God and the All-Star Game

In Sports & Society by Jonathan Williams

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My father couldn’t make it to the All-Star Game. He had nose surgery and I was upset. I’d waited right around 25 years for the All-Star Game to be played at the home of the New York Mets and I wanted my dad there with me. He was at my first Mets game when Doc Gooden struck out 8 and picked up his first win. My dad was with me as we season ticket holders sat through season after season of quiet hope and exhaled disappointments in Shea Stadium’s blue seats. My dad was with me as we gave our futile support to immortals such as Mark Carreon and Daryl Boston. It was in Shea Stadium’s blue seats, section 25, that my dad and I became friends. The 2013 All-Star Game was our reward for sticking it out, for loving the Mets even though they required extra grace, for the celebration of our friendship, and my dad wouldn’t be there.

Instead I bought one standing room only seat for $167 along with an agreement that my friend Brian and his friend, “The Mayor,” would meet up with me at the game.

I showed up at the ballpark nice and early, bought myself a new Mets cap and went about the task of looking for meaning or nostalgia or wonder, I’m really not sure exactly. I wanted something that would create a new memory or pointed to the divine, something redeeming.


That’s when I met the “Mayor.”

The Mayor is a lifelong New Yorker, a few years older than me with a couple extra pounds and a graying goatee. The Mayor grew up rooting for Daryl Boston and Mark Carreon. The Mayor was a former alcoholic with a four-year-old daughter he talked about incessantly and loved deeply. The Mayor was larger than life.

Before the game started he confidently told the ushers that we belonged in the first row behind the dugout even though our tickets said otherwise. The Mayor smiled and talked and the ushers let us pass. The Mayor took my phone and got pictures of New York Mets All-Star, Matt Harvey, that were so close one might think he was family. The Mayor yelled with gusto at starting American League Pitcher, Max Scherzer.

“Max! Max! Max! Max! Max!”

When Max Scherzer finally turned around, the Mayor quickly yelled, “Harvey’s better than you, Scherzaaahh!!!” and started a “Harvey’s Better!” chant that quickly spread to the rest of the ballpark.

After the first pitch was thrown it was the Mayor who told us to stand patiently in the players’ wives’ section of the stadium.

“They always leave early. This shit bores them. We’ll have a seat by the second inning.”

He was right, a field level seat on the third base line.

It was the Mayor who told everyone to get out of his or her seats as Mariano Rivera was about to enter the game. “Show some fuckin’ respect!” And then began an epic 5-minute standing ovation complete with laughter, tears, and a thankful acknowledgment of the crowd from a future hall of famer. I’ll never forget that scene.

I talked baseball with the Mayor throughout. He called me “Pastor,” not so much out of reverence, but because he didn’t know anyone that “still worked for the Lord.”

“Anotha beea Pastah? Pastah, look at the freakin’ play that guy made.”

And then towards the end of the game, “Pastah, we both live in Brooklyn. Give me a lift home.”

I was more than happy to do it. The Mayor made my disappointment of not sharing this game with my father bearable.

We left the game and headed toward the Brooklyn Queens Expressway. We laughed about Max Scherzer’s face. We marveled at our seats. We listened to sports radio and made commentary over the commentary. And then my tire went flat.

I pulled off at the closest exit assuring the Mayor that I’d changed many a tire. I parked on the side of the road, got the spare tire and jack, and told the Mayor that we’d be back on the road in 15 minutes. The Mayor looked on with doubt.

“I nevah’ owned a car. Nevah’ needed one. I can’t fix that.”

I couldn’t fix the tire either because unbeknownst to me, my car came with a broken jack.

It was well after midnight when I took off my new hat to see that it was stained with grease. We sat on the curb with nothing to say. We’d flagged down 15, or was it 45, passing cars? Each one greeted us with the same skepticism over our story. Our honesty didn’t matter. It was Brooklyn after midnight and chances could not be taken. Our phones were long dead from trying to get the best in-game photos, and I had let down the Mayor.

“Don’t worry about it, Pastah. You were doing a good thing. But seriously, what comes next? No one helps anymore!” And then, “Ah, Jesus Pastah, here comes a couple of ladies of the night.”

Here they came, two ladies of the night, decked out in the finest stereotypes one could imagine. They zeroed in on the two of us and made a straight path for the car. The Mayor put his head down and I took off my hat to inspect it again.

“What’s going on tonight, boys?”

The Mayor didn’t talk so I told them about the All-Star Game and Max Scherzer. I told them about Mariano Rivera and my flat tire. I told them about my broken wheel jack and my dad. The younger lady looked at me as if her decision and my future hung in the balance.

“So you need a jack? I know the guy around the corner. We’re friends and he’s got a commercial jack. I’ll be right back.”

The two women turned and left.

“Oh God, Pastah! Seriously? Hookahs?”

I agreed with the Mayor. What were we doing? What if we got caught with these ladies? I could see the New York Post headline, “Pervert Pastor in a Pickle.” And just like the 15 cars we flagged down, or was it 45, the public wouldn’t believe our story either. There was nowhere to go, and our hope of all hopes were set on two women who wanted our money, who were most likely calling a group to come and rob us, who would define my day more by its disappointments than by a memory. Our hopes were set on two women who approached in the distance towing a commercial jack behind them.

It was after 2:00 AM when I looked down at my shirt to see it covered in grease. The Mayor and I saying nothing, but nodding in agreement with the sports talk guy on the radio. We turned onto the street where the Mayor would be dropped off.  The Mayor finally turned in a way that I had not seen him all night. Pensive, contemplative, satisfied.

“Pastah, I think something happened tonight.”

“Yeah,” I said. “Crazy game and a crazy night.”

“Nah, Pastah. Something happened tonight. Something important. Lemme ask you Pastah, was God here tonight? I don’t go to church but I think God was here tonight.”

“How so?” I asked.

“The game was great, hanging out with you, but I gotta be honest. I had no faith in those ladies. I think something important happened with those ladies. My mind was changed.”

“Like something was there that brought meaning? Like something was redeemed?” I asked.

“Yeah Pastah! Just like that. Just like that.”

My father couldn’t make it to the game and I was okay.

Photo (Flickr CC) by slgckgc

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Jonathan Williams

Jonathan Williams

After teaching 5th grade in West Philadelphia for 7 years, Jonathan took the logical next step and decided to start a church. Jonathan and his wife, Jubi, moved with their two young daughters to New York City where in 2011 they started Forefront Church in Brooklyn, New York. Jonathan is currently the senior pastor of Forefront NYC, where he oversees Forefront Brooklyn church as well as Forefront's sister location in Manhattan. Jonathan and his family reside in Brooklyn where they spend much of their time rooting for the New York Mets, chasing pigeons, and feigning knowledge of Indie bands known only to those who live in New York.
Jonathan Williams

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