Winners, Losers, And Baseball Players

“All organizations like to boast that they’re building a culture, but when it comes down to it everyone only really cares about the culture of winning…We love winners, even though they’re very rarely particularly likable people…That doesn’t matter. We forgive them. We like them while they’re winning.” Fredrik Backman

My husband and I like to watch baseball. Specifically, we are fans of the Philadelphia Phillies.

We have a goofy joke, the type long-married couples often do, that is funny only to the two of us.

When we see a fan wearing a Phillies jersey with a player’s name on the back, like “Bryce Harper” (a Phillies outfielder), one of us will say to the other something hilarious, like “Huh! I thought Bryce Harper was taller and had a beard.

Over a decade ago, when the team was on a winning streak, we were in Pittsburgh for a baseball weekend while the Phillies played the Pittsburgh Pirates. One evening after the game, we went to get a bite to eat at a restaurant about half a mile from the stadium.

As we entered the restaurant, we saw a man wearing a Cole Hamels (a Phillies pitcher) jersey sitting at a table outside on the sidewalk. “Look!” I said to Bill, “It’s Cole Hamels!

We both cracked up at my very witty remark.

As we were exiting the restaurant after dinner, I saw, walking toward us, the Phillies shortstop, Jimmie Rollins. He was walking into the restaurant as we were walking out. Bill was looking elsewhere and didn’t notice him.

As soon as he passed, I excitedly turned to Bill “Look!” I said, “It’s Jimmy Rollins!

Haha!” Bill replied, “Yeah, and ‘Cole Hamels’ is still sitting at that table.

No – that’s the real Jimmy Rollins. He just brushed against my sleeve.

Bill turned to get a glimpse of Jimmy Rollins, but by then, it was too late. He had entered the restaurant and was whisked off to a private room.

Jimmy Rollins is now retired. He sometimes gives color commentary on baseball games. He seems like a nice guy, but I am always a little wary about making heroes out of sports figures.

Having good hand-eye coordination, strength, speed, or agility does not make one a hero. Besides, these men have been idolized since they were 10-year-old boys. It takes true strength of character to overcome that.

I have seen too many good high school athletes getting used to being given the star treatment. In our school, student-athletes were forbidden to play in a game if they were failing two or more subjects.

More than once, I had a coach call me on a Friday afternoon to ask if I could bump up a player’s grade from an F to a D minus. I never did.

Our culture is one that celebrates success. We adore winners. We love to jump on bandwagons.

We believe by linking ourselves with success, some of the power, influence, or prestige will rub off on us. We hope we will become successful by association.

It is so much easier to achieve secondhand success than to have the skill, talent, dedication, or luck it takes to earn it.

We view the star athlete, the powerful businessman, the winner of elections, the famous celebrity with a mixture of admiration, envy, and worship. We forgive their sins with a grace we do not extend to others who are less successful.

Here is what German theologian Dietrich Bonhoeffer has to say about success: “In a world where success is the measure and justification of all things the figure of Him who was sentenced and crucified remains a stranger and is at best the object of pity. The world will allow itself to be subdued only by success…Success alone justifies wrongs done.

Maybe it is time to redefine success.

Maybe our hero should be the father who tenderly bathes his children and tucks them into bed even as he worries about how to pay the bills.

Maybe the nurse who drags herself out of bed each morning, dons protective gear, and holds the hands of COVID patients as they slip, isolated from their families, from this world to the next deserves our veneration.

Maybe we should admire the disheveled homeless man on the street who battles addiction, mental illness, or desperation but somehow finds a way to share his meager resources with others in the same condition.

Christ ruled by serving. He preached about becoming rich by giving away possessions. He won by losing. By dying, He gave life.

Let’s remove arrogant idols from their pedestals. Let’s recognize those whose love illuminates a dark world as our heroes. Let’s reevaluate how we determine who “winners” are.

Humble yourselves before the Lord, and he will exalt you.James 4:10

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104 comments

  1. The other day while driving, I saw a sign that said something along the lines of ‘honor our hero medical workers.’ I playfully thought “man after 9/11 it was firefighters, now it’s nurses. When is it going to be nonprofit accountants?” — I have almost zero interest in sports. I get excited about the world cup because I played soccer fairly consistently from 1970 until 1994 so I appreciate good play, and I care about the olympics because I greatly respect individual achievement. But I completely don’t understand why so many people worship sports teams and the billionaire players, just because they play for a certain city. It just strikes me as misplaced admiration. I think the nurses, the teachers and even the nonprofit accountants, working for a sliver of the pay of professional athletes deserve far more respect for their occupations.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Ha! I am sure there have been many times when nonprofit accountants saved the day. Behind the scenes, of course! It is misplaced admiration, and I even understand that, but I sometimes can’t help myself!

      Liked by 1 person

  2. I’ve come to believe what Bonhoeffer said. Life as shown me that the truly successful people in the world often get no glory– and they’re ok with that. Be a nobody, be a success. Don’t suppose we’ll be seeing that sentiment on a t-shirt any time soon. 😉

    Liked by 2 people

  3. Laurie, the problem with ‘flying too high’ is that the fall from grace is that much harder. I watched a Tiger Woods documentary last week that was eye-opening in terms of how we treat our perceived heroes when we are confronted with the truth that they aren’t perfect. I’m not sure when we got so far off track, but my husband and I are 65 and we can still remember when Doctors, Policemen, Teachers, and yes, ballplayers were our heroes. Not only do we give celebrities hero status, we also give them a platform to ‘influence’ when their job is to entertain.

    Maybe if a few more teachers and parents said NO, I won’t fix this, NO, you can’t watch that, NO, you can’t have that, our children would learn about personal accountability and responsibility and grow up to be worthy of admiration for their hard work, humility and dedication to making the world a better place.

    “Let’s remove arrogant idols from their pedestals” is a good place to start.

    Liked by 1 person

    • OH, yes…Tiger Woods is the perfect example of a hero with feet of clay. We do raise our expectations too high. Our heroes could never live up to those expectations in real life. You are so right about the influence they get to exert. These celebrities each have a “brand” that they must live up to. As adults, it is our responsibility to say NO sometimes. It’s not fun, but necessary.

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  4. I’m sure humility kept you from mentioning teachers, but they are certainly deserving of a higher pedestal. Nice thoughts to keep in perspective as we turn toward post-covid living.

    Liked by 1 person

    • It wasn’t humility, Denny – I just never thought of it! Now that you mention it, there have been 2 teachers (at least) here in our county who have died of COVID since the fall. They were both exposed to the virus at school. I am certainly ready for post-COVID living.

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  5. Wise words, Laurie. We often don’t stop to think why we venerate and excuse heroes. I don’t care for sports at all, so I am going to think about people I have admired in the past. I might have fallen in the same trap. Meanwhile, it’s good to keep our eyes focused on Jesus, the true light of the world. You always say it beautifully.

    Liked by 1 person

    • I am so glad I could write something that spoke to you, Leanna. Thank you for sending the link to the video. It was beautiful! Almost meditative. What a courageous young woman!

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  6. Such truths contained in your post. I am glad to see that during this time doctors, nurses, and all in the medical, fire department, etc. are hailed as heros. They derseve it every day; not just in a pandemic. As my daughter nurse said to me when this started, and I was terrified for her to go to work. She said, “Mom, I see all kinds of illnesses, contagion, and deaths on a daily basis.” Still though, as a mom, I worry.

    Liked by 1 person

  7. Thank you for this reminder, Laurie.
    There are so many silent, invisible heroes who deserve our gratitude and admiration. This would be a nice challenge for February – a kind word to a stranger every day.

    Liked by 1 person

    • You are so right, Catrina. The quiet, unsung heroes are the real heroes in my book. Great challenge idea! Except most days I don’t have a chance to encounter strangers. Maybe on Twitter! 😀

      Liked by 1 person

  8. Oh yes, it can be dangerous to be overly adoring of anyone because they excel in a sport or one particular aspect of life. And it’s sad that we do celebrate certain high profile things – like athletes – more than the quiet achievers.

    PS. I’ve read a few of Fredrick Backman’s novels and enjoyed them.

    Liked by 1 person

    • I agree. We do need to pay more attention to those heroes who don’t call attention to themselves. I am going to read another Fredrick Backman novel as soon as I wade through some of the books I got for Christmas! 🙂

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  9. Funny story about your brush with Jimmy Rollins. Good for you for never changing a grade! I would cringe even to be asked. I know it’s a big deal to the student and community, but it’s only temporary. “Real life” should be the focus. So, I guess you can tell that I totally support your effort to define heroes as those whose daily lives make a real, positive difference for someone else, despite their given circumstances.

    Liked by 1 person

  10. It’s much the same here – we hold our sporting “stars” up on a pedestal and all too often they don’t belong there. Only this morning one of the major football clubs (Australian Football) announced the results of an independent review (which they’d ordered) on their culture and have found it to have systemic issues of racism. Let’s celebrate more of our everyday heroes.

    Liked by 1 person

  11. Laurie,
    As a Pirates fan from Pittsburgh, I won’t hold it against you that you are a Phillies fan 😉 So true – Jesus’s definition of success looks like humility and serving. Humble pie is not something many of us want to eat, but it’s necessary if we want to be the reflection of Christ. Great post!
    Blessings,
    Bev xx

    Liked by 1 person

  12. Baseball isn’t a big thing over here, I don’t think I have ever seen a full game played but I get that professional sports people are classed as heroes and stars. I agree the heroes should be those people who mostly go unrecognised like mothers, fathers, medical staff and normal people.

    Liked by 1 person

  13. If it was over a decade ago, I’m sure you saw the Phillies win. Winning for the Pirates was and is once again a rare event. Still, we support the team. In the absence of the pandemic, our daughter and I and my brother will meet up in Pittsburgh and watch the Pirates. We have seen them win, and we’ve seen them lose, but we still support the team. We are not, and have never understood “fair weather fans.”

    I tend to agree with you on how we measure success. I often noticed in business that the guy who rose up during a crisis (of his own making) was rewarded with praise and perhaps even a bonus, while the folks who did their job well, and never fell into crisis mode, were ignored.

    I chuckled a bit at your jokes – after 37 years, my wife and I share many of those.

    Liked by 1 person

  14. I think those later less popular definitions are my definition of hero; it certainly isn’t any celebrity, ball player, or elected official I have learned about or met yet.

    Liked by 1 person

  15. I think most peoples views of success are quite limited and frankly, boring. I like my job and like to do well but I have no desire to spend more than my required hours at it. Non work life is for my non work interests.

    Liked by 1 person

  16. hi laurie – this was a good post about our celeb culture
    and it has been a pet peeve of mine when in the christian community they have it too – some of the rich singers or pastors that get out on the pedestal

    so i can understand it more in the world but too often we fail to honor those who serve –
    or like you said / the man who put family first and was available to tuck his kids in bed – we idolize the singers with number one hit songs or big churches

    anyhow – back to your post – it is fun when we bunk into our sports gurus and some celebs – but whew – it really does take balance and some folks idolize them

    Liked by 1 person

  17. I’ve never understood the worship of sports players Laurie – they are often not all that bright and make a lot of stupid decisions off the field – too much money and not enough common sense. I struggle with the salaries paid to these people, and actors, singers, reality TV stars etc – they seem to equate earnings with status and the right to behave appallingly at times. Maybe the pandemic will change the way we see some of the other professions and give them the recognition they deserve.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Yes…they do make some dumb decisions off the field. Baseball in the US has started cracking down on spousal abuse by players. I think that was something that got swept under the rug for years. Terrible! I hope you are right. We need to reevaluate how we reward different professions.

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  18. Laurie, this is a wonderful post and one we truly need to think on. I agree with you – it is time to redefine ‘success’. May we remember this >>> “Christ ruled by serving. He preached about becoming rich by giving away possessions. He won by losing. By dying, He gave life.”

    Liked by 1 person

  19. Laurie, do you remember when the Phillies used to play the Royals in the World Series back in the 80s (I think)? Now THOSE were the good ol’ days. 🙂 I’m totally with you about the “hero” worship. I can admire a good football team (Go Chiefs!) but as far as idolizing anyone with any kind of platform or position, it’s a road that so often leads to disappointment, disillusionment or worse. I much prefer your new definition of success.

    Liked by 1 person

    • I do remember that. I can remember seeing George Brett playing. That was a while ago! I am not a football fan, but Bill is. He likes the Eagles, of course.

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  20. Love the Bonhoffer quote, Laurie. I couldn’t agree more with your thoughts too. My husband and I are sports junkies, ice hockey (go Flyers!) college football, and college basketball (March Madness this year!), but likewise tire of the way athletes are venerated over people like you mentioned. Working in hospice & palliative medicine, I see many who are braver, stronger and more honorable than the successful athletes. Definitely is time to change our view of success!

    Liked by 1 person

    • Bonhoeffer is one of my favorite writers. My hubby likes sports. I mostly just like baseball. I didn’t realize you work in hospice. Bless you! That job must be difficult. We do need to change our perception of success.

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  21. Enjoyed reading this post very much – it was well-paced, humorous, entertaining, thought-provoking.

    My nephew is named after Bonhoeffer: big name, big shoes to fill. And I absolutely agree, way overdue to redefine what we consider success. My parents got the ball rolling, and so my siblings and I were blessed with an alternative upbringing; we are also trying to offer the same opportunities to our children, although it isn’t always applauded. We can only do our best and pray.

    Couple humour: one of the marks of intimacy – I love that you have shared interests. The Jimmy Rollins account is so funny!

    Liked by 1 person

  22. Nodding my head about “in long term marriage jokes”…and loved your story. We too have the inflated sports’ people “heroes” mostly men. Paid much more than women…and treated so well. Not so well though is their behaviour off the field and I saw Jo’s comment re AFL Club and their racist chairman and club. One issue here in Australia is the amount of money being paid to these sports’ professionals means that they have time on their hands post games and training. It’s a disgrace to see many being charged with domestic violence, drug use and more. Sigh.

    You are so right. Real heroes do not even know they are. One of mine is my head and neck cancer surgeon. His skills and talents in reconstructive surgeries after taking our cancer is known Australia-wide and he contributes to much to the teaching of others. He received an Award (we still have vice regal stuff) and when I sent him our congratulations he replied with his typical modesty.

    Thank you for joining us this week for #lifethisweek. Next time, the optional prompt is 6/51 Decision. 8 Feb. and I hope to see your next blog post there too. Cheers, Denyse.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Ha! I am sure you and your hubby have had many inside jokes in your 50 years of marriage!

      You are so right – most of the sports heroes are men. Our baseball players have had some disgraceful behavior off the field too.

      Your surgeon sounds like a real hero! Thank you for hosting! Hope to see you next week.

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  23. As a mom of five sons, I am frustrated with how sports hijacks their more necessary gifts and talents. I’m guilty – of encouraging them to play. When I was young, sports were seasonal – now their year around – and when too many young men graduate high school, it takes them six more years to figure out what they want to do. At age 12, they start apprenticing for a job they’ll never have. It so saddens me. I have wondered if the covid quarantines and shut downs might not re-adjust the too high a place sports have in our daily lives. I so agree with your post – “Let’s recognize those whose love illuminates a dark world as our heroes. Let’s reevaluate how we determine who “winners” are.” Yes! Let’s! ~ Maryleigh

    Liked by 1 person

    • I had 3 sons, all of whom were involved in sports. I know exactly what you mean. Sports have become all-encompassing these days. Coaches want young athletes to devote so much time to their sport. Thank you, Maryleigh!

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  24. It’s so dangerous to place someone on a pedestal, The only direction they can go is down …

    Words of affirmation are my love language; but, I want to remember that all that really matters is if the Lord tells me, “Well done, good and faithful servant.”

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  25. Humanity does tend to idolized the wrong people for the wrong reasons. We should be praising those who have been through adversity or those who share what little they have.

    Thank you for being a part of ‘My Corner of the World’ this week!

    Liked by 1 person

  26. That’s amazing that we were thinking along the same lines and made some of the same points, but ended up with two completely different posts. I wish I could remember who said this–but someone mentioned those who are the most influential for the kingdom of Christ, and someone else said, “You probably wouldn’t know who they are.” So true. There are so many behind the scenes just faithfully following God and serving others.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Oh, that is a good point – those who are most influential are probably working behind the scenes, unsung heroes. I enjoyed thinking about our 2 different takes on a similar topic!

      Liked by 1 person

  27. Good for you for holding the line on changing grades. I recall my disbelief when I realized one parent was making me a very thinly veiled offer of a bribe to change his kid’s grade (I didn’t). And no doubt that arrogance is one of the plagues of popular culture. It’s weird whom we choose to idolize. It’s weird that humans idolize other humans at all, actually.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Ugh! Parents can be the worst these days. Good for you for sticking to your guns. You are absolutely right about that sense of entitlement. It’s one of the worst characteristics of our culture.

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  28. I completely agree Laurie. In Australia we have a culture of glorifying sportspeople. Whilst their achievements are great, there are also many other people in many other lines of work and service who deserve the same if not more recognition and celebration!

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  29. A few things on sports figures as heroes. The huge salaries become part of the hero worship, don’t you think, The salaries are unimagineably high and I can’t help but wonder if any human is worth that salary. Of course it’s not a 30 year job, generally, but then there are endorsements, for those who are lucky enough to get them. Maybe part of the problem is the huge salaries help them to believe their own press. Then I think it was Charles Barkley several years ago (I could have the wrong name) who created quite a stir by saying he wasn’t a role model and didn’t want to be. Humility is not a virtue that is prized by our culture. or the media. You knocked this one out of the park! Michele

    Liked by 1 person

    • Oh, yes! The huge salaries do become part of the hero worship. If it was Charles Barkley, at least he was honest. Idolizing sports figures is a huge problem. Of course, owners of the sports teams get even richer than the players from all the TV deals, merchandising, etc. Businessmen are typically not good role models either. Thank you, Michele! (Love the “knocked it out of the park” pun! 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

      • I had heard of National Random Acts of Kindness Day but I did not know it was Ash Wednesday. I do love that phrase. Thank you for the link, I will check it out.

        Liked by 1 person

      • You are welcome! And I have to thank you, as well for inspiring me. Although we don’t do Love Feasts in the same way the Moravians do it, it is a bona fide Methodist Tradition. One of the churches I served, served refrehsments in work every week. Not much healthy, but t he church ladies took great care in pride in getting things ready. They were available in the back of the sanctuary and people were invited to take coffee and whatever to their seats during worship. Radical I know, but it was so welcomed by the families with childen. For many that was breakfast. I serve a caring, congregatin in retirement, and they appreciate creativity, but the Janitor absolutely does not want food or drinks, other than water in the sanctuary. Since she has to do cleanup, I don’t blame her. But we are doing Drive-In Church, so I am going to take advantage of next Sunday being Valentine’s Day and plan a love feast. I always encourage them to come dressed comfortably and bring coffee, tea and snacks, as they are just in their own cars. I just have to remind them to bring their own drinks. It will make a great Messy Church Moment and won’t bother the Janitor. So thank you for the inspiration.

        Liked by 1 person

      • Wow! I have never been to a church service where you could bring treats back to the pews with you. How wonderful! Our family did go to United Methodist services when our children were little. Both my husband and I were raised in the Lutheran church, but he played softball for a United Methodist church team with some friends and the requirements were that you had to attend the church at least 2 times/month to play on the team! I am excited to hear how your love feast goes!

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      • Thanks. I don’t know if they continued it, but they did it for several years. They went all out. A slightly lower table for kids, with juice packs and crackers, but there were always cookies, and quick breads, etc. as well as coffee, brewed tea and ice water available. If nothing else COVID probably put a halt to that. I’ll let you know how it goes. I am going to experiment with a Moravian Sugar Cake recipe this week, hopefully on Tuesday.

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  30. [I am almost a week behind in Reader and scrambling to catch up.] I see people put sports figure on a pedestal too many times and then they are human, falter and fail … not in sports, but their personal lives. Sadly, you are a hero one day and yesterday’s news the next day. Matthew Stafford our Detroit Lions quarterback for the past 12 years played through so many injuries – even a broken back, (not in a brace, but broken vertebrae in 2019). He asked for a trade at the end of the season – he just was traded to the L.A. Rams and we got their star QBs and some other players. He no sooner was gone then jerseys with #9 Stafford were reduced to almost give them away as everyone embraced the new QB. They forget what he did for the City of Detroit, lots of philanthropy in his 12 years, especially in conjunction with Mitch Albom and his charities … sometimes we fans are fickle. He did not want to go through another new coach regime. We’re fickle as fans – love if they win – hate when they lose. I mean “hate” as genuine. I don’t know why I read the comments on social media as they leave me SMH most of the time.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Yes, often sports heroes have feet of clay. I read about several over the years who have been arrested/disciplined for spousal abuse. It is true that as soon as sports heroes are not winning for their team, they are forgotten. It’s sad all around. The only social media I do is Twitter and there I only follow runners. 99% of the comments are positive. No politics!

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      • The comments on Twitter and Facebook on news stories is just out of control sometimes. I was on Twitter earlier as I follow Jocelyn Anderson’s videos of the birds she feeds from her hand at a local Metropark. They are very calming videos and her bird still shots are just amazing. On Twitter I was reading about Leon Spinks who has passed away from cancer. I remember when he beat Muhammed Ali in the boxing ring. And that was his moment of fame as he just slid into oblivion after that.

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      • I remember when he beat Muhammed Ali too. That is a shame. I try to not look at the political stuff. I think social media affords some people a certain degree of anonymity that allows all the hidden garbage to spew out!

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      • I haven’t thought of him in years until yesterday when they said he passed away. I seem to remember his “gold teeth” … that image sticks out in my mind. Oh yes, there is such terrible stuff in the comments. They hide behind a profile image and spew out atrocities, they’d never say otherwise. Social media has created some monsters.

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  31. Powerful post, Laurie. I love Bonhoeffer words. They ring so true. I too am very wary of making heroes out of sportspersons and movie stars. Give me the everyday heroes like you mentioned – the parents of children with disabilities, caregivers of the elderly, the mother stitching late into the night to give her child a better education!

    Liked by 1 person

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