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The Great American Pastime; Watching

The great American pastime is watching sports. Someone once described a football game as 30,000 people in desperate need of exercise watching 22 people in desperate need of rest.

No matter the sporting event, Americans love watching. We have become professional watchers. It surprises me someone has not gotten around to putting together a televised award show for professional watchers. We could all watch these people get awards for their watching prowess. I know I would watch.

Watching has become such a passion that we take everything this way - even daily exercise. This past week I awoke around three in the morning. For some reason I could not sleep, so I watched a little TV. To my surprise, several exercise programs were running. When I say running, I mean running.

Who in their right mind is up at this terrible hour watching exercising programs? I know I'm not in my right mind at 3 a.m.

Just how much exercise can a person get watching TV with a cup of coffee in one hand and a prune Danish in the other? Thank God for the remote control. The most exercise I get is surfing the channels.

This obsession with watching sports came home to me not long ago. Our grandson recently reached that wonderful age qualifying him for the Pee Wee Baseball League. It is amazing how quickly time flies when you're trying to watch your Ps and Qs. I can't imagine how fast it would go if I were watching the rest of the alphabet.

After several weeks of intense Pee Wee training, the children were ready for their first game. My wife and I rearranged our schedule so we could be there. What a thrill for us to watch him play his first game.

Grandchildren have a way of getting grandparents to do things they have not done in years, which is why grandparents are an endless supply of candy. One good turn deserves a lollipop.

Several things surprised me at the Pee Wee game. The first thing was the size of the players.

When the game started, I noticed a helmet with shoes, walking to home plate, dragging a bat. Imagine my surprise to discover a real player under all that helmet.

It then dawned on me just why they call it Pee Wee baseball. There is another reason, but I cannot divulge that right now and it happened several times.

My biggest surprise awaited me in the bleachers. When we first arrived, I noticed the bleachers were filled with people. My wife and I had a little difficulty finding a place to sit so we could get a good view of our grandson.

Before the game began, I had an opportunity to check out the people in the bleachers. One of my hobbies is watching people. I try guessing who they are and where they are from and what they do for a living.

Overall, they looked like an ordinary group of people with not a rocket scientist among them. I settled in for a pleasant afternoon of watching my grandson play

ball. Then a coach yelled, "Let's play ball!"

This simple phrase triggered some marvelous memories. When I was a kid, we did not have the luxury of a real baseball field. If we wanted to play ball we confiscated an empty lot, or the corner of a cow pasture. With the latter, I can't tell you what we used for bases. Suffice it to say nobody slid into third base on purpose.

In those days, our primary goal was having fun. We got together, split into two teams and played ball.

One person who always played was Larry. We had to let him play even though he was terrible. He owned the only baseball in the neighborhood.

I remember one year all we had was a broomstick for a bat. You know you're a good batter when you can make a double with a broomstick.

When the coach yelled, something happened in the bleachers. I could not put my finger on it at the time (two were firmly placed in my ears), but there was a definite change with the spectators.

Before the game started, the woman who sat next to me seemed like a calm, sensible mother supporting her son on the ball field. Boy, was I surprised. Right before my eyes, she turned into a raging fanatic on the brink of becoming a lunatic.

I'll admit I was not up to speed with the rules of the game. Fortunately, she was willing to fill me in on the finer aspects. She knew more about what was happening on the field than any of the coaches.

In fact, she was intimately familiar with all the coaches and knew the head coach's heritage quite well, and referred to his mother a little more often than suited me.

From the vantage point of her bleacher seat, she had a commanding view of the entire game and generously shared this information with those on the playing field. No player stepped up to the plate without the advantage of her instruction.

Spectators are important to baseball and every other sport. The Bible even reminds us how important spectators are in our spiritual life.

The Bible says, "Wherefore seeing we also are compassed about with so great a cloud of witnesses, let us lay aside every weight, and the sin which doth so easily beset us, and let us run with patience the race that is set before us." (Hebrews 12:1 KJV.)

Knowing someone is watching keeps us on the top of the game.

The Rev. James L. Snyder is pastor of the Family of God Fellowship, 1471 Pine Road. He lives with his wife, Martha, in Silver Springs Shores. Contact him by calling 687-4240. His e-mail address is The church web site is

Rev. Snyder's new book, You Can Always Tell A Pastor (But Not Very Much), is available. Rev. Snyder is host to the weekly radio program, Sunday Joy, each Sunday at 9:30 a.m. on WOCA, 1370 AM.

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