Like baseball, life may throw us a few curve balls or come at us like a fastball at times, but if we keep our eyes on the ball, our goal, we can manage a base hit, a double, a home run and even a grand slam in life every now and then.
But like baseball, life is also not fair all the time, is it? Sometimes, the person calling the shots, like an umpire, may make the wrong call. Sometimes we have to endure injustice and look at the big picture. Why? Because like baseball, life is not about a single strikeout. It is not about a single loss. It is about nine innings — extra innings. It is about an entire season. It is about a team effort and how that team executes in the postseason.
I say that because of the anticipation of Harrison Ford’s latest film, “42,” co-starring Chadwick Boseman, who plays baseball legend Jackie Robinson, the first black baseball player in major league history. He was the right man with the right temperament to represent black athletes in the sport of baseball at that time.
The question that piqued my interest when I was covering the filming of “42” in Chattanooga, was whether or not Boseman possessed any of the qualities of Jackie Robinson in his own character? It was June 1, 2012, when I had the privilege of being a featured extra on the set and got a chance to meet Boseman. No one knew I was covering the story at the time.
I’ve been on several sets in the past, but I must admit Boseman proved to be an interesting study in human behavior as I watched him before, during and after takes on the set. There was a small production crew and only a handful of extras selected for this scene set on a bus. After the scenes, we were invited to join the crew for refreshments after a gourmet meal earlier in the day. Surprisingly, Boseman joined the crowd. I only recognized him when someone with the production team was calling him “Chad.”
I approached him and introduced myself. He extended his hand and we shook. I then congratulated him for landing the role of a lifetime and he thanked me in a soft, unassuming voice. Being a graduate from the British American Dramatic Academy at Oxford meant he studied classical theater with leading actors and directors of the British stage. But he was also groomed in the fine art of social behavior.
We talked briefly. I then explained that I was a journalist with a local newspaper. He thanked me. Suddenly, everyone was leaving the break area, returning to their stations. As I was leaving, however, I noticed Boseman practicing yoga in a standing position. With his eyes closed and the tips of his middle fingers touching the tips of his thumbs, he appeared to block out the noise around him. I stood there watching until someone said, “Chad, they’re ready for you on the set.”
After a few hours, it was over. The production crew quickly loaded the trucks and drove to the next scene being shot at Engel Stadium. The extras, however, were among the last to leave and wondering if they were done for the day. Out of nowhere, Boseman walked into the midst of us, shook hands with each person and thanked them for their contributions. He then posed with everyone who wanted a picture with him and posed in several group photos. This was something I had not seen before. He was a personable and perfect gentleman.
Afterward, he walked with us to where the vans were waiting to take us back to wardrobe, chatting in a very casual manner. Minutes later I noticed he was behind us practicing some martial arts maneuvers. As his van arrived, he invited some extras to join him. We shook hands again and said goodbye. That was the last I saw of Chadwick Boseman. But I knew it was not the last time I would be hearing about Chadwick Boseman.
In an era of unreachable stars, this up and coming star shined a little brighter because he deemed himself reachable and allowed himself to be an approachable, likeable and considerate gentleman who values people and enjoys interacting with them when he can.
As in baseball, life can have its moments when all that is asked is that the players represent their sport with dignity, humility and resilience. Sometimes you get hit with a pitch, but you get up and keep playing. Such is the game of life.
The real Jackie Robinson was asked to do that. All those who wish to please God are asked to do that. They are called upon to endure injustice, to suffer evil, to exercise patience, to show humility and love toward others, even under trial. Sometimes you are cheered. Sometimes you are booed. Such is the game of life.
If a man, like Jackie Robinson, could hold his tongue, bridle his temper and play by the rules for the sake of a sport, how much more so should true Christians be willing to apply Ephesian 4:1-2 and “live in a way that is worthy of the people God has chosen to be his own. Always be humble and gentle. Patiently put up with each other and love each other.” — Contemporary English Version.
By exhibiting such godly qualities we may yet be able to round the bases of life and walk safely into our long-awaited home.