|UDGING FROM THE way the Major League playoffs are unfolding, it looks like Detroit is destined to win its first World Series since 1984. They're only three years removed from a 119-loss season, they've got a stable of hot young pitchers, they've got the crusty but inspiring Jim Leyland as manager.|
If the script plays out right, the Tigers will be champs, just like the Red Sox were two years ago in their magical run, just like the charming, small-balling White Sox were last year. And as an added twist, Detroit's hero will be pitcher Kenny Rogers, the veteran who pushed around a cameraman last year but has changed his ways (I'm just telling you what the script says).
The script must be followed, mustn't it? That's what we're trained to believe by Hollywood, that purveyor of perfect endings. Most of the movies and shows they make have the happy resolution, especially the sports movies (Hoosiers, The Natural, For the Love of the Game, etc.). Heck, our "reality" shows are basically scripted. We've come to expect everything to work out the way we want it to.
And doesn't it? Didn't Raymond Borque win his first NHL Stanley Cup in the final game of his 22-year career? Didn't Jerome Bettis win his first Super Bowl in the last season of his illustrious career?
But if we'd look closely at the sports world, we would see that Hollywood endings are quite rare.
Matt Leinart's stellar college football career ended not with a third straight national championship for Southern Cal, but with a loss to Texas in the last title game.
Michael Jordan's game-winning shot in his final NBA All-Star Game turned out not to be so when Kobe Bryant countered with two free throws to send the game into a second overtime (Jordan's East squad lost).
The New York Yankees did not win the World Series following 9/11. Lost it in dramatic fashion, in fact.
We tend to forget the unhappy endings, even though one man's unhappy ending is another's happy ending, at least in sports. We prefer life to be tidy. We prefer that those who seem the most deserving of success get just that.
When that doesn't happen, we get angry and bitter. When God doesn't make things happen the way we think He should, we often get angry at Him. We can't believe He doesn't do what's best. What's He thinking?
Well, that's like those message board zealots who criticize a football coach for starting this player over that one or running this play instead of that one. Thing is, they know a lot less than the coach about the team and what the players are capable of, and what is ultimately trying to be accomplished. Our culture is afflicted with near-sightedness.
So we have a clash of perception and reality, and we don't know how to handle the resulting disappointment. What must be learned is how to accept the reality and try to understand the significance of it. We cannot possibly know the greater plan God has in store. Finite man cannot grasp the infinite mind of God, nor can he fully comprehend why everything happens as it does. If anyone tries to tell you he's got life all figured out, ask him what he's either (a) selling or (b) smoking.
I guarantee you, almost every script you come up with will be rejected by God. He doesn't need to be told how things should turn out or who should win. Sometimes things will turn out like we want, but usually not for the reasons we think. God's vision exceeds ours.
For the record, even though I'm a St. Louis fan, I expect the Tigers will win the World Series. Not because they're supposed to, but because they've got great pitching. They don't need a script.
Brad Locke (firstname.lastname@example.org) is a sports journalist in Tupelo, Mississippi.
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