Pete Rose has been banned from baseball for life and he is ineligible for induction into the Baseball Hall of Fame. What a shame. All of that talent and testosterone, all of that ability and agility, all of that faculty and flair – all gone up in smoke. Why? Because he took his eyes off of the prize. Bruce Springsteen gave us the words and the song, and it’s a good song and it’s good advice indeed.
Pete Rose gave two examples – what to do and what not to do. But isn’t that like the rest of us? Isn’t that like the best of us? Solomon, the wisest man who ever lived, followed a foolish footpath. He let wine and women and wealth get the best of him. And what about Samson? The strongest man let his weakness, wanton women, get the best of him too. And the list could go on and on. But for now, let’s learn the lessons of Pete Rose.
The year Pete Rose was about to break Ty Cobb’s all time hits record in spring training he was being interviewed. One reporter blurted out, “Pete, you only need 78 hits to break the record. How many at-bats do you think you’ll need to get the 78 hits?” Without hesitation, Pete just stared at the reporter and very matter-of- factly said, “78.” The reporter yelled back, “Ah, come on Pete, you don’t expect to get 78 hits in 78 at-bats do you?” Pete calmly shared his philosophy with the throngs of reporters who were anxiously awaiting his reply to this seemingly boastful claim. “Every time I step up to the plate, I expect to get a hit! If I don’t expect to get a hit, I have no right to step in the batter’s box in the first place!” “If I go up hoping to get a hit,” he continued, “then I probably don’t have a prayer to get a hit. It is a positive expectation that has gotten me all of the hits in the first place.”
Pete, for all his fault and failure, made a choice to hustle, hit, and win. History records that, even with his shortcomings (gambling on baseball and betting on the games he played in), he accomplished his goal because he kept his eyes on the prize. That is exactly what Paul is telling us, what Jesus showed us, and what our God expects of us. But let’s break down this thought and ask, “If I am to keep my eyes on the prize and press on, what does it mean for me?” I suggest three things.
First, set priorities. God first, family second and yourself last. In sports-speak, that’s God first, team second, and records and personal recognition last.
Second, focus on the disciplines. In sports-speak, that’s practice, practice, practice. Just ask Allen Iverson, right? “I mean, we talking about practice!” (see blog August 1, 2013, https://godandsports.net/2013/08/01/we-talkin-bout-practice/)
Third, let the results take care of themselves. We can only control ourselves anyway, right? So – and I’m taking to myself here-, stop worrying about the results. God is the only one who can dictate the outcome and so God and God alone takes care of the results. He just wants us to take care of the reason we do what we do – the motivation behind why we play the game, the grounds for why we love and live and give and forgive. For if our root is right, our fruit will follow suit and be right too.