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Visiting the Atlanta Braves home ballpark last week was a great experience for me and I was treated royally by the staff and fans at Turner Field.  The Braves have so many Division championship banners showing in the stadium for the last 15 years that they could run out of space soon.  But in all that time, they were only able to convert one of those championships into a World Series Win in 1995.  Of course all the Indians fans can remember losing that one in six games with a David Justice home run the only run in the final game.  Baseball has always built itself on tradition and history and just visiting another ballpark reminded me that all of the cities have great hope each summer for a better outcome, and only one or two teams will feel that joy of winning.

I sat between an African American couple in their 50's and a father and his 12 year old daughter on the other side.  Three avid fans behind me in their twenties were most informative about what was going on in the Brave's clubhouse.  As we watched the game together our dialogue became more and more friendly as we talked about the players and the teams from all over the league.  I mentioned that Cleveland was having a hard time getting fans to come out and support the team with sellouts and the fervor of the late 90's.  Atlanta had less than 20,000 at this game and the stadium had room for more than twice that many people.  We all agreed that people in general will only show up in force to back a winner and since every team cannot be a winner, there is something empty about that. 

The twelve year old daughter asked her father just where this place Cincinatti was located.  He said it was up north right on the Ohio River, and just north of Kentucky.  She looked at her father and said, "Does that make them Yankees?"  Her father looked at me as if to say, did you hear that question?  He did not know what to say and suddenly that period of pregnant silence permeated our little row #12 at Fulton County Stadium.  "Well are they Yankees, Daddy?"   More silence.  The couple on my left were uncomfortable about where the answer to this young lady's question would come from.  Suddenly history and tradition took on a new light as the father's discomfort was obvious.

I decided to bail out this father who already was wondering how this question popped out the way it did in public and I told his daughter that there are likely many Yankees in Ohio, and since I have lived most of my life there as well, I may be a Yankee depending on what that means.  The young lady didn't know where to go next and her response was a rather quiet ...oh.  I don't know what she was taught about what a "Yankee" is in her house and perhaps it was even a good thing.  It just seemed very clumsy at this time when everything was going so good before the question came up.  The impression that was left was that this designation wasn't just tied up in where someone lives but infers something about their belief system. 

It may be that some of the old tags that were used to slot people in every category of life are overdue to be retired.  While riding back to my hotel on the MARTA, I wondered what things I had taught my children by my words and actions.  Hopefully, my family will have learned more good than bad in my efforts to be an exemplary father.  In my lifetime, there are some terms that I heard as a kid that will never be heard from my lips.  I pray that we all can pray as David did in Psalms 17:3,

"Though you probe my heart and examine me at night, though you test me, you will find nothing; I have resolved that my mouth will not sin." 


Sent July 23, 2007

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