Tuesday, August 09, 2005

Sports Grace

It was a usual Tuesday for yours truly -- around 4 hours in the vehicle with the radio playing. I caught a lot of sports talk today and there was a familiar theme resounding through the major stories:

Texas Rangers pitcher Kenny Rogers (not the singer) had his suspension reduced by an arbitrator. Rogers shoved two cameramen in a widely-broadcast temper tantrum and was fined $50,000 and suspended for 20 games by baseball commissioner Bud Selig. The arbitrator thought 20 games seemed like it was too long, so it was cut to 13 games. Rogers will start for the Rangers Wednesday night. Selig is spittin' mad about the arbitrator's decision; and for good reason.

Vancouver Cunuck winger/thug Todd Bertuzzi was reinstated to the National Hockey League. Bertuzzi was suspended indefinately near the end of the 2003-2004 season for a vicious attack on Colorado player Steve Moore who was severely injured and will likely never play hockey again. The Canuck's assault was a blind-sided sucker punch which knocked Moore out cold before he even knew what hit him. With the reinstatement, the NHL's suspension boils down to only 20 games since the league didn't play last season due to contract disputes.

Baltimore Orioles slugger Rafael Palmeiro's ten game suspension for steroid use will be up this week. Palmeiro is the same guy who sat before Congress and swore up and down that he had never used steroids. He tested positive a few weeks later. He is expected to be in uniform for Baltimore on Thursday.

Have you picked up on the theme yet? That's right. Athletes getting off easy for their mistakes. And justice is being cheated on each and every count. Palmeiro's suspension was only for ten games instead of the fifty games the baseball commish was pushing for. Considering the way Rafael drug (excuse the pun) his sport and his own record through the mud, ten days was really an easy punishment. Rogers' twenty days was a bit short to begin with, in my opinion, but now an arbitrator has decided that enough is enough and Kenny can go ahead and pitch tomorrow night. I'm sure he's learned his lesson. Yeah, right. Then there's Mr. Bertuzzi who will be able to get back to work when the NHL season opens, but his victim is looking for other ways to make a living -- he won't be playing professional hockey. His suspension works out to be the same length as Roger's suspension was supposed to be -- a lousy 20 games! These professional athletes get away with murder... or at least assault.

Job observed the injustice of the world, "the tents of marauders are undisturbed, and those who provoke God are secure— those who carry their god in their hands." The justice that I want to see done, I often do not see. Like the man of patience of the Old Testament, I see the bad guys win far too often. And I'm not happy about it at all. Those lightning bolts from the sky don't show up when you need 'em.

Jesus told a different kind of story. In Matthew 20, He weaves the parable of a landowner hiring workers for his vineyard. Setting up an agreeable pay schedule with his employees, the workers went out into the vineyard. But there was so much work that the landowner had to keep going out to hire more help, even up to an hour before the workday was over. The boss decided to pay everybody the same amount he had promised to the workers who had put in a full day's work, but this caused whining and grumbling among those expecting more money. The day-long workers thought the landowner wasn't being just. These certainly had to be unfair labor practices. But as they were told, the workers all received what they had agreed to beforehand. The worker and the landowner didn't have the same perspective on what was just and what was unfair.

I was getting pretty upset today about the hockey thug and the violent pitcher and the steroid-enhanced slugger. They certainly weren't being punished justly as far as I was concerned. Like Job, I saw success for those who don't deserve it.

Then I began to consider what I really deserve. I mentally reviewed the laundry list of sins I have committed, and I saw the way God repeatedly forgives me when I ask. The multitude of rebellions I have led against my Savior, He does not hold against me. The penalty I should be paying was paid by Christ at Calvary. And while I still think that those sports suspensions were nowhere near long enough, they remind me of the grace shown me by my Heavenly Father, and I stop to offer my thanks to the God who is a God of justice yet also a God of grace.

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