Tuesday, June 29, 2010

World Cup and A Lesson in Humility

Like millions upon millions (or maybe even more than that), I have been watching the World Cup finals. Like I said in my last post, I'm not as knowledgeable with soccer (or football) as some of my friends are. But even I and my limited knowledge have watched games where there have been a lot of blown calls. Goals that weren't allowed that should have been, goals that were allowed that should not have been, among other various and sundry calls that were not good. Overall, it has not been a good World Cup in that regard.

FIFA, the governing body of soccer and who runs the World Cup, has been questioned again and again about these blown calls and the work of the officials throughout the tournament. Time and time again, they would reply that the officials do not have to explain themselves nor are they going to seek to improve the game via instant replay or goal line sensors or anything involving technology because it takes away from the human mistakes which makes the game what it is.

I think there are two things with which one can take away from this. One, it is a reminder that we are human and we are not perfect, as if we needed another reminder of this. We all make mistakes, we all mess up. Soccer officials are not different than anybody else and this World Cup has shown that to be the case. However, there needs to be a level of humility in that. We need to own up to when we mess up or make mistakes. I think back to the incident with Jim Joyce, the umpire who made a bad call and cost the Tigers pitcher a perfect game, he admitted he made a mistake and apologized. Fast forward to the Mali referee who made a bad call that cost the U.S. a goal in its game with Slovenia, there was no apology, no recognition of making a bad call, not even an explanation of what the call was that he made. When we mess up, we need to own up to our mistakes. The good thing is as followers of Jesus, when we own up and confess them to God, he will forgive us of them (1 John 1:9).

The second thing to take away from this is that even though we aren't perfect, we should strive for perfection. As followers of Jesus, we have been called to follow after Him and to live right and holy lives, even though we aren't perfect. Having the Holy Spirit in us helps us to do that. We don't take joy in our mistakes nor celebrate them but seek to improve and do better. Just like going to check the replay or the goal line marker to see if it was a goal or not helps to get things right, we as followers of Jesus seek to not just stay where we are but to press on to the mark that Christ has set (Philippians 3:14).

So as the World Cup continues, there will probably be more blown calls just as in any sport. But hopefully there will be improvement. And for followers of Jesus, we should seek to grow and improve in our walk with Him

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

Reflections on World Cup 2010

One of the major sporting events in the world has begun. It is the World Cup, the major championship for soccer (or football as it is known in the rest of the world). It takes place every four years and involves the 32 top nations in the world that qualify for the tourney.

It is probably the one major sporting event I have little knowledge of personally. I didn't get into soccer until I was in college. I do barely remember when the World Cup was in the U.S. back in 1994 but I didn't really keep up with it. When I was in college, I roomed for a time with a missionary kid (MK) from Nigeria and it was through him (along with other MKs and internationals) that I really learned about soccer and started to take notice of it. I would watch soccer in the afternoons on ESPN when I got back from class.

I still would not say I'm an expert in any sense of the word. I do like watching the games, especially when it's a major event like the World Cup.

This year it is in South Africa, first time the World Cup has been in Africa I do believe. It must be weird to be playing a "summer" event in "winter" (since it's in the southern hemisphere). So far the weather hasn't been much of a factor so we'll see if that continues.

Of course personally, I am rooting for the USA. I would love to see them win. I do root for an international team. I would be rooting for Poland but they didn't qualify. So, I'll be rooting for France. Yes, France. I like their team and have since they won the cup back in 1998.

The World Cup stage is one of the biggest in the world. I hope and pray that those players who are believers will be a good example and will have the opportunity to share their faith to teammates, opponents and to the world.

It's also a great way to pray for countries. When you're watching a match, pray for those countries and for the believers that are in those countries. Who knows, God might lead you to go to one of those countries and share your faith there.

Sunday, June 6, 2010

Free Tickets and Bobbleheads: Sixth Royals Game in 2010 in Review

Yesterday, I went to my sixth Royals game of the year and the second one this week. This time, I got a free ticket to the game. My friend Kyle got the tickets from someone at the church where he serves as a youth pastor. So of course, I couldn't turn down free tickets to a Royals game. It also was a free bobblehead night as they were giving away a bobblehead of their former SP and 2 time Cy Young award winner Bret Saberhagen.

The tickets were in the Dugout Plaza which means they were really good seats. They were the closest to home plate I've ever sat at a ball game. So I got a really good view of the action. The other cool thing was it just so happened the section that we were sitting in had several of the players' wives and family. That was pretty cool.

The game itself was a pitcher's duel. The matchup was between Luke Hocheaver and Justin Verlander. Through 6 innings the score was 1-0. The game ended with a 4-2 Tigers win.

The Royals record in games I've been to this year now stands at 2-4 and for the teams I've rooted for 4-2.

Friday, June 4, 2010

T-Shirt Tuesday: Fifth Royals Game of 2010 in Review

Finally, here's the review of the fifth Royals game of the year. I and the usual crew (Kyle and Lane) hit the ballpark for T-Shirt Tuesday. They were giving away 25th anniversary shirts of the 1985 championship. We got the usual E-Savers ticket deal so it was cheap tickets FTW (for the win). They were Field Plaza (aka lower level) in the same section a few rows away from where we sat when the Royals played the Mariners.

This time the Royals took on the Anaheim (I refuse to call them LA) Angels. It was a really quick game (just a shade over 2 hours). It saw the first time a replay was used in a game I was at (Matsui hit a ball that was ruled a ground rule double but they had to check to make sure it wasn't a home run, replay upheld the ruling). The Royals came back from being down 2-1 and ended up winning the game 6-3. We even got a free Sonic slush because Jose Guillen hit a home run in the Sonic Slam section in the 8th inning.

In keeping with the wearing the Billy Butler jersey, the Royals are 2-0 in those games. Overall, they are 2-3 in games I've been to. The record for teams I've rooted for is 4-1. Hopefully, they'll continue on an uptick and get closer to .500 by the All-Star break

Thursday, June 3, 2010

An Example of Grace on the Baseball Diamond

I was expecting yet again to blog about the Royals/Angels game today but then last night happened with Griffey's retirement and then a few hours later the almost perfect game. It is the talk of baseball after Armando Galarraga came within an out of pitching the 21st perfect game in MLB history and the 3rd one this year. Jason Donald, Cleveland Indians shortstop, hit a grounder that was essentially a bang bang play. The umpire, Jim Joyce, called Donald safe on the field. Millions of replays later showed it to be the wrong call. It cost Galarraga the perfect game but he came back and got the next batter, Trevor Crowe (personal favorite) out and ended the game.

Galarraga through it all didn't get upset or mad at Joyce. In fact, after the game, the pitcher and umpire met and the umpire apologized and they hugged. Too often, we hear of players and managers getting into it with umps, rightly so or not. It's nice to hear of an example of grace shown. It's another reminder that we are human and we make mistakes. In those moments we can choose to show grace and forgiveness. This was a time when someone was wronged and they showed grace. I hope in all the talk about the loss of perfection, that grace will be talked about as well.

Wednesday, June 2, 2010

Reflections on the Retirement of "The Kid"

I was going to write about going to the Royals game on Tuesday with my next post but news that just came over the wire takes precident...

Ken Griffey Jr. has announced his retirement today. It has been rumored for about a month but to be honest it was still a shock. I just heard literally like a few minutes ago so I'm still trying to sort through thoughts and memories.

He was a ballplayer that I grew up with of sorts. He debuted in the majors in 1989, when I was 9 years old, so right in the wheelhouse of memories. He had the hype of being the son of Ken Griffey Sr., who was a good player in his own right. But he lived up to the hype. I remember trying to collect his rookie cards and how some of them were so expensive (I think it was the Upper Deck one that was the most expensive one....I still have those cards somewhere, I'll have to look for them at some point).

I rooted for Griffey even being a boy from Tennessee with no connections (at the time) to Seattle. I latched onto the Mariners for the first time back in 1995 with their crazy run to the playoffs and then beating the Yankees in the 95 Divisional Round. I remember playing the Ken Griffey Jr. MLB game for Super Nintendo as a teen for hours on end.

I was sad when he left Seattle and went to Cincy but I understood because he wanted to be closer to family. I felt bad for him when he had the injuries that cost him in my mind a shot at the home run record. It was cool that when I got to see my first MLB game in St. Louis it was against the Reds in 2002. Unfortunately, Griffey wasn't playing but I saw his team. Then in 2007 while I was living in Seattle, I saw a video tribute that Griffey gave to Edgar Martinez when Martinez was inducted into the Mariners Hall of Fame. Everyone cheered for him. Later in the season, the Reds came to Safeco and he routinely got standing ovations. I wasn't able to make it to the ballpark but I watched those games on TV. It wasn't until 2008 that I got to see Griffey live and in person. By then, he was with the White Sox. It looked weird seeing him in a White Sox jersey but I was happy to see him playing in person after all those years.

I was really excited when he re-signed with the Mariners last year. I saved up money and ordered a Mariners jersey (because I missed Seattle and wanted a M's jersey) and I got a Griffey one. I wore it proudly when the M's came to KC and the M's were undefeated when I wore the Griffey jersey.

I will remember fondly earlier this year when they were in town. I was standing down by the visitor's dugout watching BP and saw Griffey up close, probably the closest I'd ever seen him. I saw him smiling and taking BP and it reminded me of when I was 15 watching him play on TV.

He is a one of a kind player, a once in a generation player. He will be missed from the game and I hope that whatever the next step is for Him I wish him nothing but the best. He will always be "The Kid".