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Monday, August 16, 2010

Baseball, God and Family (Jumbling Priorities)...

I’m a huge NY Mets fan. I can tell you about their active players, their 40-man-roster, their injured reserve list, their top minor league prospects, their history and many other tidbits that most people don't care about. I have been following the team through thick and thin since getting interested in baseball in 1971. For decades, I have studied them METiculously. It was and, to a great extent, continues to be a passion for me.

My wife sometimes tells me I love the Mets more then I love her and the kids (a sad commentary, albeit, I could understand why she may sometimes feel that way). Considering the hours spent at work, reading and studying my faith and the limited time I have for leisure with the family, I probably spend more time on the Mets then I should.

When my wife and I were first married, we used to spend a lot of time at our favorite watering-hole, Duffy’s Tavern in West Miami. Since the sports bar/grill has satellite television and shows most professional baseball games, it was a great place for me to enjoy what I loved most in life (at the time); my wife and the Mets.

We would go about three, sometimes four, times a week. We ate bar food (another of my favorites), conversed and enjoyed some beverages, while we watched the ballgame. What better way to spend a night out, I thought.

However, when my wife got pregnant with our first child, we had to stop going because, back then, smoking was allowed and it could get pretty smoky.

To give you a sense of my warped fervor for the Mets, many parents start talking to their baby while inside the womb so that the baby starts recognizing familial voices. Aside from talking to our baby, I used to recite the entire Mets starting lineup (circa 2000) to our baby on a regular basis. I wanted to make sure my child was a Mets fan too!

I even convinced my wife that if we had a boy, he would be named Hundley (as in Todd Hundley, a short-lived Mets star catcher who ended up getting traded after the team got Mike Piazza before our DAUGHTER was born). Thanks be to God! Hundley Espinosa, would have spent his life explaining his dad’s over enthusiasm for a baseball team. (It’s a wonder why my wife now shuns baseball completely!).

When we stopped going to Duffy’s, I started watching them at home by subscribing to the Major League Baseball package on Comcast. The MLB package carries every game televised of all 30 big league teams.

Since then, I became a fixture on our living room couch in front of our HD flat screen TV; spending endless hours there at the expense of my family (talk about misguided priorities!).

Up until, rediscovering my faith and reevaluating my perspective on life, I didn’t think watching the Mets every night was a big deal. In my mind, I justified it by reasoning that I was not out cheating on my wife or hanging out with friends all night. I didn't gamble. I wasn't an alcoholic or drug addict. What is wrong with me enjoying what made me happy? I never considered the time it took away from my family, the selfishness involved or the fact that I was putting “something,” other than God, ahead of the ones I love most.

I am a husband. I am a father of three kids. I need to set an example.

Is the example I’m setting that a man’s role is to come home from work and sit in front of the TV all night without tending to the needs of his family? I definitely don’t want my daughters to marry a man like that and I don’t want my son to be that man either.

So, I have slowly been trying to wean myself from this vice (sports and TV may not be carousing about town, gambling or chemical additions, but, for many men, like me, it's still an unhealthy distraction). My wife would tell you I haven’t come around fast enough.

Last year, I took the first step by not subscribing to the MLB package (for those that know me, it was a big deal). Instead I signed up for the internet version (baby steps!). It helped. Since I could no longer lounge on my comfortable couch, it forced me to watch games on a wooden chair on our computer. I ended up watching less games (but considering the Mets probably had their worst season in recent history, it wasn’t a great feat).

This year, at the start of the baseball season, I decided to take a bigger step and avoid the temptation that most keeps me away from doing what God wants me to do; love my wife and kids. So, I decide against subscribing to the MLB package altogether. I went cold turkey. No TV (except for the games televised nationally) and no computer. Finito. I was done. Instead, I’ll spend more time playing with my daughters and son (I told myself).

Well, it didn't quite work out that way.

The Mets started playing well. They were winning. They climbed into first place before dropping to second place and four games out of the National League Eastern Division lead by the All-Star break and in second place and just one game behind in the Wild Card race.

Their pitching was exceeding expectations and their defense and hitting were solid. They were doing this without their best player, Carlos Beltran, who was injured during the first half, and a sub-par season by their biggest off-season addition, Jason Bay. Both were expected to bounce back for the second half so there was reason to believe the Mets would be in the race until the end.

I was chomping at the bit.

During our annual summer vacation in July, I got a chance to spend time and talk Mets baseball with my younger brother, who was visiting from NY with his fiancé. He is also a Mets' junkie and watches every game. I wanted to WATCH too!

Two weeks ago, the Mets had a huge road trip against their top two division rivals and, although they had started to sputter, their season hung in the balance. My wife had gone for a run…

I started thinking. Would it make a difference in my family life, if I started watching the Mets again? My kids would be starting school soon and would be going to bed early. Would they care? My wife watches Housewives of wherever, Top Chef, Ace of Cakes, etc. Would she really mind?

Hey, how about... if I RECORD the games and watch them when everyone settles in to bed? That was the clincher…

Before my wife got back, I called up Comcast and subscribed (so she wouldn’t see me doing it).

As fate has it, since then, the Mets took a nose dive and have plummeted to third place and ten games behind in the NL East and sixth place and eight games behind in the Wild Card race.

You think God is trying to tell me something?

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