Old Dogs That Bite
I have four kids and I love to watch them play their sports. On a recent Friday night, I attended my son’s baseball game. The umpire in charge seemed to be very prickly. In fact, fans were warned to be on good behavior because he was known for tossing people out. The game was going along smoothly and the score was in our favor, then suddenly it happened.
It seemed like a bad dream. Saturday morning I woke up and it was still a reality. During the bottom of the fourth inning the other team changed pitchers. There was a break. One of the kids had asked about using the bathroom which was locked. A parent found a maintenance man and asked about the situation only to be told that a port-a-john would need to be used. The parent walked over to the dugout and told a player to tell the others about the bathroom situation. Suddenly… from behind home plate the umpire yells that the player who was speaking to the parent was ejected. It happened to be my son.
Wow. Are you kidding? Really? He wasn’t even out of the dugout. Okay, so now he is out of this game… because he was listening to a good Samaritan’s information. It has rolled in my brain since then. Less than 24 hours later, this is what I think.
Umpires and referees, especially since instant replay, have been under pressure to make the right calls. You may remember the perfect game pitched by Detroit’s Armando Gallaraga, not because the record books show a perfect game, but because the first base umpire blew the call on the last batter of the game and broke up the perfect game and no-hitter. Gallaraga showed ultimate class in the situation. He took the high road.
I write this today, not to degrade the umpire, but to say that I feel sorry for the umpire at my son’s game. From my childhood, I remember a neighbor who abused his dog. The dog was fenced and when anyone got close to it, it growled, barked, and snapped. Eventually it bit a kid and had to be put down. Sadly, the dog had been treated so poorly, it didn’t know anything but defense mechanisms. The umpire behind home plate strikes me the same way. According to sources, he has been a good umpire over the years.
This event made me think about how it must have been for Jewish people who lived in Jesus’ day. Living in strict accordance to the Law was the rule. Every move you made was watched carefully and scrutinized. Life like that would have been oppressive. Eventually you might find yourself not wanting to be around people at all. The story of the Good Samaritan comes to mind. Jewish men refuse to help a beaten man on the side of the road because they were afraid to “get their hands dirty.” Jesus commended the Samaritan and praised his actions for being more concerned for people than the letter of the law. The letter of the law stood and there was no grace. In everyday life, that still seems to happen. In this case, an extremely minor rule was broken, and the kid got punished to the extreme. I find it appalling that a kid was hurt in the process. He not only was kicked out of that game, but the next tournament game too.
This may sound odd, but if that event was going to happen to someone, I am glad it was to my son. I am not going to say that I wasn’t angry, I was. But, I didn’t say anything I would regret and I am not looking to get even. In fact, I have forgiven the umpire. But in the process, I believe it will build my son’s character and mine. Life is not always fair. The next time I see that umpire, I will look at him differently because I believe God gave me the remembrance of the abused dog I knew years ago as a symbol of a man who has probably put up with a lot over the years and is just unaware of what he has become. Thank God the Good News of Jesus Christ is about grace and not about keeping the letter of the law – or we would all be thrown out of God’s game! Until next time, Blessings!