instruere...inlustrare...delectare Disputations

Saturday, June 09, 2007

What has Cooperstown to do with Jerusalem?

Granted, athletes talking about their religion is better than politicians talking about their religion. But really, can they say much beyond the stock, "I give God all the glory"? And doesn't that always imply (as countless columnists have suggested) that the guy they beat should give God all the blame?

With these and similar thoughts, I wasn't all that enthusiastic when I first heard about "Champions of Faith," a movie in which "baseball's biggest stars reveal how their faith guides and sustains their spectacular Major League careers." It's a production of Catholic Exchange, so I figured it was done with good intent, but on the whole, I'd be more interested in a movie about how faith guides and sustains mediocre scrub leaguers.

Still, when I was offered a review copy, I figured I could always take a quick look, then pass it on to someone I know who uses sports in his work with Catholic youth.

Well, as Rich Donnelly says in the movie, "There are two kinds of people in this world: those who are humble, and those who are about to be." As I started the DVD, I was about to be humbled by the humble, honest, and forthright expressions of faith it contained.

It wasn't just all the baseball players who said, "All the success, fame, and money in the world doesn't matter. What matters is living right with God." That's good to hear -- particularly good for kids -- but it's not really too hard for successful, famous, and rich men to say.

The greater lesson, I think, was that living right with God was necessary for them to succeed (with fame and money following success). It's not sufficient, of course -- I doubt Bl. Hyacinth Cormier would have won many batting titles -- a fact overlooked by those countless columnists who make fun of athletes who thank God for their victory.

The point isn't that an active faith makes one ballplayer better than another. It's that it makes him better than he would be otherwise. And that's true of everyone, regardless of what they do for a living.

On top of that, "Champions of Faith: Baseball Edition" is a genuinely well-made movie. The narrator occasionally oversells his words, but I was impressed by the film's professionalism and quality. (As with athletics, some people think living right with God suffices to make them good movie-makers; the people involved in this have talent as well.)

So while I'd still be interested in a movie about how faith guides and sustains mediocre scrub leaguers, I really enjoyed "Champions of Faith," and I think it would be ideal for Catholic youth groups or high school sports teams. (There's even a companion guide with discussion questions included.)