Sign Stealing From a Sports Fan (and Pastor’s) Perspective: Forfeit

There is a general principle in my house: if there is a significant game on for a team that we have a rooting interest in, we can stay up and watch it. School the next day? Doesn’t matter. Game goes past midnight? That’s fine. The kids (and parents) can go to sleep when they want, but they are free to watch until the end. Parenting—in large part—is about memory-making, and we love these memories.

One of my favorite memories (up until recently) was watching all of the 2017 World Series with my family. Game 7 is where the principle applied. We didn’t own a television at the time—I think we had Youtube TV or something like that and would watch the games on a secondary computer monitor on our kitchen counter. My oldest was the only one who had the stamina to watch until the end.

It was awesome. Until it wasn’t.

What we know now chances my perspective forever—and basically every sports fan’s perspective. As I’ve watched press conferences and player interviews and read commentary upon commentary I’ve tried to figure out where I landed with it all, and I think I figured it out:

The Astros should forfeit their World Series Trophy and Altuve should do the same with the MVP.

Let me explain . . .

Much of the conversation has been from embittered MLB players and coaches talking about the victories being tainted. They are mad—maybe even vitriolic. That sentiment makes sense. I’ll watch Astros players come back and defend why they won, how they won, etc. The back and forth will not stop unless something drastic comes of it.

But then the pastor brain started to kick in (only took about a month of being in denial) and I started to think about this from my own perspective of someone who knows Jesus, has been forgiven of their sins, one who doesn’t live to please men (Gal 1:10), and whose integrity is of utmost important (Ps 139:23-24). I’m not saying the Astros are “Jesus’ team” or anything like that—far from it. I’m simply coming at it from the perspective of someone who follows Jesus and trying to figure out how to process it all when I remember my primary identity (one marked by Christ).

It was only when thinking about Jesus that I realized that forfeiting what was gained through deception would be better than arguing that said gain wasn’t actually that big of a deal. A few reasons:

  • Integrity does matter—and legacy: I’ve watched players argue how their WS trophy isn’t tainted—but they are fooling themselves. It most definitely is. I’ve seen Correa’s awesome break-down of why Altuve’s numbers should stand on their own. You know what? He’s probably right. Altuve seems to be a minor piece of this entire ordeal and certainly MVP caliber. At the same time, players before and after him in the lineup made that MVP tainted because their cheating aided how he was pitched to and his stats aren’t truly earned. You can’t escape it. Not only that, but the baseball world (and my kids) are watching and would love an example to follow. Honor here isn’t arguing that you’re right, but admitting that you’re wrong and dealing with consequences. (Full disclosure: It isn’t uncommon for me to share with my kids times that I have cheated in school or not done right by people. I want them to know that Dad’s hands aren’t clean, either. They know this about me and that I am, at times, a very bad example.)
  • Restitution is Significant for Restoration: So you have immunity. You won’t be penalized. That’s fine—the league isn’t coming against you that way. Still, restitution helps the process of restoring trust/confidence/pride/etc. Just because Manfred won’t penalize anyone on the team doesn’t mean you (the Astros) shouldn’t consider self-imposing penalties (honestly, I don’t even know if they can do that—maybe they can maybe they can’t). I don’t know how to give back playoff bonuses or sponsorship dollars or things like that—so I’m speaking from a place of ignorance—but at the very least saying, “These awards weren’t earned the right way and we give them back” sends a message about how seriously you take the situation. Your own ego and bragging rights aren’t really worth it—ever. Who you are is more important that what you “earned.”
  • Laying Down Rights is Good: This point is hard to actually apply to people who don’t follow Jesus, so I only speak for myself (and hopefully other Christians). However, following Jesus means laying down your rights. You walk in his ways—he gave his life up willingly (Jn 10:18) and didn’t consider his life as anything. This attitude is echoed in Paul, one of Jesus’ followers (Acts 20:24). When you realize your life is nothing without God, and you are far worse off than you realized, you aren’t really concerned about accolades and status anymore. You aren’t defined by a year or a trophy or even by cheating—you are defined by Jesus. Giving up something you dishonestly gained counts as nothing because what you have gained (Jesus) will always be superior (see Zacchaeus’ example in Luke 19:8).

It is only when I see this situation through the lens of the gospel that this starts to make sense. Twenty-seventeen is just a year, but my actual reputation as a man is much more than a year. Is it hard, at times, to make things right? Yep. Our pride is a nasty thing. When we realize that there are bigger things to live for it comes into perspective, though—take it away, because it really doesn’t matter in the long run.

As a sports fan (and one who grew up in the Houston area), I love the idea of the 2017 Astros. They were awesome. No one would doubt that. I loved staying up late watching Game 7 with my oldest son. But they cheated, and they all admit to it. The best thing to do now is to give up what you won and go and show the world you can win it again.

As a pastor, though, winning or losing in this life is nothing because I’m not defined by this life. It would be better to die with integrity before God and unconcerned by the opinion of others than it would be to live fighting to prove that I am actually not the man you thought I was. God already knows that I am all you thought I was and much worse, so I have nothing to prove—with or without my awards.

One Reply to “Sign Stealing From a Sports Fan (and Pastor’s) Perspective: Forfeit”

  1. Thank you for sharing! And we should, as Christians, do what is right and honorable through the eyes of our Father. He sees our hearts and knows us. We all fall short. Even if the Astros didn’t get caught cheating, and kept their accolades, God knows, and they are still guilty. We live in a broken world and we are all guilty. Jesus is our Savior! Accepting Him as so is our only way to the Father. So yes, it would be eternally satisfying for the Astros to come “clean” as an example to our children, and to the world, but it still comes down to each person’s heart and relationship with God.
    The memories with your son are real and important despite the integrity of the Astros. And I think it is way cool that you let him stay up past his bedtime! Love you!!❤️

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