll feel they’re thinking, they’ll get a sense of motion without moving. And they’ll be happy, because facts of that sort don’t change. Don’t give them any slippery stuff like philosophy or sociology to tie things up with. That way lies melancholy. Any man who can take a TV wall apart and put it back together again, and most men can nowadays, is happier than any man who tries to slide rule, measure, and equate the universe, which just won’t be measured or equated without making man feel bestial and lonely I know, I’ve tried it; to hell with it. So bring on your clubs and parties, your acrobats and magicians, your dare-devils, jet cars, motorcycle helicopters, your sex and heroin, more of everything to do with automatic reflex. If the drama is bad, if the film says nothing, if the play is hollow, sting me with the Theremin, loudly. I’ll think I’m responding to the play, when it’s only a tactile reaction to vibration. But I don’t care. I just like solid entertainment.”

Mildred Montag, the wife of Guy Montag, is obsessed with constant entertainment; whether it’s the music in her ears or the characters on her TV known as “The Relatives”, she loves them, she talks to them, she knows them. The world around him is obliviously happy, the loss of a husband is quickly medicated by the barrage of entertainment and manipulation. People murder and kill, blood pours in the streets because human worth is a thing of the past. No funerals, no individuality, pure unmitigated entertainment to drown out all feelings, all revelations, all brilliance, and all real hope.

You might say “but we’re not like that yet!”. I beg to differ. Lives are lost daily, children killed in the streets in Chicago, not because of guns, because of our lack of human worth. But the celebrities and A-listers will sing from the roof tops that it’s because of the guns, but it’s not, it’s because we have desensitized our nation. We have zombified children…Some people are just evil, but our reactions to evil have completely changed. The shock value is gone, seeing a human corpse on TV no longer shocks. Seeing nude women on TV no longer shocks. Our Government provides guns to Mexican cartels, hundreds of innocent people are murdered…no shock. Heroes are left to die in Benghazi…no shock. Just turn on your favorite show, all of those “uncomfortable” feelings of responsibility to speak out will go away with the use of a laugh track. We read celebrity gossip magazines because we want to know the stars, we want to be a part of their lives, we want to be them.

The entertainment industry taking our nation over has done its best to degrade human worth, objectify women, and demoralize a nation. What happened to opening doors for women instead of learning 15 different ways to manipulate her into letting you turn her into nothing more than an object? And after years of this, so many women no longer need to be manipulated, they’ve already been trained by Beyonce, Lady Gaga, Maroon 5, Nicki Minaj, Jennifer Lopez, etc. that all they are, are objects. Any brain activity or self dignity only threaten their ever-growing wealth. I’m not saying that I’ve never listened to them on my now broken radio, as I said before, this was a wake-up call for me as well.

Robin Thicke and Justin Timberlake both have new video’s with completely nude women in them…Aren’t they super awesome and edgy? But when people like this are asked about such nudity they say “We should be proud of our bodies, we love women, we respect women, etc.”….Be sure of one thing, they love a woman’s body, not her mind. Actions speak louder than the words written by their publicist. They treat women as just another number, just another object, just a tool…Not a soul, not a brain, the only contribution they act like women can offer is visual pleasure.

My Mom told me that this week I have seemed “preoccupied”, I have. I’ve been taking in the skyline, feeling the breeze, thinking about how loud the world has become and how oblivious it’s made us of the issues. God gave us such beauty, such hope, and such a vast world of new beginnings. He gave us the ability to be an individual, to come to our own conclusions, to think, to care about our fellow man, to change.

I’m not saying that I’ll never watch TV, but I will stop making it a priority. I’m done supporting shows with celebrities that are actively trying to manipulate the people. I won’t watch things that I know are simply full of trash and do nothing but waste my time. Movie stars are wearing Trayvon Martin shirts and riling up their fans that are now making death threats to a man that was deemed guilty before trial, demonized before the truth was revealed. I’m done supporting it. They’re trying to sentence a man to death even if proven innocent, and it’s reprehensible.

Our society must be reversed. Don’t let mud, dirt, grass, sunsets, a cool breeze, baseball, hide and go seek, campfires, etc. continue to be replaced with IPods, laptops, TV’s, and video games. Don’t let love, worth, and hope be replaced with instant gratification and selfishness. Don’t let Jennifer Lopez teach your daughter how to raise a glass and objectify herself, let her worth be found in her individuality, how she can think, how she can dream, and how she is a far greater treasure than the TV and the magazine articles tell her she is. Don’t let video games and trash create lifelong boys with a low view of women instead of men of honor and dignity with respect. Find wholesome movies that offer something back for the time you give them, not just 2 hours filled with worthless visuals that you will never apply to life.

My advice to you would be to turn it all off just for a day, pick up a book, preferably something that doesn’t involve low-grade writing and cheap escapades with vampires. Read something that challenges you. Laugh without needing a laugh track. Think about the issues, feel for those affected. Take time to remember the stories your Grandpa told you when you were growing up. Sit outside, get more familiar with birds that aren’t angry. Take a walk and enjoy the world God gave you…

And if need be, disconnect your car radio.