As a baseball fan, I had to share the following with you. Thanks to Lee Nagel (NCCL Executive Director) for sharing this in his weekly update:
A Match Made in Heaven – Catholicism and Baseball according to John Allen
On April 1st, John Allen, the capstone speaker at our conference in Houston in 2008, had a particularly long column but he ended it by noting that “Yesterday marked the opening of the 2011 campaign, so in honor of the occasion, I’ll roll out my personal list of the ‘Top Nine Reasons why Baseball is to Sports what Catholicism is to Religion.’ Why nine? It’s a key number in both traditions — nine players on a diamond, nine innings in a game, and nine days to a novena.” The following are nine reasons why Catholicism and baseball are, quite literally, a match made in Heaven:
1. Both baseball and Catholicism venerate the past. Both have a Communion of Saints, all the way down to popular shrines and holy cards.
2. Both feature obscure rules that make sense only to initiates. (Think the Infield Fly rule for baseball fans and the Pauline privilege for Catholics.)
3. Both have a keen sense of ritual, in which pace is critically important. (As a footnote, that’s why basketball is more akin to Pentecostalism; both are breathless affairs premised largely on ecstatic experience.)
4. Both generate oceans of statistics, arcana, and lore. For entry-level examples, try: Who has the highest lifetime batting average, with a minimum of 1,000 at-bats? (Ty Cobb). Which popes had the longest and the shortest reigns? (Pius IX and Urban VII).
5. In both baseball and Catholicism, you can dip in and out, but for serious devotees the liturgy is a daily affair.
6. Both are global games which are especially big right now in Latin America. (Though I’m principally a Yankees fan, I live in Denver, where the Rockies’ starting rotation is composed of two pitchers from the Dominican Republic, a Venezuelan, a Mexican, and a guy from South Carolina. In a lot of dioceses, that’s not unlike the makeup of the presbyterate these days.)
7. Both baseball and Catholicism have been badly tainted by scandal, with the legacies of erstwhile superstars utterly ruined. Yet both have proved surprisingly resilient — perhaps demonstrating that the game is great enough to survive even the best efforts of those in charge at any given moment to ruin it.
8. Both have a complex farm system, and fans love to speculate about who the next hot commodity will be in “The Show.”
I’ll add another of my own: both have as their goal, reaching home safely!