I was privileged enough to have access to the old Metrodome before a Twins game with the Athletics. At the time, one of these two teams had represented the American League in the previous five World Series.
There was a ton of baseball talent on the field. There is much that is unseen on TV, and even in the stands, that one gets to experience at the field level. Imagine my surprise when I saw a batting tee! Yes, in a dirt floor area under the stands normally hidden behind padding was a tee.
I started out, like everyone in baseball, with tee-ball. At the tee was the best hitter in the American League and working with him was one of my favorite Twins players from my childhood, Tony Oliva. The best hitter in baseball was playing tee-ball with the best hitter in the 1960s! It would be like seeing the Pope singing “Jesus Loves Me.” It would be like Pavarotti singing “Do-Re-Mi.”
I had created a logical disconnect between greatness and basics such that I could not imagine highly accomplished people doing base activities. On the field, the Twins had called up a much anticipated new pitcher. Tom Kelly was drilling him relentlessly on covering first base on a grounder to the right side. Over and over again they were fine tuning his footwork in one of the most basic infield plays there is. And I mean over and over again. What about firing fastballs and mowing down hitters?
It struck me as surprising that athletes at the top of their game were fine tuning their other worldly skills with the basics. The player I was watching at the tee was working on keeping his front shoulder in, a hitting fundamental. I pictured state of the computers tied to ultra-expensive digital cameras micro-analyzing everything. Instead I saw a coach, a batter, a ball and a tee — and a ton of sheer repetition.
My uncle who coached many sports and was a college athletic director said, “Practice does not make perfect. Practice makes permanent. Only perfect practice makes perfect.”
Only perfect practice makes perfect. It is probably true: when I sense my bowling game going the wrong direction I have a muscle memory drill that I do to bring back my timing and it is so simple even a child can do it.
It is interesting how many revival movements in churches, or anything for that matter, have as their core a back to basics. Family counselors encourage families to start eating dinner together. Marriage counselors encourage couples to go for walks and talk with each other. No matter how many diet books there are, and health programs with impossibly healthy and bouncy people leading them, the message always is eat smart and be active.
Have you ever noticed that law is so complicated that it takes specially qualified people with expensive degrees to walk us through it, yet the Ten Commandments are so easy even a child can understand them? No matter how thick the theology book is and how curmudgeonly and obtuse the old German who wrote it, its ending message is God is love. No matter how dynamic and trendy the Christian speaker, no matter how much the ticket costs for the rally at the stadium, the message at its core is Jesus loves you.
I am convinced more and more that the people who try and make life seem scary and complicated merely do so in order to have power over me. I think that is how cult leaders have their power — make people afraid and assure them that as long as they are with you they have nothing to fear. Tell them life is hopelessly complicated and assure them that you hold the answers.
Life at times can seem terribly complex but that does not mean the solution is. The complexity of the immense problem of Goliath and David rationally reduced to its smaller parts and dealt with them in a logical order.
It could be the solution to what plagues us right now is simply to have faith, forgive, be polite and do good — much like we were taught when we were younger.