Living in (Hostile) Territory

There one little fact that I left out of my bio in my first post: I am an unrepentant baseball junkie.  I love the game.  From about the time I could walk, my grandfather (whose professional aspirations were sadly cut short by a few years of serving as a cook in the Army during WWII…You definitely need your knees if you’re a catcher!) had me in a glove and playing ball.  We have a great picture from when my brother was maybe two years old of him walking down the street near my grandparents old place in in Maine, hand in hand with my grandfather, each of them with a glove on their hands (luckily, my brother is the only southpaw in the family, so it makes for a great picture).

I grew up going to games (I think my love of the Minnesota Twins comes from the fact that their AA farm team played about 20 minutes away from where I grew up) and there’s nothing like it.  After we moved to MN, we started going to professional games, usually when the Yankees were in town.

Yes, I have now outed myself.  I am a Yankee fan.  I come by it naturally, since my parents grew up on Long Island and my grandfather (not the ball player) grew up in Jersey.  My brother was Babe Ruth one year for Halloween.  I was a Yankee fan long before they started winning in the mid-1990’s (1996, if we’re being precise…after all, baseball is a sport of precision and numbers).  As an adult, I’m a Twins fan first and foremost (someday, I’ll tell you about meeting a rather famous member of the MN Twins and teasing him), but unless the Yankees are playing the Twins, I am a Yankees fan.

And I live in Boston.  I have to admit, I have a slight inherent dislike (not quite hate, but…) of Boston sports teams in general and the Red Sox in particular.  Needless to say, living in Boston last October was, well, miserable.  Boston fans are enthusiastic and passionate about two things: their love of the Red Sox and their hatred of the Yankees.  Last week, I chaperoned a tour of Fenway.  Our guide trained a group of European teenagers to boo every time he mentioned the Yankees (which was often and really just for effect, I think).  You may be wondering what this has to do with the Church, but I promise, it has a point, which I’ll get to in a second.

For those who did not see the opening ceremonies for the All-Star Game this evening, before the starting line ups for both teams were announced, the largest collection of Hall of Fame players ever assembled on a field took their places at their old positions.  The Hall of Famers were introduced and then the starting player from each league was announced.  I have to admit, I was a little choked up after watching the red carpet parade (I mean, Whitey Ford and Yogi Berra in the same vehicle?  Giving a tag-team interview?  And Hank Aaron!  And Reggie Jackson!!  And Willie Mays!!!), but I started openly crying as they introduced all of the Hall of Fame players.  A few I grew up watching (Paul Molitor, Cal Ripken, Jr), but most are names I know only from stories from my dad and my grandfather and from being a bit of a baseball buff.  And getting to see not only the crowd’s reaction to the game, but seeing the current All Stars acting like little school kids in the presence of greats…it was beautiful.  In the last All Star Game to be played in Yankee Stadium in the last season in The House That Ruth Built, the highlight of my week may have been watching Yogi Berra, Whitey Ford, Goose Gossage, and Reggie Jackson throw out the first pitch.

But there was one thing that really bothered me: every time one of the players from the Red Sox was introduced, the crowd booed.  Loudly.  The biggest boo of all was saved for Terry Francona, the manager of the Sox and the AL manager tonight.  I understand the sentiment, I really do, because I hate the Red Sox.  But the booing seemed so out of place in a ceremony marked by so much history and grace.  On this historic night, on tonight of all nights, rivalries should not exist (well, except maybe a wee bit between leagues, as home field advantage for the World Series is at stake).  Under normal circumstances, I’d be tempted to boo Manny Ramirez and Kevin Youkilis and the others, too.  But not tonight.  Because tonight, we’re all on the same team (unless you rooting for the NL, in which case, well, you get the analogy).

Sometimes, in the Church, we get so caught up in cheering for our own cause or our own team, as it were, that we forget that we’re really all in it together.  And every once in a while, we need to remember that.  That doesn’t mean that I have to like the Red Sox (or agree with the opinions of others), but being a poor sport about it, slamming the other side, doesn’t really make things better.  And so, in the spirit of the All Star Game, I’m going to try and keep my less-than-charitable comments about the Red Sox* (and those I may not agree with in the Church) to myself.  We all need to find a way to get along with each other and be respectful of each other within the Church, just like Yankee and Red Sox fans occasionally need to set aside the rivalry and work together to ensure that the Yankees have home field advantage for the World Series.

*I make no promises about the playoffs (but only in regards to the Red Sox).  I’m just saying.  :-)

Holding my temper (well, trying to)

I’ve been thinking a lot lately about how we talk to each other, how we talk about each other. I recently read an article about the decision made at a parish in Wisconsin to only allow boys to be altar servers. My intent this blog is not to debate whether or not the decision made was a good one of for good reasons; what I want to talk about is what I read in the comments section. Because it make me sick to my stomach.

There were a few comments that expressed dismay or agreement with the decision in a respectful manner. But the vast majority of the comments were horrid. People were calling each other names, people were screaming at each other (yes, capslock included), people were insulting the intelligence of others, etc, etc. You get the idea.

One commenter in particular made my blood boil. He began his comment by saying that anyone who knows anything about theology knows…(insert his position here)…is true. He then concluded by telling people to disagree to leave. This was reiterated several times. I know that, for me, one of the quickest ways for me to get defensive is to feel like someone is insulting my intelligence. And so I drafted comment after comment where I put him in his place (after all, I’m the theologian!). I kept writing things that were angry and hurtful. It was so tempting to just jump in and join in the ad hominem attacks, to just start insulting people left and right for their (insert a bunch of mean things) opinions, because obviously, they have to be (insert insult here) to believe what they do.

Luckily, I started listening to that little voice in the back of my head (sounds an awful lot like my old spiritual director) that was suggesting that, perhaps, insulting people and trashing their opinions was not the best way to encourage discussion and dialogue. When I finally posted my comment, it was simply a call for respect amongst the commenters.

It’s hard for me to hold my temper sometimes, especially when I feel like I’m being insulted. But I’ve also learned, growing up in a family that is far more conservative than I am, that yelling and getting upset and calling names doesn’t help the situation. We need to find a way to keep talking to each other, to keep listening to each other, even when we don’t want to. I don’t have any answers, but I am going to do my best to keep my cool. Turns out, that advice to count to ten before speaking applies when commenting on articles on the internet.