A few weeks ago, I was sitting in the backseat of my parent’s car as we drove to see extended family in Kansas City. Somehow, in a way similar to most conversations I’ve had in October, we started talking about our Kansas City Royals and the hype that’s surrounded the Major League Baseball playoffs.
I paused, looking out the window, and somehow tried to explain my abnormal fandom.
“It’s weird,” I started, with a pause. “You know, to follow the games and just think that if I was a male in our culture, I would literally be making millions of dollars right now playing the game I love.”
My mom probed deeper to ask questions, and immediately we starting talking about my perspective as a former professional softball player. This isn’t news to anyone. There is a wide gender discrepancy when it comes to sports.
Don’t get me wrong—I love the Kansas City Royals! I spent my last wedding anniversary at Kauffman Stadium. I watched almost every postseason game late into the night and sacrificed sleep and productiveness. I celebrated on Massachusetts Street after we won the World Series late Sunday night. I even took a whole day to attend the Championship Parade in downtown Kansas City with 800,000 other fans on Tuesday!
But there is a whole other, heart-level of worshipping the team and the players that I’ve seen in people that I just don’t have a desire to do. You may find that ironic from someone who absolutely loves the games of baseball and softball and has been a Royals fan her entire life.
I pause briefly for a disclaimer: I understand that the MLB has been around longer, that it has a richer tradition, more popularity, and a physical difference between men and women that could make male sports more entertaining to watch. I know all of these things – it would be foolish to say that the problem is merely boiled down to “gender discrepancy.” There are many other moving pieces that for the sake of time and space I will not address. However, I hope to use my own story to illustrate a call to support female sports and make us all think a bit deeper into the culture that we worship.
According to an article in USA Today on April 1, 2015, “The average [Major League Baseball] player will make an estimated $4.25 million this season, up from $3.65 million just two years ago.” According to profastpitch.com, the average National Pro Fastpitch player salary is approximately $5,000-$6,000 for the playing season of June, July and August.
The average NPF salary is merely 0.12% of what a male would make playing in America’s “female equivalent” league. Let me reemphasize this point: hardly a tenth of a single percent in any given year.
When people ask me why I didn’t play for more than one season, while there were many contributing factors, I often reply that if the job could provide enough for my family to make a living, I would still be playing right now. But it was not even enough for my husband to quit his job in Lawrence and move to where I was, and the distance would pull our family apart. That was not worth it to me for a second season, nor what I felt the Lord calling me to do. So as the story goes, I “retired” at age 22 and hung my cleats.
I’m not even suggesting that players in the NPF should be making millions. If anything, MLB players shouldn’t be making that much – it’s truly a ridiculous amount, especially when you consider that some MLB players are making more than 30 million in a single season. But can I at least argue that the female equivalent should make enough to support a family? At least 10% (about $42,500) would have been plenty to support a family and pursue a career as a professional athlete.
So what is the solution? I’m not proposing that I have one, only hoping to illustrate the extremes, and perhaps to the reader encourage you to seek out and support your local women’s college and professional sports teams. Many of the young women that I coach are incredibly athletic, and their potential energizes me. I pray that they have an opportunity to play as long as they can and all the hard work they’re putting in will pay off. To the girls I coach reading this, I want you to dream of playing college and professional softball and to never stop striving for change.
One solution I do know: there is something, or rather Someone, much greater than all of this.
As a follower of Jesus, I strive not in worship of a profession, a title or a paycheck. I worship God. I find peace in knowing that none of my path is outside of His control. When He opened my eyes, He changed the desires of my heart. This affects how I act from something as simple as my favorite team’s win or loss, to things much bigger like the loss of a job or a loved one. Because my hope is in Jesus Christ and He is eternal, He provides my hope, my joy, my peace—and He is worthy of my worship. He is my greatest desire.
Now don’t get me wrong, God does not dislike sports. He created sports to get exercise, learn to work together, entertainment, and an opportunity to bring together community. However He does not want humans to replace worship for Him with worship for sports and sports heroes. The moment that we worship sports greater than God is the day that our money, our time, and our talents reflect what is truly important to us. Our lives revolve around sports more than our very own spiritual lives.
“Worship the Lord in the splendor of holiness; tremble before Him, all the earth!”
– Psalm 96:9
“Oh come, let us worship and bow down; let us kneel before the Lord, our Maker!”
– Psalm 95:6
“Ascribe to the Lord the glory due his name; worship the Lord in the splendor of holiness.”
– Psalm 29:2
“But the hour is coming, and is now here, when the true worshipers will worship the Father in spirit and truth, for the Father is seeking such people to worship him. God is spirit, and those who worship Him must worship in spirit and truth.”
– John 4:23-24
I challenge you to think about what you worship. Do you spend most of your thoughts thinking about something that will be forgotten in a few years? Where do you spend your free time or your money? What would it look like for you to submit those idols to God and let Him become the One you worship?
“So we fix our eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen, since what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal.”
2 Corinthians 4:18
I proclaim to you that the Lord your God, the Creator of the heavens and the earth, is worthy of your worship.