Saturday, May 29, 2010

The Roncalli Junior Varsity Softball Team Theory of Atonement

A friend of mine posted a link on Twitter to a story about the day Roncalli High School took on Marshall in a Junior Varsity softball game. Take it away, Rick Reilly:

After an inning and a half, Roncalli was womanhandling inner-city Marshall Community. Marshall pitchers had already walked nine Roncalli batters. The game could've been 50-0 with no problem.

It's no wonder. This was the first softball game in Marshall history. A middle school trying to move up to include grades 6 through 12, Marshall showed up to the game with five balls, two bats, no helmets, no sliding pads, no cleats, 16 players who'd never played before, and a coach who'd never even seen a game.

One Marshall player asked, "Which one is first base?" Another: "How do I hold this bat?" They didn't know where to stand in the batter's box. Their coaches had to be shown where the first- and third-base coaching boxes were.

That's when Roncalli did something crazy. It offered to forfeit.

Yes, a team that hadn't lost a game in 2½ years, a team that was going to win in a landslide purposely offered to declare defeat. Why? Because Roncalli wanted to spend the two hours teaching the Marshall girls how to get better, not how to get humiliated.

"The Marshall players did NOT want to quit," wrote Roncalli JV coach Jeff Traylor, in recalling the incident. "They were willing to lose 100 to 0 if it meant they finished their first game." But the Marshall players finally decided if Roncalli was willing to forfeit for them, they should do it for themselves. They decided that maybe -- this one time -- losing was actually winning.

[emphasis mine]

Sounds like a story of sacrifice, grace, and redemption to me.

I've never much cared for the theories of atonement that say God's honor was offended, or that God punished Jesus in our place. Reading this story made me wonder if we could think of atonement as God forfeiting a game God could have easily won because God is more interested in helping us win than in winning.

But I just think of those things because I'm a total geek. You should just read the story and enjoy it. It's lovely.

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