Baseball in September

There is something wonderfully Christian about September, especially baseball in September.

It starts as something in the air. The heat dies down, the wind picks up, the leaves start to fall. One season is giving way to another, and in some stories, this would be pure gloom.

The Drama Otherwise

In some stories, it would mean that summer is done, and thus flourishing — signified in all the green — is coming to an end. It would mean that the pleasure of warm sunshine is vanity, that Winter is right around the corner, eager to remind us of the tragedy known as life in this world. That story is the age-old pessimism — a staple of pagan thought — that considers all things positive to be degenerating. As Peter Leithart explains in Deep Comedy, motion, according to classical viewpoints on reality, trended from good to worse. It saw all movement as intrinsically sad in the long run, including the changing seasons.

We’re tempted to see things this way, too — like the sentiment expressed so pointedly in The Head and the Heart’s “Winter Song” —

Summer gone, now Winter’s on its way.
I will miss the days we had. . . .
Has time driven our season away?
‘Cause that’s the way it seems.

Or we might just put it like Green Day:

Summer has come and passed
The innocent can never last
Wake me up when September ends.

We’d easily see things this bleak if it wasn’t so contrary to the gospel. And we’d might even drift toward this kind of pessimism if God hadn’t given us things like baseball in September to dramatize otherwise.

Why Are You Crying?

Baseball in September does mark the end of something, but it is far from tragic.

In fact, the end of baseball’s regular season, which comes in September, is when things actually ramp up for the play-offs. Then the play-offs, taking place in October, concludes with a World Series Champion — the likes of which the United States has seen every year since 1884.

Yes, one team wins, the others lose — but the focus is always on the victor. The whole season wraps up in a celebration — a eulogy of the game in totality. Every fan, even of the losing team, tips their cap in a kind farewell as the game humbly yields to the cold and finds, as it were, its resting place.

That is what September is saying for baseball. It reminds us that the season is drawing to a close, and though there are some exciting days ahead, the end is nearer. And I suppose, if we were unaware of the biblical storyline, if we didn’t see its connectedness to the things around us, if we didn’t realize there’s no crying in baseball, this would all make us sad (especially if you’re a Brewers fan).

For Dust Like Us

But the thing we must remember — the melody of these last September games — is that even when the season is all over, it will start again. There will be a Spring. Easter baseball will be back.

Baseball, unique from other sports, follows this natural calendar — starting in Spring, ending before Winter, only to be resurrected again the next Spring. It has been that way for over a hundred years. This game — this little, creaturely game — is saying more than it knows.

That’s how I teach baseball to my son. I toss him a ball. He swings, he misses, he gets frustrated. “But son,” I come back, “You get three strikes! You get three outs! You have nine innings! Getting a hit three out of ten times is great!”

The game is almost a scandal. It is almost unbelievable, I explain — incredibly hard, but amazingly gracious. Jesus is the only perfect man to ever live, I tell him, and baseball is a game for dust like us.

No, Not Here

Baseball is, if I might say, a game that resonates with the human soul. It is infused with grace, and it moves along with the seasons, reminding us how time works — reminding us that in God’s economy there is never a final end, that every night has a morning, that every Winter has a Spring. There is no such thing as tragedy. Not here. Not in this world. Not when Death has been defeated, not when the tomb is empty, not when the Champion reigns.

That is what baseball in September says.