It’s great that baseball is back. Sports generally are one of God’s gifts, but—as New York pastor Tim Keller points out—idolatry often involves taking a good thing and making it an ultimate thing. This breaks the first commandment—”You shall have no other gods before me”— and it’s particularly obnoxious when advertisers use a believer in that commandment as a tool in the breakage.
That’s what Mariano “Mo” Rivera faces this week as the New York Yankees open their season, which will be his last. A Nike/Yankee ad from a few years ago popped up again this morning on at least two blogs under an “In Mo We Trust” heading: It lists hard experiences New Yorkers face, such as “When the stock market crashes,” and others not so hard but irritating to Manhattanites, such as “When the shower is in the kitchen” and “When all the cabs go off duty at the same time.”
Some of the lines are funny—“When the corner deli closes, when it reopens as a tapas bar”—but the last one is deadly serious: “When we wonder if it’s really worth it.” Then comes the saving grace after all this bad news: “We have the Yankees”—and there’s a photo of Rivera on the mound. Ironically, Rivera has for many years professed his faith in Christ, and he’d probably be among the first to say that when all fails, our only true consolation is “We have God.”
Sure, we shouldn’t take this too seriously—it’s just an ad—yet many people (including me, at times, when the Boston Red Sox are involved) take sports too seriously. Some of us do worship particular teams and players. Big games are as ritualistic as medieval pageants, and stadiums/arenas are often as grand as cathedrals. Sports cannot save us, or our children. Mo Rivera is the all-time leader in saving games, but Jesus—Y’shua, in Hebrew—means God saves. Accept no substitutes.