"When it's third-and-10, you can take the milk drinkers and I'll take the whiskey drinkers every time." That's the authoritative word from Green Bay Packers legend Max McGee, who died on Oct. 20 at 75 after he fell raking leaves from his roof.
Many old-time athletes and sports writers have felt the same way. Didn't Babe Ruth set records while satisfying his voracious appetite for hot dogs, booze, and sex? Character counts, but runs count more, right?
That's what the Colorado Rockies thought until 2004, when fastballer Denny Neagle was arrested for soliciting a prostitute. The Rockies, who had finished in or next to last place in their division nine straight years, released Neagle and ended up paying him $16 million not to play.
Why? According to club president Keli McGregor, "God gave us a challenge right then and there. You always say you want to do the right thing, but often in this business we warp our values and do less than what's the right thing."
God? It came out that McGregor, general manager Dan O'Dowd, and manager Clint Hurdle pray together and profess Christ. So does Rockies chairman and CEO Charlie Monfort. So do players like Matt Holliday and Todd Helton: Seven to 10 Rockies attend Baseball Chapel services on Sundays and a Bible study on Tuesday afternoons.
That's not strange in baseball; I've been in Baseball Chapel services of the Florida Marlins, Texas Rangers, Baltimore Orioles, and others where almost half the team was present. But the management involvement is unusual, and so is the positive treatment that the group of Christians received from New York Times writer Ben Shpigel in a front-page-of-the-sports-section story on Oct. 23.
In paragraph after paragraph the Times praised Christians for being tolerant, humble, and unselfish. A cynical press-watcher might think a New York journalist fell in love with the Rockies because they were playing in the World Series the Yankees nemesis, the Boston Red Sox (a team with Christian players such as Mike Timlin and Mike Lowell that has also sent packing some philanderers). But maybe accurate reporting on the sports page will seep over to the news and editorial pages.