Features

Players' prayers

National | Christian Yankees, atop the major-league standings, seem more interested in their standing with God

Issue: "Postmodern politics," Sept. 12, 1998

Staying off the pedestal
This year's New York Yankees team, in addition to leading the league in wins, also appears to be leading baseball in Christian players and Baseball Chapel attendees. On any given Sunday morning when the club is at home, anywhere from 13 to 20 New York players meet in an auxiliary clubhouse at Yankee Stadium for their weekly time of devotion and prayer. On one Sunday morning, according to USA Today, outfielder Chad Curtis led the group in prayer, petitioning God for direction in matters pertaining to family life. Mr. Curtis also prayed for healing for all Yankee players on the disabled list (although it's unlikely that that specific part of his prayer was echoed throughout other American League clubhouses). Mr. Curtis further prayed for wisdom and help for the team in a messy situation in which the Yankees are being sued by an ex-clubhouse assistant who claims he was fired by the ballclub after becoming HIV-positive. Darryl Strawberry is one of the many Yankee players who have benefited from the weekly chapel program. Mr. Strawberry, who faced an avalanche of problems during his days with the cross-town Mets in the 1980s-including alcohol and drug abuse, tax evasion, and domestic abuse-says he has found a peace and a joy that eluded him during his self-indulgent days. "The Lord directs me now, and I couldn't be happier." Mr. Strawberry now often reads the Bible in front of his locker. Catcher Joe Girardi also speaks about the importance of seeking God's direction: "[It's] especially [important] in a lifestyle where everyone puts you on a pedestal. God takes care of the pressure. We are called to do our best in our job, our marriage, and in raising children. The results take care of themselves." "Virtue, abstinence, and respect for life"
Too often these days, it's hard to tell the difference between the sports pages and the crime log in the newspaper. Professional athletes seem to be charged, on almost a daily basis, with assault and battery, domestic abuse, rape, drug possession, and drunken driving. Sometimes it seems as if pro sports is populated by members of Murder, Inc. in cleats or high tops. Given all of that, it is refreshing to hear about an organization such as Life Athletes. Operating out of South Bend, Ind., Life Athletes bills itself as "a coalition of professional and Olympic athletes committed to leading lives of virtue, abstinence, and respect for life." The organization hosts sports camps and rallies, and enlists athletes to speak to school groups. Life Athletes also offers a music video, posters, a group-study guide, and other aids to help support its members in their commitments. Among the sports stars affiliated with the group are baseball's Andy Pettitte; football's Mark Brunell, Reggie White, and Herschel Walker; and basketball's Rebecca Lobo. Life Athletes is headed by Chris Godfrey, who played pro football for nine years and was a starter for the victorious New York Giants in Super Bowl XXI. Mark Bavaro, a former Giants teammate, is vice president. Each Life Athlete makes four commitments: (1) I will try to do what is right, even when it is difficult; (2) I will give myself only to that special person whom I marry as my partner for life; (3) I will respect the lives of others, especially the unborn and the aged; (4) I will not quit or make excuses when I fail. I will try again. "Good friendships are important to us," Mr. Godfrey says. "We want relationships that are genuine and built on honesty. But in order to have good friends, we have to be good friends. This requires giving the best of ourselves. It means doing what's right, even when it is difficult." Some athletes engage in sex outside of marriage, Mr. Godfrey notes, and then try to wipe out babies who are conceived: "People who treat sex lightly also treat life lightly. They are tempted to undo a pregnancy with an abortion. Abortion violates a key relationship-the relationship between parents and their children. Violating such a vital relationship destroys not only the child, but also the peace. Lost is the parent's peace of mind. Lost, too, is the peace of a society where life becomes cheap."

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