Our quirky landlord said something to me the day Lydia was born. “I learned once they come out, you can’t put them back in.”
Thoughts flooded my mind. She, was our responsibility for the next 20 some years. She is totally dependent on us. She needed me now. No more running down to the South Side for a Sox game. No more pickup basketball games at Lombard Chapel. (Actually marriage had somewhat eliminated some of these youthful pursuits of mine) Will I be able to provide an adequate income to feed her/clothe her/house her/educate her/spiritually train her? God, am I adequate for this? He answered, yes of course, “children are a gift from the LORD” scripture says in Psalm 127:3. If He, in His perfect wisdom gave me a child, wouldn’t He also give me what I need to carry out this overwhelming task as a father?
That day was 22 years ago. Three more kids, three more moments of am I adequate? More questions, boys? I hear they’re a different animal. Where’s the instruction manual?
Thursday we took Jamie to college. At least he’ll be close. This morning we took John to the airport to go off to college for another year. Lydia is a working adult, praise God, but far away too. We do have Grace left for another two years unless she decides she would just like to live with her parents. Everything was cool until I walked into what was the boys shared bedroom for most of their life.
The boys still have what I’ll call a bookcase of memories. It contains trophies of athletics (go Antigo little league champion Red Sox!) academics, and some Awana trophies. There’s a picture of a living (well dead) trophy largemouth bass John caught after ignoring my advice of where to dangle his worm! There are souvenirs, a sharks tooth, dinosaurs made of clay, items that would never bring more than a few cents on one of those pawn shows but of great value in this house. There’s a baseball, a game ball awarded to Jamie for “his first homerun”, a classic little league homerun on a batted ball that traveled 3 or 4 feet and then was thrown all over the park.
As I looked through the shelf a sense of nostalgia kicked in, but also a sense of satisfaction. All those day of birth questions have been answered, or at least mostly answered. God in His great and awesome strength had seen us through this process. It’s been joyful, fun, hilarious, (“how bad do you have to go” we asked John in the car during hurricane season. He replied, it’s a category 5 urinecane!) a great adventure. I know our job as parents never ends, but you know when we drop kids off at the airport and watch them fly away for the next 4 months, well, it’s mostly over!
So these thoughts have been rolling through my brain this week. And then I watch the news, read the newspaper and thoughts of fathering shifts. It’s been a tragic week. A 9 year old boy in Chicago, playing in his yard, shot. A 7 year old boy riding in his car with his mom here in Baton Rouge, shot. A five year old, also at home here, beat to death by his father. Three boys no longer with us adding to their own bookcase of memories.
“How long, O LORD, must I call for help? But you do not listen! “Violence is everywhere!” I cry, but you do not come to save.” These are not my words but of a little known prophet named Habakkuk. He questioned God. God answered him. I will take care of the violence among you. It will happen in a way you may not like, but I will take care of it.
Since my kids have been very little I have prayed for their protection. I pray for protection from serious accidents, illnesses, harm at the hands of others and even protection from the ways of this world. But I have also prayed for God to give us His grace to comfort us and strengthen us should we need it in a case of extreme hardship regarding the children.
Please pray for children. Not just your own. Pray for the children who are in harms way in this dangerous world. Better yet, get involved, particularly with children who don’t have a father, or a mother. You probably don’t have to go far. There’s probably kids in your church who fit this category. Tutor if you’re able. If you’re looking for something to do, go to your local elementary school or high school, and ask. Counsel at camp. Look up the boys and girls club in your town and find out if volunteers are needed. Coach if you can. Teach Sunday School.
But don’t forget these children have parents. When possible, come alongside them, not in an intimidating way, ie, “I’ve got it together and I’m here to help you”, but in a way that maintains their dignity, ie, “I’m a parent too, what do you do that works?” Establishing relationships with people is a scriptural model. Look at these words of Paul and tell me if this happens without relationships: “We urge you brethren, admonish the unruly, encourage the fainthearted, help the weak, be patient with everyone.”
As a father of children who are approaching adulthood, I now encourage them to do the same.
When my dad took me to the original Yankee Stadium in 1972 I was hooked. What a memory! I am still hooked. I will forever be hooked, listening to crackling radios trying to catch a Sox score. I used to own a scorebook and watched entire games keeping score of Cubs and Sox games. I wouldn’t have the time to partake in such an activity these days. No one has the time to watch an entire baseball game anymore.
Baseball is in the process of becoming irrelevant in American culture. Just the other day I saw the ratings for a game of the week (on some Fox cable channel) was less than for an exhibition soccer match. Here’s what’s wrong with baseball:
1. The games are too long. There’s a lot of reasons. More commercials, record numbers of strikeouts (which chew up a lot of time), more time wasting batters, slow pitchers who stare at the catcher for a longgg time, and mostly, the overuse of relief pitchers. A baseball game can end in 2 to 2 1/2 hours if they try, instead, games last on average almost three hours. The Cubs played a 16 inning game the other night that took 6:27, which works out to 24 minutes per inning, dreadfully slow. The next day the Sox played a 9 inning game that lasted 4:01, which works out to almost 27 minutes per inning. Neither of these games were slugfests with lots of runs, hits, walks, etc.
2. It’s being shoved off the national stage. Baseball has no one to blame but themselves for this. Baseball is a TV sport. It is currently the only major sport with parts of its regular season not being shown on free TV. Fox showed some games on Saturday evenings, but now they have their Saturday telecast on FoxSports1, their cable channel. If you don’t have cable and/or an exorbitantly priced team package, you’re out of luck. As far as I can tell the next games on national free TV will be the World Series on Fox. Why would Bud Selig (the commissioner who is much to blame for this) allow his sport to not be shown on free TV? It’s continuing to contribute to the ruining of this great game.
3. The national cable outlets that do show games favor east coast teams, and favor other sports. I’ll talk about east coast bias for a minute. There are three networks that show baseball games nationally, ESPN, Fox, and the MLBNetwork. I would probably cash in on a bet that I’d be able to watch every Red Sox-Yankees game this year. The Braves, Phillies, Nationals, Marlins, Orioles and Mets make regular appearances on these networks. It’s to the point that I look forward to the White Sox playing the Yankees because I’m sure I’ll get to watch two, or maybe three of the games. If I miss the action and want to watch Sportscenter to catch the highlights, I’ll probably fall asleep waiting while they cover all of the above mentioned teams.
In 2004 the Red Sox won the World Series for the first time since1918. The media went wild. Sports Illustrated put them on the cover three weeks in a row and then made their fans their sportsmen of the year. A year later the White Sox ended an even longer drought, from 1917. ESPN radio the next morning I heard the host a doofus named Colin Cowherd say he’s not going to talk about it because he doesn’t care about it. Sports Illustrated put the Sox on the cover, albeit in a little circle in the upper right corner, while the cover featured Tom Brady, you know, the QB from Boston. Don’t tell there’s no East Coast bias until you become a fan of a team that receives short shrift from the east media.
Baseball not only suffers from east coast myopia, but it also suffers from footballs ascendancy to the national obsession. I do enjoy football, but prefer it more once baseball ends. Football ends in February with the Super Bowl. Spring training begins a week or two later. What does ESPN talk about besides basketball (which I can’t get enough of, at least the college variety)? The NFL draft, which is months away. They talk about what each team needs, which stars and total no names might end up where. They tell us about how fast some no name lineman ran, but rarely mention teams in spring training, except of course the above mentioned teams. Bud Selig has let baseball be shoved to the curb by these media outlets and it’s nearly past the point of no return.
4. A system that favors large market teams. I am amazed at the vision of the NFL to ensure that in an era of free agency small market teams like the Steelers and Packers can consistently compete for championships. If they followed they followed the MLB model they’d have no chance. Baseball does have an exception in St. Louis, a fantastic organization that churns out championships. But small market teams like KC, Pitt, Mil, and a few others basically have existed as a farm system for baseballs richest teams. This is unhealthy to say the least.
Bud Selig’s about to retire. We need a commissioner who will fight like heck for baseball. We need one who will tell Fox it’s not acceptable for you to stop showing baseball games when the pennant races are heating up. We need a commissioner who will stand up and tell ESPN it’s baseball season now, stop talking about football for a minute and notice. We need a commissioner who will tell the managers to stop changing pitchers 3 times for 3 batters and who will tell the umpires to enforce a new 20 second pitch clock that I am proposing. We need a commissioner who will even the playing field so that every team has some hope that someday they’ll play on baseballs biggest stage.