One of the first pieces of Scripture many of us probably learn is John 8:7, “…Let any one of you who is without sin be the first to throw a stone at her.”
Nevertheless we all pass judgement. Many times we convince ourselves (read: lie to ourselves), “Sure, I’m a sinner — but I have little inconsequential sins, he has big bad consquential sins. It’s okay for me to judge him.”
Nevertheless we oftentimes judge the good, or the positive, or the unselfish. Maybe we’re jealous, maybe we’re skeptics. Maybe we think ‘He’s too good to be true’ and conclude he must be a fake. And we find it easy to judge insincerity.
Last week we read about Buck O’Neil. Buck scouted Ernie Banks and once when someone mentioned that it was Buck who taught Ernie Banks to play baseball, Buck corrected them, “I didn’t teach Ernie Banks to play baseball. Ernie Banks knew HOW to play baseball. I taught Ernie Banks to LOVE playing baseball.”
And as much as Ernie Banks is known for being the first shortstop to hit 40 homeruns in a season (and the 2nd, and the 3rd, and the 4th to do so), he’s even better known for his “Let’s play two” optimism and enthusiasm and love of the game and love of life.
Dodgers catcher and Banks ‘contemporary John Roseboro once said “Maybe it’s sacrilege but I believe Banks was a con artist. No one smiles all the time, naturally, unless they’re putting you on and putting you on. Every day of our lives isn’t a good one.”
Which brings me to Gary Carter. Hall of Fame Gary Carter didn’t wear his Christianity on his sleeve, but he wore his happiness and his goodness on his sleeve. And people never quite felt like they could trust a man who was so consistently happy — and teammates never quite trusted a ballplayer who seemed too good to be true.
I’m too young to have watched Ernie Banks, but I grew up watching Gary Carter. I loved watching Gary Carter play baseball. I loved watching Gary Carter loving to play baseball (full disclosure: I kinda sorta loved it less once he became a Dodger). But not everyone loved Gary Carter, though he never gave anyone a reason to dislike him. Not everyone understood Gary Carter.
In the oft-ignorant, oft-shallow world of baseball, Carter was deemed a geek from the very beginning. He didn’t drink and didn’t smoke. He didn’t curse and he didn’t talk smack. He showed up to work early, played hard, embraced home-plate collisions and—by all accounts—worked his tail off. He was loyal to his wife, Sandy, and an involved and dedicated father to their three children.Yet this was rarely good enough for teammates. In Montreal, where Carter established himself as a star from 1974-84, he was derisively tagged “Teeth,” “Lights” and “Camera Carter” for his apparent love of the spotlight and his willingness to grant any and every interview request. Such behavior didn’t sit well with many of the Expos, who mocked him (cowardly, Carter would later tell me) behind his back and made him the butt of their juvenile jokes. Why, Carter’s famous nickname—The Kid—was born of neither love nor appreciation, but scorn.… So why all the hostility? Why the insults? “Simple,” says Hearn. “Jealousy and immaturity. There were people who chose to poke fun at Gary’s strength and character as a man. When you’re that different from the majority, and you’re vibrantly outspoken, people don’t understand. So they become mean—especially when you’re as good as Gary was on the field.”
It’s easy to be happy when you succeed, but we really get to know people when things don’t go well. We witness character when people are challenged. It’s been said “Sports don’t build character, they reveal it.” Baseball might reveal character even more than most sports. First baseball fans get to watch their favorite players every day. Second, as we discussed Week One, we see the best players fail 7 times out of 10 at the plate, and they see the best players lose 60+ games every season.
So why are men like Ernie Banks and Gary Carter judged or mistrusted? Why are their motives questioned? When we watch a man make 7 outs in 10 at bats, when we watch him lose 60 or 70 or 80 games in a season, and yet see them smile and love every second, why are they mistrusted and not admired?
We as Christians are inherently optimistic. Have we been mistrusted and judged merely for our good intentions?
Likewise who have we mistrusted because we can’t quite understand their optimism or their unselfishness or their enthusiasm?
And why hasn’t John Ramsier ever channeled Ernie Banks and said “Let’s have two sermons?”
[Reminder: If there isn’t a way to comment below existing comments, please scroll back up to the top and look for “Leave a Comment” or “1 comments” by the thread’s title and click that. Another option is to click the title “Judgement and Gary Carter” then scroll back down here and you should see “Leave a reply” at the bottom.]