Wednesday, May 16, 2012

Theology of Kickball: Run Home Jacks and Adult Kickball League

I thought it was a joke, at least spam, when I received an email invitation from a good friend to join the World Adult Kickball Association (WAKA). I also thought, if this were a serious invitation, there was no way in the world I would be exempt from evening twin patrol to play the beloved elementary school recess activity, I mean, sport.

I was wrong on both accounts.

Not only was this a serious invitation to play competitive kickball, uniforms and all, but my wife also encouraged me to invest the money (my phrase, not hers) to relive my childhood once a week. After serious contract negotiations with the team manager, I signed [up on-line] with the Run Home Jacks for an eight-week season. In case you still don't believe me, this is a real league, with a real website, with a real founder, with real logo, and with a real iPhone app. There are real rules and the real possibility, if we win our league, to go to Vegas for the World Championships.

You wish you were playing kickball, right?!

We have only played one game thus far, but I have already begun to develop a theology of kickball, or at least life lessons and self-assesments, in light of the first few games and practices (yes, we have had a practice).

1. I am way too competitive.

The league has posted in many places and verbally reinforced that the goal of WAKA is "to have fun." They remind us over and again that we are playing kickball and if we want intense competition- play softball or join a men's baseball league. Right? Wrong! One of my grandfather's proverbs that he spoke to me before each game, "it's not whether you win or's whether you win." And winning is fun. But yes, it is kickball. While I am sure that, much like my father never let me win at basement foosball when I was eight (and I beat him more times than he will admit), I will be fairly competitive with my own kids. But it really is not all about winning all the time. Sometimes competition can get in the way of community. Sometimes competition can cause one to develop an edge and always wear a chip on the shoulder. Sometimes competitive people are not fun to be around. And sometimes being overly competitive infringes on your ability to love your neighbor. I want to win. I want to go to Vegas, or at least have the opportunity to turn the trip down. But I don't want to lose myself in the's not like I would be gaining the whole world anyway.

2. I spend way too much time with church people.

As I gathered with about 50+ other people, all of us jacked up about kickball, I could not help but realize that Run Home Jacks was the only team comprised primarily of church folk. I found myself somewhat out of my element...and I am missional ;) I am used to being in conversation about theology, faith, social justice, and even play kickball with youth on Sunday nights. But to be a part of something without a set agenda, void of an ulterior motive, and with strangers who may or may not be a part of a faith community is much too rare of an occurance. I work in a bubble. Regardless of how much I teach and preach missional theology and the importance of being a visible presence in the community, I spend way too much time within the walls of the church and among my own kin. That said, it is refreshing, every Thursday, to spend an hour in friendly competition and an hour at a local bar & grill with other athletes (yep, that's what I said) whom I have just met. Even better, when we sport the beautiful WAKA shirts, we get 20% off our tab.

3. Kickball is harder than it looks.

This is not your third-graders kickball. There are real rules. The ball is allowed to bounce when pitched, in fact it has to twice before it crosses homeplate. The combination of a strike zone two playground balls high and a larger and well inflated kickball makes cranking one into the brush beyond left field quite a challenge. Actually, our team (at least those who are overly competitive) has noticed that WAKA is all about small ball, which includes the occasional bunt by yours truly. I hung my head in shame the first time I laid one down the third base line; but it's all about baserunners in this league. The Run Home Jacks have strategies and plays; we have developed a lineup and set players in particular positions based on skill set; we keep score in a scorebook. This is for real.

4. I need a little more self-care.

I am out of shape. I came home after game one a little tired. I cannot go first to third like I used to and find myself needing to stretch a bit more before, yes, kickball. I am grateful that Amber has encouraged me to participate, but if I expect to lose any of that baby weight, I have to do more than play kickball. Also, I cannot expoect much sympathy when I come home sore after, again, kickball.

5. Value the gifts of everyone and for the good of the whole.

This is the hardest one of them all. There are many of us who believe that we are there to have fun...and we have fun when we win. There are others who are there because they enjoy some good kickball, conversation, drinks, and neither crave victory nor lament defeat. There are some who are extremely athletic; there are others who are great people with big hearts. We need them both. We balance each other out. How can we be competitive and value the roles of each member of Run Home Jacks? We are in deliberation. Can we win and, much like little league baseball, have everyone play equal amount of time? We are still in conversation. Is winning our primary goal? Depends on who you ask. All I know is that somehow and someway each person has something to contribute. Our task is simply to uncover the gifts of one another and place them where they are most needed and most beneficial to the individual and the whole. That'll preach...

I still want to win...just to clarify.

These are only a few musings...I am sure there will be more to come.

For now, check out the action shot at our team's first practice. Yes, I pulled out my college uniform for this one.