Iron Mountain ski jump

Iron Mountain ski jump

Monday, February 12, 2018

SPORTS AND JUSTICE [Monday, 2-12-18]

I am embarrassed by the amount of time I spend on sports. Well, no, I’m not really embarrassed, but I should be, because it borders on obsession. In fact, my sports Rubicon is far back in the rear-view mirror. [1]

My dentist is a MI State U fan. He is as sports-obsessed as I. We have concluded there is something wrong with us. His hygienist agrees. When I apologized one day when she could not start scraping on my teeth because Chris and I were talking sports, she sighed and said, “It’s okay. I schedule extra time when I know you are coming in.” [2]

I once cancelled a TV service because it did not have the Big Ten Network. When I was nominated for a distinguished alum award at Garrett Theological Seminary, my profile did not mention stuff I did in the ministry. It talked about how much I love baseball.

When daughter Katie and her husband taught history at Auburn U, and granddaughter Brigid was born there, Perry & Sue Biddle were gracious enough to let us spend the night with them in Nashville on our way from IL to AL. They usually had a party for us, inviting old friends we met in Scotland, Amos & Etta Wilson, and other folks they thought we might enjoy. One man, as he left one night, said, either with admiration or bewilderment, “I’ve never before met a minister who knew so much about sports.”

I don’t know why I have this obsession. I don’t come from an athletic family. I hardly knew sports existed until we moved to Oakland City, IN, when I was 10. Maybe it was the isolation of the farm. We didn’t have a car. From the last day of school in May until the first day in September, I didn’t have any playmates. I really wanted something to do besides farm chores. By myself I could shoot at the basketball goal on the side of the barn, and throw a tennis ball against that same barn, and pretend I was Ted Kluzewski or Gil Hodges scooping up ground balls.

I used to justify my obsession, at least in my own mind, by claiming that it’s good exercise. It keeps one healthy. But my sports activity came to a screeching halt, unless you count walking as a sport, when I was 70 and we moved to Iron Mt and there was no softball league for old people, and where the only sport is strapping a couple of sticks to your feet and sliding down a long slope on ice and snow and then hanging in the air, buffeted by blizzard winds, until crashing into the tops of red pines several miles away. [Iron Mountain has the highest man-made ski jump in the world and hosts an international competition each winter.]

So now, I just watch. It’s hard to justify sitting in front of the TV several hours a day, especially between seasons when there is nothing but field hockey and water polo and curling, relieved only by Big Bang Theory re-runs, and claim that’s good for one’s health.

This comes up now because old people need to get rid of stuff, and I’m sorting through old correspondence. There was a time I corresponded with the President of Ohio State about the firing of football coach Earle Bruce… and with Joe Paterno about sharing football factory receipts with historically black colleges… and Milt Weisbecker, the Athletics Director at ILSU about hiring a black basketball coach… and other coaches and ADs trying to get scholarships for kids.,,

Only now do I understand my obsession with sports. It’s not about sports at all. It’s about justice. My daughters learned to become advocates for justice because they heard me proclaim, whenever one of my teams lost, that “It was a grave miscarriage of justice.”

Spring training starts tomorrow. ”Let justice roll down like waters, pitchers and catchers reporting like an ever-flowing stream.” My sports obsession does not mean I am emotionally weird. I’m just committed to justice. That’s my story and I’m sticking to it.


1] I don’t want to insult anyone by suggesting you don’t already know this, but the Rubicon was the border [river] that Caesar crossed and was thus irrevocably committed to civil war. When you’ve “crossed the Rubicon,” there’s no turning back.

2] Chris Selden is no longer my dentist, since he is in Iron Mountain, MI, and I am in Bloomington, IN, but I started writing this when we still lived in IM. In that remote and frozen place, it was important for me to have someone who shared my yearnings. I no longer live where it’s remote and frozen, but I miss him.

3] The exception to my lonely existence was my Uncle Johnny [John H. Pond, my mother’s youngest brother, 15 years older than I.] He was single and lived with his mother in a town of 600. There wasn’t much for him to do in the evenings. Many evenings he drove over from Francisco, five miles away, after he had closed his hardware store, and hit flies to me in our orchard/pasture field. I so looked forward to those moments with him. He was my best man at our wedding. To this day, when I am at loose ends, in my mind I go to that field and chase those fly balls. I still think of him as the best playmate I ever had.

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