Wednesday, June 07, 2006

WWJD? Shout Go Rockies Go!

We're not really big sports fans around the marbled halls of IM Central (although we do have this neat drinking game based around how many times a baseball player spits) but we do know that among those who religiously (ha ha ha ha. Just wait, you'll see) follow a team there are certain rituals that true fans hope will insure their team's success. Things like always wearing the same shirt, or sitting in the same chair or having wild, hot monkey sex in the neighbor's garage before the game are all thought to be ways to curry the favor of the sports gods.

OK, we made that last one up, but if anyone is looking for a ritual...well, you know where to find us. Anyway the point is, if you are one of those devoted sports fans, you can forget it, because Jesus has weighed into Major League Baseball, and his choice in the Colorado Rockies.

Now, put aside for a moment that the Rockies' home field is named after beer because, well, apparently Jesus doesn't have a problem with it and just focus on this: Jesus' team is currently in fifth place playing sub .500 ball. Do you think it puts any more pressure on the manager to know that being "fired" has a lot more implications for him than for other managers around the league?

From ownership on down, it's an approach the Rockies are proud of — and something they are wary about publicizing. "We're nervous, to be honest with you," Rockies general manager Dan O'Dowd said. Jesus' expectations are a little higher than most owners, especially with Satan doing so well with the Yankees."

The Rockies, at 28-30, are having their best season since 1995 with a payroll of $44 million, the lowest in the National League's West Division. "Well, render unto Caesar the things that are Caesar's," said O'Dowd. "As for rendering to god...that means learn to hit the breaking pitches."

"I had no idea they were a Christian team. I would love for them to talk about their Christianity publicly," says Tim Boettcher, 42, a season ticketholder for 12 years and an elder at the Hosanna Lutheran Church. "But what I'd really like is for them to get a good closer. Lord knows they aren't going anywhere without a stronger bullpen."

"We had to go to hell and back to know where the Holy Grail is. We went through a tough time and took a lot of arrows," says Rockies chairman and CEO Charlie Monfort, one of the original owners. "I have no idea what I just said, but it's now team policy to have at least two religious references in every interview given to the press."

"We started to go after character six or seven years ago, but we didn't follow that like we should have," he says. "I don't want to offend anyone, but I think character-wise we're stronger than anyone in baseball. "Of couse, some people say character doesn't win ball games, good pitching wins ball games and that is a good point, so God, if you're listening, we need a left hander with a good changeup."

"Christians, and what they've endured, are some of the strongest people in baseball. You look at whose spent the longest time in the minors, and whose career is the shortest, if they even make it to the bigs...Christians. Those Puerto Rican boys and the South American boys that shoot right into those six figure contracts? Catholics, every one."

The Rockies' approach is unusual in that religious doctrine is a guide for running a franchise. The club's executives emphasize they are not intolerant of other views. "We try to do the best job we can to get people with the right sense of moral values, but we certainly don't poll our players or our organization to find out who is Christian and who isn't. OK, there is the Bible quiz we give to all new players, but heck, you only need 60% to pass. Of course you need 85% to play, but you can take the quiz as many times as you need to," said O'Dowd.

O'Dowd told reporters he has had prayer sessions on the telephone with club President Keli McGregor and manager Clint Hurdle. "Yeah, some people say calling the manager off the field in the late innings of a close game to pray for victory isn't the best strategy, but God's a busy guy. We just want to make sure he isn't on the cell phone with Gabriel or something. We need him to focus."

"You look at things that have happened to us this year," O'Dowd said. "You look at some of the moves we made and didn't make. You look at some of the games we're winning. Those aren't just a coincidence. God has definitely had a hand in this." When asked how sport, which focuses on competion, winners and losers and for the Rockies, seeking to impose God's will on the opposing team, fit with Jesus' philosophy of love cooperation and mutual respect, O'Dowd called the press conference to a close and said he wasn't about to answer questions from "the representatives of Satan, or George Steinbrenner, whichever."

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