First Baptist Church of Rahway, 177 Elm Ave., Rahway, New Jersey 07065 is a multi-cultural congregation that has a Blended English Service on Sunday Mornings, a Latino Service at 12:00, and a Service in Telugu at 3:30PM. For more information, call (732) 388-8626. Or click here to send an email. If you wish to help the Mission and Ministry of First Baptist financially click the Donate Button.

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

Pastor Bill: 'Kill the Umpire'

By Pastor Bill Whitehead

During a semester break while I was in college, I had one really bad summer. I was working a job as a camp councilor at the city parks. And the worst moment for me was when I umpired a softball game. Now no one is more hated than an umpire. I learned one thing from that experience. If you stand alone and unloved, you don’t stand for long.

Being a sport’s official is an ugly business. A person has to be pretty thick skinned to handle that job for more than ten seconds. When someone buys a ticket to a baseball game, he feels that the ticket price guarantees him the right, as provided for in the constitution, to insult, curse, and verbally abuse the umpire. Normal, good natured people upon entering the stadium suddenly turn into frothing animals when they sit in their seats and look upon the black clad game officials. It is a strange and bewildering phenomenon. And stranger yet when we look at the lower levels of sport.

I believe that when adults and kids play in the amateur levels of a sport they bring an intense hatred of the umpire along with them. I have seen nice friendly people completely freak out at a youth soccer game because of a questionable call. My son’s soccer coach was thrown out of a game because he cursed out a fifteen-year-old referee. Seven-year-old boys and girls were playing the game. How big of a game could this be? Was there millions of dollars on the line when the call was made? Not really. Talk about losing your cool over nothing. Maybe our coach was living out his fantasies with our kids. Maybe he was trying to achieve the height of glory that he had never before experienced in the real world. Then, suddenly, a tall lanky brat in the black and white shirt makes a bad call. And so he was going to get him. With this kind of delusional thinking going on it is no wonder that every sports official is lonely and unloved.

I walked out onto that baseball diamond knowing that I was in trouble. I had never umpired a game in my life. The kids who came to the playground every day did not like me very much. I did not want to be working at this place and would rather have been home watching other umpires being screamed at on TV. The other councilors put me behind the plate. I fumbled and bumbled my way through the game. I was praying that nothing bad would happen. It did.

A ball was hit down the third base line. A kid tried to catch it but it bounced out of his glove and landed in foul territory. I froze and two runners scored. They all waited for my call. I had that deer in the headlights look on my face. In my mind the dreaded blue screen of computer failure had shut everything down. I just couldn’t spit the words out. Finally, I called it fair because it would have landed fair. They came at me like hungry wolves. Yelling, screaming, snarling. It was ugly. Surrounded and alone, I just wanted to get far away from these nasty little people.

They say, “no man is an island.” During that summer I experienced what it is like to be an island. The storms of life washed over me and left me gasping for breath. Try to make it alone without love and support and we are doomed to experience nothing but pain. Try to work with people without caring for them, and they will hate us. It’s really very simple, when we care for others we are cared for in return.

The Rev. William Whitehead is the senior pastor of the First Baptist Church of Rahway, in Rahway, NJ. Pastor Whitehead is a New Brunswick Theological Seminary graduate who is ordained in American Baptist Churches.

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