OK… I tried to give up and check out, because the collective displeasure across all venues about the 2015 Atlanta Braves was becoming almost overwhelming. It’s not in my nature to cater to the dark side of things. I am a “glass half full” guy, and will give the benefit of the doubt to a fault. I know it and I admit it. And I refuse to change it. You see, I am just a sinner saved by grace. A humble and grateful man that looks at things in a unique way, because I have a perspective that looks at things in a unique way. I march to the beat of the proverbial different drummer. And I’ll eagerly crank my guitar up and play loudly right along with him. I am the classic non-conformist… but for good reason. I strongly believe in that reason, and have submitted to being a voice for that reason… so to speak.
So for that reason, I have something to get off my chest. I reached a breaking point yesterday. Don’t misread or misunderstand me. It’s everywhere, not just here in our little corner of Stuffville. Everywhere. Maybe because my neighbor and fellow fan has already converted all his Braves swag over to Bulldogs and Falcons… maybe because it was a Monday… maybe because everything collectively had gotten too loud for me to tune it out any more. I don’t know.
But yesterday I slipped a groove and went sideways. And in the evening as I was pushing my old lawn mower around on my overgrown yard, exerting and sweating – purging if you will – it kind of hit me. I shall not be swerved. I shall not conform. I shall not be silent. And I will explain why.
This is a flippin’ game, folks. It’s a bunch of guys in pajamas playing a game where one team tries to keep another team from hitting a little ball and running around in a big circle back to where they started so that they can go into a clubhouse and hug each other. It’s a kid’s game that grown men get to play. It’s something I did when I was a kid. And when I watch these grown men play it, it still takes me back to that time when the only thing that mattered was if we had enough guys to be able to hit to all fields, or if we had to close off Right Field. Heck, sometimes we didn’t have enough guys to even have enough baserunners. Anyone else remember “imaginary man on first”? We met at the school playground, set out our small squares of cut carpet, and started tossing the ball around to get loose. I always pulled up on my bike with my well worn glove slipped over the handle bar. Carrying my bat on my bike was a little trickier, but it could be done. Half the bats had been cracked, but we just wrapped extra tape on it to keep it together. And when that battered old bat sent that marked up baseball over the fence and into the woods, it was magic. Not Harry Potter magic. It was Ernie Johnson magic. And in my own mind, I could hear Ernie making the home run call as I circled the makeshift bases. I loved playing shortstop more than anything else, even more than hitting. I loved making the plays. I loved fielding the ball and turning quickly to gun it to first. I was Jerry Royster. I just knew that one day I’d be pickin’ them at Atlanta-Fulton County Stadium. I just knew it. The closest thing we ever had to a fight was if the runner was safe at home or not. And we even managed to work that out without too much difficulty every time. Those were truly the golden days. I miss them. They are long gone.
Now instead of fighting over being safe or out, I have to fight to keep my clients happy or my business will fold. You see, the next vendor for them is just a simple turn of the Rolodex away. I‘m expendable. My ability to keep my creditors off my heels is at the whim and pleasure of someone else. There’s a lot of pressure in that. I have a family that depends on me. This is my adult reality. It’s a very real everyday fight. And the clients hold all the cards. All the cards… and they know it. I have to fight this fight. No choice. It ain’t easy.
My wife teaches in a broken public education system where “No Child Left Behind” means no child gets ahead. They are overcrowded and underfunded. It’s run by bureaucrats that couldn’t teach a fish to swim. The system has given all the power to the kids and stripped the teachers of any authority. The students won’t learn and their parents don’t care, if they’re even in the picture at all. Most of today’s kids are savvy enough to realize that the schools cannot afford to hold them back and must push them along, like cattle in a herd. These kids truly have checked out and don’t care. Yet the teachers’ very livelihood depends on whether or not these kids can perform on standardized testing. It’s no wonder that quality college students are fleeing from education in unprecedented numbers. Where will the next generation of real teachers come from? It ain’t easy.
My oldest kid is trying to figure out who he is and what he wants to do in a world that increasingly punishes accomplishments and rewards apathy. It encourages entitlement and quenches ambition. Most public universities will openly seek to change every moral convention under which he has been raised. And they are proud to do it. He has to hold strong to his convictions and try to navigate in hostile waters. It ain’t easy.
My youngest lives in a world of intense and extreme peer pressure that demands conformity into a socio-group that has no moral compass. If you don’t belong to the right cliques, you are shunned and cast in any number of negative stereotypes. Self-esteem is promoted as more important than discipline and respect, yet the kids themselves do more damage to their own peers’ self-esteem than any educator or administrator ever could. I cannot imagine the pressures that she lives under on a daily basis. And we parents have to walk a balancing act to demand discipline and respect without adding additional pressures. And often we fail because the cards are stacked against us. It ain’t easy.
This next generation of voters and leaders stands and cheers loudly as Kanye West announces, in broken English, at the MTV Music Awards that he is running for president in 2020. These same current voters are giving presidential candidate and avowed socialist Bernie Sanders more tread than any American should ever have to imagine. In South Carolina, some character named Deez Nuts is getting 9% of the votes in early polls. This is reality. We’ve reached the tipping point where those who can take have crossed the 50% barrier to those who produce. They know it and are doing everything inside – and outside – the law to keep it that way. And the current “leadership” supports it. It’s crazy.
This “leader” can shape and change this great nation into his own globally submissive vision with “a pen and a phone” and we the sheeple stand by powerless to stop him. Remember when his spokesperson said at his first coronation, er… I mean swearing into office that they were “ready to rule” right away? That wasn’t a slip of the tongue. It was deadly accurate. It’s insanity.
Immoral and evil men can shoot and assassinate innocent sworn officers of the law, and our “leader” remains silent. But our defenders under the rule of law can exercise their lawful authority over law breakers, and our “leader” makes a public statement that empowers radicals to create public uprisings and riots and that encourages more killings of innocent people. And that is supposed to be model “leadership”. It’s worse than insanity; it’s evil.
People are now allowed to “choose” their gender. A man in a dress changes his name and is considered a hero, worthy of awards and accolades. A prominent American university has announced that the pronouns “he” and “she” are being replaced on their campus because they are considered offensive. Meanwhile, a public school in this very country of ours has taken the labels off their restrooms so as not to force children to have to make that gender choice. And if you dare speak out against it, you are considered to be “hating”, publically vilified, and subject to losing everything you’ve ever worked for. It’s darkness overtaking the light.
Here in the US, a country founded on Christian principals no matter how the “leadership” tries to rewrite history, my fellow believers in Christ and I are losing our rights to practice our faith more and more each day as darkness tries to silence us completely. In the Middle East, they are practicing an open and public jihad to exterminate us. Yet our “leadership’ makes a deal to give them nuclear capability and the funding to accomplish it. All the while, most of America is being indoctrinated to think that Christians are a hate group with the liberal media fueling the fire daily. The bible says that everything will flip, that what is evil will be called good and what is good will be called evil… and it’s happening right before our very eyes. It’s real, and it’s happening all around us. I know and believe that we will be the victors. Darkness cannot prevail as long as light exists, no matter how dim the light gets. But the fight is difficult and bears its own collateral damage. It’s here and it’s real.
So I come back to baseball, and to my team the Atlanta Braves because it is like a warm blanket on a long, cold night. It’s the one thing I can sink into and temporarily escape this insane and evil world. To me, it just simply takes me back to being a kid, picking teams, lining up and stepping into the batter’s box, where the biggest thing I had to worry about was who was pitching. After all, it’s still just a kid’s game, even if it is adults playing it. It might not be Jerry Royster making the plays anymore, but Andrelton Simmons is just as good. Better, even.
Does it really matter that the Braves got drubbed by the Bronx Bombers in their own home park? Is it really all that serious that half our players, and most of our bullpen, wouldn’t make the 25-man roster in some cities? Does it really have a major impact on our daily grind that Shelby Miller hasn’t won a game in over 100 days? To me is doesn’t. To me, it really doesn’t mean a tiny sliver of a thing in the overall scheme of today’s reality. They can get beat 20-6 and still come back to the park for the next night’s Bulova Time of First Pitch. The only thing that has changed are the numbers in the standings. Maybe a bullpen arm or two. The world still turns.
On the day that the great Skip Caray passed away, one of the Mets broadcasters noted that during an extended losing streak back in the mid-80’s when the team was annually awful, that Skip once introduced the team at the start of a broadcast with: “Like lambs to the slaughter, the Braves take the field”. Skip never took the game too seriously, never lost his sense of humor, and never lost his perspective. Neither will I.
My team has warts… big’uns too. And I still love them. Hey, let’s play two!!