How Not To Repent; Or, The Houston Astros Scandal


If you follow sports at all, you probably know that the Houston Astros were caught cheating. Back in 2017, when they “won” the World Series, they were stealing the signs catchers gave to their pitchers by using a center field camera. They then used a low tech method of communicating to their hitters what pitch was going to be thrown. Major league players have uniformly said that the biggest advantage a hitter can have is if he knows what pitch is coming.

Punishment was handed out by the commissioner of Major League Baseball, and managers and front office execs got fired. Then this week, as spring training is starting, the Astros players and their owner issued what they said were apologies. Except those short little speeches sounded as if they belonged in a Reeses Pieces commercial: “Not sorry.”

Rather, the sentiment seemed to be, yes, we got caught doing something the rules said we weren’t supposed to do, but it didn’t really help us and we won the World Series because we were just such a great team.

At one point the owner said, the cheating “didn’t really give them an advantage.” Then in the same interview he tried to backtrack and say it was an advantage but one that didn’t really help them.

Mostly, the most outspoken guys seemed to be saying, Sorry we got caught. A few others said, Sorry I didn’t do something to stop it.

I think that last is probably the best. There’s at least an admission of responsibility.

The other guys? Not so much. There was a lot of circular arguing, maintaining that they actually did win the big prize though they did cheat all year long. But, you see, they were quick to say, they could only cheat during their home games. When they were on the road, they didn’t have the benefit of their center field camera.

Players and fans from other teams are pretty mad. The Dodgers lost to the Astros in the World Series that year, and they feel cheated out of a championship. Of course the Yankees lost to them in the conference final, and they believe they should have been in the World Series, not the Astros.

Some players are talking about pitchers throwing at Astros hitters, and pretty much everyone is expecting fans to boo them mercilessly when they are the visiting team.

The baseball commissioner just wants the whole mess to go away, but it won’t. Why? Because the Astros issued their sorry-not sorry apologies. They will still display the trophy and they have the 2017 banner flying in their home park.

It’s a sad scandal for baseball to endure, and it’s not over. There is an investigation about cheating involving another team which was managed the following year by a former Astros bench coach. The thought is, he took the method of cheating with him to his new team. Nothing proven so far, but he is one of the guys who lost his job.

All this to say, repentance is a lot more than “saying sorry.” This applies to anyone and everyone who is faced with the ways he has ignored, disobeyed, rejected God and His Son, Jesus. Some people say, Sorry, and then go about trying to make amends. Of course nothing good going forward can change the past. The curses and insults and hateful actions don’t go away.

The only way to “say sorry” and to make it all go away when we’re talking about ways we have offended God, is by actual, real repentance. Not the Astros, Sorry we got caught, brand of repentance.

I’ve heard more than once that the word from which repentance comes has the connotation of turning around. In other words, of doing a 180° change. Instead of ignoring God, then we embrace a relationship with Him.

This is only possible because God has made it possible. First, His plan for us “from the foundation of the world” is to experience His mercy and forgiveness, bought and paid for by His own dear Son, Jesus. Without Jesus as our merciful and faithful High Priest, we’d be left with the scars of our anger or disobedience or blasphemy. Those things kind of have a way of hurting a relationship, not healing it.

Ask the Astros as this season unfolds. Are their relationships with the other teams and their fans, healed because they issued their “apologies”? Not by a long shot. Fans don’t see that justice has been done. There can’t be restoration, some kind of peace, when the scar of their cheating remains.

That’s just on a small scale compared to the way we have offended God. Every one of us. To say “Sorry” isn’t enough. Someone has to pay. And Someone did. Jesus paid, but Scripture talks about “receiving the reconciliation.” It also talks about the free gift of God’s grace. But like any gift, it must be accepted. That takes the 180° turn-around, where we acknowledge that we deserve what Jesus received—a criminal’s death.

It seems to me that there are people who attach themselves to Christ, who are actually in the sorry-not sorry camp. Those Other People are wicked, but we don’t do what they do. We don’t really have anything heinous enough to be sorry about. We certainly don’t deserve death.

Except, Scripture is very clear on this point”

“There is none righteous, not even one.
There is none who understands.
There is none who seeks for God…
There is no fear of God before their eyes.” (Rom. 3:10-12, 18)

And

“The wages of sin is death, but the free gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.” (Rom. 6:23)

We’re all in the camp of those deserving death, and in need of reconciliation. Which God said will take place for everyone who believes what Jesus did for them.

The Bible calls it a free gift, and that seems to bother some people. They want to earn forgiveness by doing all the right things. But none of our “right things” can undo the wrong. There needs to be just payment. And that’s what we have from Jesus. He “canceled our certificate of debt.” He’s the only One able to do that.

Christians, then, are people who own up to who we are, admit we need the free gift which is available in Jesus. And we enjoy the restored relationship with God, which this free gift provides. That’s called repentance and reconciliation.

Published in: on February 19, 2020 at 5:04 pm  Comments (2)  
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Deflategate


Pittsburgh_sign_(2981919088)The day after Championship Sunday, football fans were talking about “Deflategate.” By Thursday night the story was the lead on our local news and we don’t even have an NFL team.

If nothing else, the US takes our sports seriously. Football, which had so recently ascended to the top of the heap, replacing baseball as America’s game, has been struggling. 2014 was the year of disaster for the NFL, but the problems went back further.

What was it, 2007 when Spygate dominated the talk shows? New England (yes, the same team involved in this year’s debacle) broke NFL rules by filming an opposing team’s sideline during a game as their coaches sent signals to their players. A big deal? Most people didn’t think so, but it was against league rules.

Then in 2012 the New Orleans Saints were caught in the bounty scandal. Reportedly as many as 24 defensive players were paid for hard hits on opposing quarterbacks. The head coach, Sean Payton, received the stiffest penalty—a year’s suspension—because he knew about the program and did nothing to stop it.

A number of pundits, however, claimed that most teams had some similar program in place, but the Saints were the ones caught, and the League wanted to send a message to the others by the harsh sanctions.

Need I mention the Ray Rice mess that took place this past summer—domestic violence caught on camera, and the League suspended him for two weeks. When cries of protest arose, then Commissioner Roger Godell backtracked and handed down a tougher penalty. But when another video came out, the longer suspension was turned into an indefinite suspension, which Ray Rice contested, and won.

Meanwhile, Adrian Peterson came under fire because he took a switch to his young son. He received the full wrath of the commissioner’s office—they weren’t going to pull another Ray Rice.

Once the season got started, things seemed to quiet down—only a few drug suspensions, the $70,000 Ndamukong Suh fine for stepping on Aaron Rogers, purposefully—just average stuff.

But now, with deflategate, we’re back to the issue of cheating, specifically the charge that someone on New England’s sideline deflated the game footballs in the AFC Championship, reducing the pressure by two pounds in 11 of the 12 game balls. Under inflated footballs. The way Tom Brady likes it.

Is this really such a horrible crime, fans ask, especially those hoping for a Patriot Super Bowl victory. I mean, no one got clocked on camera, no pictures exist of bruising on a child’s body. No money exchanged hands at the expense of purposeful bodily harm. And no one was intentionally stepped on. What’s the big deal?

Add in the fact that no one thinks the Colts would have own the game if those balls had been properly inflated. In other words, the Pats cheated, but they would have won anyway.

So does that make cheating, not cheating?

And is cheating a big deal?

Well, in some schools, if you cheat you get kicked out. What if the NFL adopted that policy? If you cheat—take performance enhancing drugs, spy on the opponent, put a bounty on another player’s head, deflate footballs—you get kicked out of the League.

Which would elevate cheating to a level higher than domestic violence.

It’s not really an easy thing to determine. On one hand, we have a tendency to say, It’s just a game. Lighten up. But the reality is, pro football is big business. Not only are the players contracted for huge sums of money, the teams are raking in the green with their ticket prices and all that goes with attending games. Then there’s the league with all the merchandising and TV deals. And then we come to the real money connected to the sport: gambling. As my brother reminded me, millions of dollars are tied to NFL games, sometimes on the over-under of game scores. What have deflated balls (because who knows if the Pat’s quarterback would cheat in the Championship game, he hasn’t been cheating all season?) done to the scores and to the win/loss of millions of bettors?

But let’s pretend for a second that cheating didn’t cost anybody anything. It just gave one team a slight edge which they didn’t need anyway.

Is there really nothing wrong with them sending the message to every kid out there, Do anything, even break the rules, in order to win.

We’ve been sending that message for some time. Al Davis, when he coached the Oakland Raiders, used to say, Just win, baby. His teams did all they could, including things that weren’t legal, to win games. In fact, some of the rules the NFL has now were put in to stop some of the shenanigans the Raiders pulled (like fumble the ball forward or bat it forward to get the necessary yards for a first down, or to score a touchdown).

And now it’s the Patriots. If they go on to win the Super Bowl, no matter what happens afterward, the message will be clear—cheaters do prosper.

But we’ve been sending that message through other avenues than sports—corporate greed, for example, and government corruption. CEOs can lead their companies into bankruptcy and still collect million dollar bonuses. Lobbyists can bribe, uh grease the palms, no give payola, how about, gift legislators who they wish to influence, and the process is “legal.”

Maybe it’s time we say enough with the cheating. People need to play fair. Hard work, not hard cash or who you know or how much you can get by with, should enable someone to get ahead.

So I say, throw the book at the Patriots. They have a history of cheating and of walking as close to the line as they can get when it comes to playing by the rules. Just ask Baltimore about the six eligible receivers stunt the Patriots pulled the week before deflategate.

Cheaters ought not prosper, and if the NFL commissioner’s office doesn’t see that and doesn’t take action, more than “the integrity of the game” will be lost.

Published in: on January 23, 2015 at 6:28 pm  Comments Off on Deflategate  
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