Thursday, October 27, 2005

Oh. So this is what it feels like. The White Sox won the world series. The last time they did that my dad (who died in 2000 at the age of 80) was negative two years old. That is a long time. A very long time. I have done some research and I think I have discovered the date of the first baseball game I ever attended. I began with the knowledge that it was a night game played during the week against the Detroit Tigers at Comiskey Park and the Sox won 7 - 0. That would fit only one game. It was played on September 2, 1964. I was 9 years old. And I was a deliriously happy.

I watched every pitch in all four world series games on a 31 inch television in my living room. I sat in the same chair ... MY chair ... for all four games. I do not believe that I missed a pitch. As a sports thing it was magnificent. My beloved White Sox, hero's of my childhood, the first team I ever saw play in person, executed a nearly flawless performance. And last night they won the world series. The Chicago White Sox are world champions.

So this is what it feels like.

I do not know what I expected. Exuberance, perhaps? I experienced that. Ecstasy? Present. Joy? Most certainly. Flashbacks of playing baseball on our neighborhood ball diamond while pretending to be Pete Ward, Ken Berry, Ron Santo, or Glen Beckert? Yes. I watched every post-game show I could find and absorbed every minute. I enjoyed it in its entirety with my baseball fanatic son as my baseball impaired wife and mildly interested son floated occasionally through the room. I propped a picture of my dad up on the edge of my chair so that he could enjoy the moment with me. After all, he was the one who got me hooked on the great American game. I had my childhood scrapbook of the 1968 Cubs and Sox on the table next to me. In it I had chronicled every game of both teams throughout that long, dismal, typical summer of Chicago baseball. It was all there with me. Sharing the moment.

And then it was suddenly closing in on 2 A.M. and I thought it best to go to bed. So I did. I lay there in the dark, on my back, listening to my wife quietly breathing next to me. That was the moment things began to fall apart in my baseball soaked world. Without asking for His opinion I heard God speak. He asked me which I enjoyed the most, a White Sox world series or the simple sound of my wife's breathing.

My wife won, hands down. It is better to lay in the stillness and listen to the life sounds of someone I love than it is to win the world series. And then God told me what it was that made baseball so important to me ... why it is a passion. And it turns out that it isn't the beauty of the game (though it is a thing of beauty,) it isn't the perfect symettry of the field (though it is a perfect diamond,) it really isn't even tradition and team and time honored statistics kept in painstaking detail.

It isn't the "what" of baseball. It is the "who" of baseball. You see, the man that bought me the tickets and sat with me in the bleachers and behind home plate is the same man who tossed the ball up in the air and hit it as high and as far as he could so that I could run across a field and chase it down, feeling that incredible satisfaction of leather landing in leather. The "who" of baseball is my annoying brother emptying out his paper popcorn holder, ripping the bottom open and using it as a bullhorn to cheer whoever was winning from 10 rows behind Sox catcher J.C. Martin at the "Boys Benefit Game" played annually at Sox park against the cross town Cubs. (I never could figure out who to cheer for. It was always an evening of exuberant pain.) That is, by the way, the same brother that I called within seconds of the Sox winning it all in the middle of the night. To call him was to touch him ... to touch our past. The "who" of baseball is sitting with my own wife and three children, sometimes right behind the dugout at Wrigley Field and sometimes huddled under a blanket in the frigid upper deck of Busch Stadium at April's "Good Student Night." These days the "who" of baseball is grabbing some tickets from on-line and running up to Wrigley Field's bleachers in mid-summer or, as was the case this year, a couple of great seats 5 rows off the field down the right field line at "The Cell." We were close enough to Jermaine Dye to hear him burp his pre-game snack.

But it's not what. It's who.

I never would have known this had it not been for last night. It seems that the best feeling I have ever felt is NOT my beloved White Sox winning the world championship. Don't hate me for saying this. Please don't call me a sissy. Friends, it probably is not even in the top ten. It does not come close to watching one of my kids lead their own church youth group. I've done that for thirty one years. And now both of them have done it. And they are probably just getting warmed up. It is not even in the ball park with the phone call I just got from my happily married daughter telling me that she's going to work at her church. She's going on staff within their preschool department. (Three of my three kids ... serving Christ by serving His bride. Only God could do that.) The Sox victory, as sweet as it is, should not be mentioned in the same breath with any one of the thousands of times my wife has slipped her hand into mine.

But the very best feeling I have ever felt is the indwelling Holy Spirit. Sometimes it is when He quietly whispers what I should say to the lost and seeking soul that has come to me for direction. Sometimes it is when He simply tells me that The Father really, really, loves me.

So there it is. My team won. If you are a Cardinal fan ... tough noogies. Nah nah nah nah nah. (thumbing my nose in your direction.) I shall rub it in all winter long. I will be merciless in my taunting.

But now you know the truth.