Perhaps you saw the mention in Sunday’s Sports section about the Christian iconography on the mound at Busch Stadium.
Apparently, somebody on the grounds crew etches a cross into the dirt.
Perhaps that’s appropriate. This is a Christian team, and the Christianity leans toward the evangelical side. Rob Rains has written a book about team members and their faith. He quotes manager Mike Matheny, who brought up the subject of faith in one of his first team meetings last spring.
“I am not going to shove my faith down your throat, but when the opportunity presents itself, don’t expect me to walk away. This is who I am, and Jesus Christ is at the center of my life. It’s all that I am, every day, every decision that I make. I’m going to stand up and tell you what I believe is true.”
That’s an attitude I admire. Be who you are, but don’t shove your beliefs down anybody’s throat.
Although I am not very religious myself, I am not against public displays of faith. I have argued on behalf of Nativity scenes on public squares at Christmas. After all, it’s Christmas. It’s not the Winter Festival. It’s the celebration of the birth of Christ. Why not have a Nativity scene?
Still, I look at the photos of that cross etched on the mound and I get an uneasy feeling. What does religion have to do with baseball?
I understand, of course, that people have always injected religion into sports. Some athletes point toward the heavens when things go well. I doubt that God has much of a role in these games, but if somebody wants to give credit to a higher power, fine.
In the 1965 World Series, Dodgers pitcher Sandy Koufax refused to play in the first game because it fell on Yom Kippur. Actually, that sounds pretty cool. That is really living your faith.
This is also — how can I say it? —the nicest Cardinals team I can recall. At least, the players appear nice from a distance.
David Freese is a hometown kid who seems thrilled to play for the team he loved as a kid. Matt Holliday moved his family here and has become part of the community. I was at a hockey game last winter and I saw Chris Carpenter sitting nearby. Not in a luxury box, but in the stands with the regular fans. Matheny lives here and even coached a kids’ team here.
Matheny stands in sharp contrast to the brooding Tony La Russa, who always acted like a midnight man in a 9 o’clock town. And then there was his sidekick, the sulking, chemically enhanced Mark McGwire. It was easy to root against the Cardinals then. Much tougher these days.
Still, I look at photos of that cross etched on the mound and I get the same sort of uneasy feeling I get when I hear the phrase “homeland security.” It used to be “national security.” Why did “national” morph into “homeland”? It happened about the same time politicians started wearing American flag lapel pins.
I get the same feeling when I hear about the recently leaked information on surveillance programs. The government monitors our phone calls and online activities.
Frankly, the feds are not going to get anything on me. They might come to the conclusion that I’m a jerk, but I’m not doing anything illegal.
Besides, I’m scared about terrorism. I’m convinced that fanatical, dedicated people with access to a lot of money want to do us great harm. If all this surveillance helps stop them, great.
But still, I feel uneasy about it. I can’t help but think of George Orwell.
Now there’s a cross etched on to the mound at Busch Stadium. Certainly, the players don’t seem bothered by it. Adam Wainwright told the Post-Dispatch’s Derrick Goold that the cross, and a looping figure said to represent Stan Musial’s number 6, had been there for all his starts.
The tribute to Musial seems harmless. Not so the cross. Does religion need to be that prominent in a baseball game?
I’m not pretending it’s a big deal. But still, I have an uneasy feeling about a cross etched on the mound.