Thursday, March 11, 2010

No More Nomar

All have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, but they have been justified by his grace as a gift, through the redemption that is in Jesus Christ.
Romans 3:23-24


“No-mah! No-mah! No-mah!”

A decade ago, that was the chant that rocked Fenway Park all summer long.

Ted Williams compared him to Joe DiMaggio. At his peak, he was a great player. In 1999 he batted .357 and in 2000 he hit .372. Ted loved Nomar’s ability to put the bat on the ball and hit it hard almost every time. In those two years, he struck a combined total of just 89 times. That’s Ted Williams territory.

It seems long ago, but in those years when people argued about who was the best shortstop, the big three were Nomar, Alex Rodriguez and Derek Jeter. In the early summer of 2004 I remember looking at the batting stats in the paper. Jeter was in a slump and Nomar was on a tear, and I thought that the argument would finally be put to rest, and our guy would be the unanimous choice. But before that year was over, Nomar had been traded and his baseball career went into a steep decline.

I will always be sorry that he was not part of the 2004 championship. Others argue that he had a bad attitude at the end, and the team had to move him. Nomar was unhappy then, in part because he was always paid a lot less than the other great shortstops. He accepted that for a long time without complaint, and when he did complain, he was gone.

But yesterday he came back to the Red Sox for one day. It was always his wish, he said, to retire in a Red Sox uniform. His heart, he said, had always been in Boston.

On the radio, in the land of sports talk, the trend was heavily anti-Nomar. They suspected him of being dishonest when he said he loved Boston. There were strange conspiracy theories about why he had done this, and what the Red Sox had to gain.

Why is it so hard for us to accept things at face value?

Why do we feel so compelled to look for hidden motives?

Why do we so often think the worst of others?

Why do we find it so hard to forgive the real and imagined slights of others?

The answer, says the Apostle Paul, is buried deep in our own lives. We are sinners. And we project our inner conflicts, contradictions and estrangement on the rest of the world. Nomar, of course, is as guilty as the rest of us. We all fall short. We all have mixed motives. But by God’s grace made visible in Christ Jesus, we are made whole. Our estrangement is overcome. We are at home.

Yesterday Nomar came home to the Red Sox. That's where he belongs. If he could still play shortstop, if would be perfect.

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