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No Fickle Fan
September 17, 2008
A couple of weeks ago, I went to watch the Toronto Blue Jays take on the Tampa Bay Rays (baseball, for those of you who may not follow professional sports). For the first time in recent memory I went to the game on back-to-back days, both Friday and Saturday. When they announced the group that would sing the national anthems for Saturday afternoon’s game, I knew I was where I needed to be that day. The singers were The Calvinist Cadets.
The reason I went to both games was that the Rays were in town and with them was Ben Zobrist, whom you may remember from this interview I did with him back before the season began. I met Ben while speaking at a conference down in Nashville and we had agreed that when he was in Toronto, we’d meet up for dinner after a game. Injuries and trips to the AAA team had kept him out of Toronto for the Rays’ previous two trips through Toronto, but this weekend he was here. On Friday my son wanted to go and see him play, so I took him to the game and we met up there with a friend. On Saturday Aileen and I went off to take in the game and we then enjoyed dinner with Ben and his wife (who travels with him through most of the season). I even bumped into a reader of this site at the game (Hi, David!).
As we were sitting out in the stands, I began to think what it would be like to have a job that provided instant feedback. When you’re a player in the Major Leagues, everything you do well is met with applause and everything you do poorly is met with icy silence or with loud boos. One day’s hero is so easily the next day’s goat. When B.J. Ryan, the Jays’ closer, charged onto the field in the ninth inning to try to nail down the save, the crowd went wild. When he struck a man out, there were loud cheers. But, when he gave up three runs to tie the game, he walked off the field to a chorus of boos. The crowd was fickle, expecting him to do his job and to do it right—and to do it all in front of their watching eyes. He had a bad day and the crowd let him know what they thought of that. One day he nailed the save and was loved; the next day he blew the save and was reviled.
Now maybe there is something to be said for the argument that when a guy’s weekly paycheck comes out at almost $200,000, as B.J. Ryan’s does, you expect him to do his job right (Can you imagine heading to the bank every Friday afternoon to deposit a check for $200,000?). But I still wonder what it would be like if we all received such instant feedback in our vocations. What would I do differently if I turned around to see a crowd sitting behind me, watching my every move? What would my day be like if every time I wrote a good sentence or created a good line of HTML code the crowd went wild; and what would it be like if every time I wrote something stupid or broke an otherwise good site layout, a chorus of boos arose behind me? It wouldn’t be much of a life.
I am grateful for grace. There is One who watches me at all times and who must sometimes shake His head in amazement as I blow yet another save or write yet another chunk of bad code or thoughtless prose. And though I deserve the jeers and the jabs, He extends grace. I am glad that, far more often than not, it is only He who sees my failings, for He is the source of all grace and comfort. He is no fickle fan, but the One who loves freely, who loves with a steadfast, gracious love.