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Keeping sports in perspective

By Dr. Thurman R. Hayes

For the past 108 years, the mantra of Chicago Cubs fans has been, “Wait ’til next year!” Finally, “next year” has arrived. The Cubs are World Series Champions.

I am a diehard New York Yankees fan. Still, even when my team isn’t playing, I love to watch the playoffs, and this year’s World Series was especially intriguing, since it featured two historic, hard-luck teams, the Cubs and the Indians.

I’ve had a chance to attend a few Cubs games at Wrigley Field in Chicago. Trust me: The passion of the fans there is real. There are generations of families that have grown up passionately pulling for this team to finally break through and win it all.

That’s what makes baseball so special. It’s the bonds the game creates among those who pull for a particular team, especially within families.

Baseball did that for my dad and me. It has also done it for my son and me. Our shared affection for the Yankees deepens our affection for one another. Going to their games and talking about the team has deepened our relationship.

Like lots of good things, sports can become an idol if we lose perspective. But as long as we keep it in perspective, sports can add a healthy layer of richness to lives and relationships.

One who has managed to keep it in perspective is the Cubs’ Ben Zobrist, who was named the Most Valuable Player of this incredible World Series. Ben grew up the son of a pastor and committed his life to Christ at an early age.

Many athletes talk about God in a shallow way. There is nothing shallow about Ben Zobrist. He’s the real deal. He is a sincere follower of Christ and active in his local church. He also knows his Bible.

About a year ago, I heard an interview with Ben in which he said this:

“I listen to those interviews after people win the Super Bowl or the World Series and stuff and sometimes I’m like, we’re missing it. If we are believers and we’re telling people, ‘Look, you work hard and do it as unto the Lord and you’re going to be successful,’ that’s not what life is all about.

“I hear people use Philippians 4:13, ‘I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me,’ as like their pump-up verse that’s gonna allow them to do things on the field they’ve never done before. When you really look at that passage, the apostle Paul is saying, ‘I can even do jail, and misery, and weakness through Christ who strengthens me.’

“For me, I have to realize if that’s the truth, when I fail I need to give God glory just as much as when I succeed. If through that people can see that my hope is not in my success or failure, it’s in Him, then so be it. Let that be for God’s glory.”

Ben came through in the most clutch moment imaginable in Game 7, giving his team the lead. He will forever be a hero in Chicago.

But he will keep his fame in perspective, because he knows the real Hero, the One who triumphed over death itself.

Dr. Thurman R. Hayes is senior pastor of First Baptist Church of Suffolk. Follow him on Twitter at @ThurmanHayesJr.