American Culture

Evangelical litmus tests and the World Series: why we all need to be rooting against the Colorado Rockies

The World Series starts tomorrow night and people around here have gone Rockies crazy. I’m getting asked a lot if I’m excited, and the answer is yes – Go Red Sox! They all want to know “why aren’t you rooting for Colorado?” So I’m answering them:

First off, the Red Sox are my favorite team. Second, I cannot abide the arrogance and stupidity of an organization that makes decisions according to a religious litmus test. It’s offensive, and would be so if they were using my beliefs as the test just as much as it is using evangelical Christianity, which is how they operate now.

I wrote about Team Jesus last year and don’t know that my position has changed much. But I want to take a few moments to do a little of what’s called “objection handling” in the business world. So here are a few objections to my take on the matter, followed by my responses.

1: It’s the team’s right to make these decisions as they choose.

I never said it wasn’t their right. This is America, where you have the right to be ignorant, hateful, and a host of other undesirable things. By the same token, it’s my right to criticize when I see things that are ignorant and hateful. It’s called the “marketplace of ideas,” it’s how democracy allegedly works, and this all ought to be obvious to anybody who paid attention in school.

But the “it’s their right” position overlooks something important. Ever been passed over for a job that you were really qualified for? Ever not get a scholarship you deserved? Ever go through a period where things just weren’t happening for you and you had no idea why?

What if you were to find out that there was a reason for these things – you weren’t of the right religion? Well, it’s up to you if you want to believe that it’s okay to discriminate on the basis of religion, I guess, but is that really the America you’re so darned choked up about every 4th of July?

2: As they say in that article, they’re looking for character, and I think that’s a good thing.

Yes, I do, too. I think character is a critically important factor in the success of any organization, and I applaud them for figuring that out.

Of course, that’s not the issue. The problem is the implication that “character” is somehow synonymous with evangelical Christianity. First off, that’s an insult to everybody who isn’t of that religion. Second, the assertion ought to be an embarrassment to anyone who actually understands Christianity.

I grew up Southern Baptist in the South, so I know a thing or two about character and how it relates to that collection of religions. Some of the best people I ever met, including the grandmother who raised me, my wonderful little sister and the best man in my wedding, were and are Christians. So were some of the absolute most appalling scoundrels I ever ran across. Violent, abusive, racist – there is no negative human quality that is not an essential part of the nature of many American Christians.

By the same token, you find lots of character among non-Christians, too – in fact, I’m honored to claim as friends a good number of non-Christians whose character I’d stack up against any group of human beings on Earth.

If you think that “character” is exclusive to a particular religion, you’re a moron. I said it, I meant it, fuck you, and I won’t be apologizing for it anytime in this life.

3: They don’t really say that only Christians have character.

You’re really into semantic games, aren’t you? Look, they said what they said, and if you don’t get that you’re just trying to find a way to let them off the hook for something I suspect you know is wrong. If they thought character came in all religious persuasions we wouldn’t be having this conversation at all, now would we?

4: I think it’s great they do that – I’m a Christian.

Good for you. I hope it’s leading you down the path to a better life. But that’s not the issue, as I demonstrate above.

Let me try it this way. Say you read this in the paper:

We think character is important to the success of an organization. That’s why we’re seeking out white players.

You good with that? You gonna argue that they didn’t really say blacks and Latinos and Asians don’t have character, they just said that whites do? Go ahead – make the argument. The comment box awaits you.

But it’s not the same, you insist? Yes, it is. It’s damned well exactly the same.

And let’s test how you really feel on the subject. Say the story were that the Rockies were after character and as a result they refused to hire Christians into the organization. If you feel differently about these two propositions, then you need to sit down and have a hard look at yourself.

5: I don’t really worry about that stuff. I just like the team.

Hey, I’d like to like the team. It’s a great story if you can get past the discrimination.

But when you put your support and your dollars behind them, for whatever reasons, you’re endorsing the point of view, whether you want to admit it or not. And if you’re ponying up for tickets, merchandise, concessions, parking – and if you’re supporting their advertisers with your dollars – you’re paying them to continue discriminating.

During the Civil Rights movement they had it figured out. You stop patronizing those who act against you.

So there. That’s my reasoning. As a moral and thoughtful citizen, as a man who has worked his whole life to cultivate the kind of character required to be successful in life, I have an obligation to speak out against discrimination and injustice in my community.

I’ve never really thought of the Boston Red Sox organization as a beacon of liberty, exactly – they were just a baseball team I learned to love when I lived there. But I guess that’s the role they’ll be playing when Josh Beckett throws the first pitch tomorrow night.

Go Sox – and may the organization with superior character win.

75 replies »

  1. The thing is that a LOT of Christians I know agree with us. They’re just as appalled as I am at how things have been hijacked.

    I keep hoping people will come around, and they will eventually.

  2. Thanks for this, Sam. I’d been meaning to ask you to write about this. The Rockies’ practices are despicable, and you call it exactly as it is. Not that their defenders won’t engage in character assassination – which seems odd from those who esteem character as much as they say they do.

  3. I had forgotten this little bit of trivia about the Rockies, or perhaps just blocked it from my brain to defend myself from the stupidity.

    Of course, now I’m not just rooting for the Sox (which I was doing anyway), but also that what wins the Series is a homer from Kevin Youkilis, a heathen Jew.

  4. If it makes you feel any better, I think Youkilis is the only Jew left on the team now that Gabe Kapler and Adam Stern have been traded. So the Sox are that much closer to being able to give Team Jesus a run for their money.

  5. Great piece, Sam! I didn’t know any of this, and I’m not sure how I missed it.

    As for Christians, what I say to them is that I think there should be more of them, and the whole world should be FULL of them.

    It’s just that I never met a real one ;-).

  6. JSO: What’s remarkable is that since I moved back to Colorado several months ago I have found precisely two people who seemed to be aware of this. I guess the story got zero play out here, but it was in feckin’ USA Today, right? Stunning, really.

  7. Well, crap. Now I’m torn because I’ve grown to loathe the Red Sox over the summer but no way I can root for the Rockies, now. Stupid Mets. I blame them.

  8. Evidence that Christianity does not equal good sportsmanship:

    Forget the divine powers; he’s got at least a foot and a half on both those kids.

  9. Sox too. Below excerpt from Boston Globe article describes where they were in 2005, though it’s the players, not the organization, as with the Rockies:

    As the Sunday baseball crowd streamed into the park less than an hour before the defending world champions played their 128th game of the season, a dozen members of the Red Sox — the largest group of evangelical Christians on any team in Major League Baseball — joined an equal number of coaches and staffers in sharing a bond of faith that is fast becoming the stuff of national renown among religious figures in sports.

    Similar contrasts in the size of the Sox congregations and others have seized the attention of baseball chaplains across the country.

    ”Without question, chapel attendance among the Red Sox has been far and away more than any of the major league teams over the last two years,” said Vince Nauss, president of Baseball Chapel.

    Trot Nixon, Mike Timlin, Tim Wakefield, Jason Varitek, Curt Schilling, Doug Mirabelli, Bill Mueller, Matt Clement, John Olerud, Mike Myers, Tony Graffanino, Chad Bradford: Each Sox player considers himself an evangelical Christian who believes in the sacred authority of the Bible and the promise of Jesus Christ as his savior.

    ”In terms of coming to Bible study and chapel, this team has more guys involved than any team I’ve ever been with,” said Olerud, who has played for five teams over 17 seasons in the majors.

  10. A number of those guys – a majority, actually – are no longer with the Sox and I have no idea what it’s like there now. And what individual players do is a very different thing from a corporate mandate.

  11. Sam:

    Agreed. To me, that has always been the essence of the First Amendment’s establishment clause. By all means, those who are religious should be able to practice it, with others, whenever they want. They may not, however, discriminate against others or use public means to advance their religion.

  12. I’ve always considered christianity to be a fake religion anyway. So maybe that’s why it draws the people it does.

    Atlanta has Bobby Cox, John Smoltz, and Chipper Jones to name a few of crew. St Louis has Tony LaRussa and a few to name a few.

    Baseball itself stopped being fun to watch when Whitey Herzog (the best damn manager in base-a-ball even if he says so hisself) and Davey Johnson left.

    So these days it’s futbol, rugby, and sailing. And if push comes to shove, then yes, I’ll take the BoSox this year.

  13. Hey Sam,

    It’s the same for me. Go Soxs! Both Kelly and I just returned from Boston and were there when they won the ALCS. Kelly got to really see how crazy Boston really gets for the Soxs. A small war has started in the house as she is routing for the Rockies.

    I also think that this will be the only chance the Rockies have. I’m sure, by next season, any decent player that the Rockies have will be snapped up by the Yankees. Throwing insane amounts of cash at players is what the Yankees do.

    Also, when are we doing the BBQ that you were promising?

  14. A small war has started in the house as she is routing for the Rockies.

    You need to git control of yer woman, boy. 🙂

    And make her read this post.

    I also think that this will be the only chance the Rockies have. I

  15. Well, then….I see that Karl has already weighed in on this matter, so there is little else for me to say except a big thanks for giving me a reason to root against the Rockies. And get Karl to tell you why the doorman at Bukowski’s in Back Bay wouldn’t let me in to watch the last 3 innings of the game on Sunday. Apparently, I have strong mojo.

    Also – my theory up until I read this post was that the Rockies had performed virgin goat sacrifices to the devil. Now, of course, I see who they were really sacrificing those goats to….

  16. Well, they’ve been Christian for awhile, and up until the last month they were hardly world-beaters. So maybe the story about how they sold their souls to the devil simply hasn’t surfaced yet….

  17. In the NON-Christian church I attend we say “Many paths, ONE truth.”

    And the TRUTH is that the Rockies have been the BEST TEAM in baseball since June, and they are in the middle of THE best end of season/playoff runs in the HISTORY of the game.

    They DESERVE to win the World Series, and even a heathen like me is dancing merrily on the bandwagon!


    Centennial, CO

  18. Krash: religious issues aside, your sense of the baseball facts is a bit off. Before their amazing end-of-season run began they were only a couple games over .500.

    And they’ve been the best team in the NL since then. But the NL is significantly weaker, overall, than the AL. That may not matter over the next week, but let’s at least stick as close to the facts as we can while we’re pretending it’s okay for America to discriminate on the basis of theology.

  19. Sam,

    I am pretty sure that if you go back and look, you will see that from June, forward, the Rockies have had the best winning percentage in MLB.

    Regarding the whole “Team Jesus” thing, first of all, I think its “overblown” and, secondly, this is one issue that EVEN I refuse to politicize. I have four bumper stickers on my Volvo –

    Move On’s “Endless (End This) War”


    “DraftGore.Com” and,

    “Colorado isn’t RED. And it isn’t BLUE. Its PURPLE! Go Rockies!”

    Welcome to Rocktober!

  20. I’m not accusing you of politicizing it or asking you to. I’m noting that THE TEAM has done so, and when we cheer on organizations that put your money to work discriminating against people on the grounds of race, religion, politics, whatever, we are supporting those activities.

    You can tell yourself whatever you like. I’m just here to point out the facts.

  21. I love the clearly embedded assumptions of fact in this article. First, God exists. Second, “faith” is not to be confused with “superstition.”

    Wonderful stuff, this thing we call “journalism.”

  22. I totally agree. Wish I paid attention to the World Series. Haha.

    But yes, I agree that it singles out an institution that has dubious/ambivalent character.

  23. If you make me make a pick (I’m Boston born and bred btw) I pick the Sox. I have to say though that a particular piece of Sox history was how “white” they were purposefully and for how long. Sox in six.

  24. That race thing has always been an issue in Boston, even if it’s more complex than some acknowledge. Still, the city seems to have embraced a number of non-whites on this team, so hopefully that’s all behind us.

  25. The Sox have phenom rookie Jacoby….He of Indian heritage and blood. And we all know how they fared against those aggressive “christians.”

    But this time around, those pesky, bloody foot, soldiers should take care of this rocky teams’ tomfoolery, by game 6.

    Never mix occupation with spiritual aspirations.. or in other words…
    those Rox are so heavenly-bound-they are no earthy good!

  26. With the exception of “old man” Todd Helton, the Kid Rox are one of the youngest teams in the league. They also have one of the smallest payrolls in MLB.

    And yet, they are playing with the calm confidence of a defending Champion.

    Tonight’s game will tell you whether they “cooled off” during long break. If they win tonight, they will become the first team EVER to sweep the playoffs and the World Series! Rox in 4.

    If they lose tonight, it’ll be Rox in 6.


  27. Heh. The Rockies were on the best streak in baseball- until they took the last 3 weeks off and then got snowed in. Boston in 4.

  28. I live in Colorado and was a Rockies fan until I read an article regarding the subject of your column. It make me sick to my stomach. I instantly became a fan of the other four teams in the National League West. This year all my friends are simply Rockies crazy. I decided to be a good guy by not pooping on their party, so I became an ambivalent Rockies rooter.

    Then, when they won the pennant and Charley Monfort screamed out, spittle flying everywhere, “praise god!” Like god gives a damn about Charley Charley Monfort’s baseball team. I was just starting to feel good for the players and he ruined it. I turned the TV off.

    I’m still not going to poop my friends parties. I’m going to watch the series at home and silently root for a team with characters. And when Boston scores I’ll shout “praise jesus!”

  29. I might once have felt the way you do, but now I’ve realized that remaining silent on this issue enables it. It allows it to go unquestioned, which eventually makes it normal and accepted and unquestionable by default.

  30. Well I don’t know what to do. I normally root for the Astros, but that didn’t turn out so well this year. I can’t stand the Red Sox, and now it looks like the Rockies aren’t so hot either (I never liked them; just couldn’t figure out why). So do I root for the discriminating front office or the hyped-more-than-they’re-worth players?

  31. I take it back, I did enjoy watching the Little League World Series this summer. Of course I was rooting for Japan and the US won. But oh well….

  32. Great, I’m a Yankee fan and a lover of separation of church and state. Hard to root for a tie. This is like trying to pick a winner in a fistfight between Bush and Cheney. I’m rooting for evil either way.

  33. For all of you who are feeling ambivalent about who to root for, here’s an option for you: don’t root for either. Watch a movie, read a book, take a class, fly a kite, or, if you positively need your sports fix, go for hockey, football, soccer, rugby, tennis, badminton, curling, or whatever else that isn’t baseball.

  34. I have no dog in this fight. The only three teams in baseball, I ever think about rooting for are the Cubbies, because of the late great a dearly lamented Mike Royko; and the Cards, because my father grew up in StL and we always listened to the games on the radio driving through the heartland for summer vacations; and the underdog always.

    That said, the Red Sox pissed me off when their pitcher campaigned for Bush over Kerry. And dammit Il Duce says he was rooting for the Sox. How can a Yankee fan ever root for the RedSox? But, Oy I think Pete Coors is terribly icky, and hate his politics and I deplore religiousizing every damned thing.

    So, I have no idea who to cheer on. Normally it would be the Rockies. I do loves me some underdog. But I find it appalling that the Coors and the team would take a World Series win to mean that God actually agreed with them and cared about a damned baseball game.

    So, all I can ask really, Sam, what the heck is up with the oxygen in your state? Seriously, you folks in CO have produced, or at least given homes to some of the most rabid Xtianists in the country. Focus on the Family? AirForce Academy evangelicals? The Rockies and their “Only4Christ players”?

    I have an aunt and uncle who moved there after he retired from Austin and he’s gone all right-wing, militant Catholic on us. He was raised Episcopalian, but converted to catholocism when he got married. And he wears a white bracelet to stp abortions. So is it something in the very air they breathe? Altitude sickness? I mean what is it?

    Anyway, obviously I don’t take baseball seriously enough to actually comment on the relative merits of either team.

    And if truth be told, God really only cares about college football! 😛

    Boomer Sooner!!!

  35. Dee – one of the least well known ironies of Colorado is that Colorado Springs, home to Focus on the Family and the Air Force Academy evangelical proselytizing scandals, also has one of the greatest concentration of neo-pagans in the state.

  36. Dee: First off, if I recall all the ownership structure properly, the Coors family has very little to do with the team. I think Coors corporate owns a small percentage, but then so does the Tribune company.

    As for the altitude, yeah, we have our nutjobs, but at the same time we also have some of the more progressive pockets in the US. It’s a weird state that way. Plenty of old-line Western conservatism (land and water rights crowd), some of the neo-fruitcakes (Dobson, et al), but the Boulder/Denver area is completely different. Except for the Rockies.

  37. Hubris rants are a dime a dozen but ts good that you got that load of humus off your mind. It is just a baseball game. And the Rockies are just another team. And how a company runs it’s business is that companies right. There are those in baseball that would offer up complaints on how the Yankees and Reds have abused their wealth and position to buy a baseball team that makes it almost impossible for small market teams like the Pirates and Twins to survive. Now if you had written something along that line it would have had some merit.

  38. thescoundrel: Thanks for commenting. I take it you didn’t make it all the way down to my first numbered and boldfaced point, huh? That’s okay – I’m sure you’re busy.

    In the future, remember that simply restating a point that has already been made and answered is neither a response nor a rebuttal. It simply makes clear that you don’t know how to deal with the argument.

    Also, we’re well aware of the OTHER problems afflicting baseball and don’t feel an obligation to address every possible issue in the world in every single post. Now if you had written something explaining why the Norman Conquest had a lingustic impact on the English language that’s still being felt today, your comment would have had some merit.

  39. I didn’t even know Boston still had fans. I could of swore I saw a bunch of Sox fans jumping ship in mid August when the Yanks were creeping up on them. Of course then again the Rockies didn’t sell out a game until the last two weeks of the season. I think you need to be covering a more important baseball storys Sam. Like who’s going to manage the Yankees, or maybe a little D-Rays ball.

  40. Hey, Darrell, shouldn’t you be focusing more on football season? I mean, you’re a BIlls fan, right? Trust me, you have far worse things to worry about than baseball…

  41. I don’t have to worry about the Bills, can you say sleeper! I assume you are talking about that whole playing a game in Toronto, or our f’d up owner. We’re used to that up here. Every year they want to move the Bills because no one buys luxury suites, but the stadium is sold out. I find it funny, 6 years ago the Pats almost moved becasue they wanted a new stadium and had so-so attendance, they were also one of the least valuable franchises. It just shows that the NFL is in the stadium building business. Oh yeah, It’s also amazing what winning will do!

    A) I wish Ralf would sell the team to someone like Mark Cuban.

    B) I wish they would put togother a team that competes at least for a playoff spot.

    Also your Broncos are only 500 and should have lost to my Bills.

  42. My Broncos are their own trainwreck, and that ain’t the issue. But yeah, Cuban owning the NFL’s first Canadian franchise, that has a certain appeal….

  43. Not going to happen. This is the same thing they did to Greenbay when they split time with Milwaukee. Unfortunatly the NFL will not allow a deal like that again. However there are enough interested rich people in the area waiting to make a bid. However we have an owner thar refuses to sell right now, and his kids don’t want to own an NFL team. I wish my dad gave me a team.

  44. It’s only a matter of time. Wilson is old, his kids can’t afford to keep it because of the inheritance tax, and it’s not likely there’s anybody else who would buy it and keep it there.

    I hate it for the city and region, but I suspect your team is headed for LA.

  45. And what do you think about the Sox owners loaning their jet to the CIA to carry people on rendtion flights to other counties to be tortured ?

  46. Wilson continues to not take advantage of money making opportunities. Something as simple as selling the naming rights to the stadium, or minor updates to the stadium. I the area around the stadium is crappy as well. What most teams are starting to do, and what i always though was a good idea is to build plaza like areas around the stadium. Almost like a mini mall. Wilson has tons of money. He gets all the money from any event held at the Ralf, he also doesn’t have to pay for stadium updates, tax payers pay for it. He’s just too cheap, and too old. He needs some “next generation” thinking

  47. If the jet is being leased for those purposes, it shouldn’t have been. If the owner knew and approved, I hope he’s held accountable for helping violate the law.

    However, knowing how business can work, it’s entirely possible that he had no idea. Like if you owned a beach property and you had a management company rent it out when you weren’t using it. Then you find out that people were sacrificing babies to Satan in it.

    Yeah, it’s your place, but…

    Not saying this is what happened, of course. Just that I can see how it might.

  48. He knew the CIA was taking to Gitmo and “hoped” it was being put to good use. Okay – that makes him naive, at best. I can believe he had no clue about the rendition, although I suppose I could believe that he did, as well.

    Still and all, as best I can tell this would represent bad behavior on the part of one person attached to an organization at worst. Doesn’t make it okay, but it also comes nowhere near the kind of overtly discriminatory organizational policy this post is about.

  49. Well , you are clearly pre disposed to give him all the benefit of the doubt regardless of the evidence . It was known early on that torture was going on there and that the purpose of using Cuba was to avoid due process . Anyone smart enough to be a successfull businessman should be smart enough to know the history of the CIA use of aircraft over the years was rarely benign . At any rate it isn’t an either or thing . Nor is naive a legal or moral defence .

  50. Gary: You need to re-read what I actually said. Saying that I’m “clearly pre disposed to give him all the benefit of the doubt regardless of the evidence” is a fairly offensive mischaracterization of what I said – and my words are right there on the page for all to see.

  51. Compare Bush and Steinbrenner. There can be only one Satan and he is W. This isn’t to say Steinbrenner isn’t a minor demon of some kind, I know he is an evil man but let us not lose perspective here. Steinbrenner didn’t attack Iraq or engage in rendition. The closest he came to having a personal gulag is the minor leagues, which I think anyone will tell you is still a hell of a lot better than Guantanamo BaY.