Saturday, October 20, 2007

Mormon Night at the Washington Nationals

Mormons make it a point to get together. On the family level, we get together for regular "Family Home Evenings," family dinners, and the occasional family reunion (including three, four, and sometimes five generations). As a church, we get together at least once a week on the local level, and usually more frequently. On the global level, we reunite every six month (albeit via satellite feed for most of us). Of course, Mormons have been gathering throughout their history: from New York, to Ohio, to Missouri, to Illinois, and ultimately to Utah, the church has sought to bring together its adherents. Notably, however, there has never been absolute geographic unity in Mormondom; indeed, as soon as many 19th century LDS immigrants arrived in Utah, Brigham Young sent them on their way to found or join the various Mormon colonies that came to dot the West. Somewhere along the way, the church made it clear that its members needn't gather anymore; instead, church membership was encouraged to stay where it was -- to "bloom where it had been planted." Hence, Mormons in Ghana are not required to trek across the world to be with other Latter-day Saints. They can stay where they are, attend their local congregation (a "ward" or "branch"), and fellowship with other local members of the church. (In Ghana, they can even attend a temple within their nation's borders.)

I'm unsure about the popularity of baseball in Ghana, but it's fairly popular in the United States. Despite chirping from some quarters that "America's Pastime" is no longer America's "favorite" sport, there continues to be something unique about going to the ballpark for a summer baseball outing. And apparently I am not the only person -- nor the only Mormon -- who thinks so. Thus, last month, our family participated in what has become an annual "gathering" event -- "Mormon Night at the Washington Nationals." Technically, the event was sponsored by the local chapter of the BYU alumni association, but as there are very few degrees of separation between any Mormon in the area and BYU, a "BYU" event such as this becomes a de facto LDS event. As such, food was required, and it was abundantly supplied in the form of pizza, cookies, and assorted beverages, served on a grassy patch at the back of the one of the stadium's parking lots. After getting our fill, we headed to the game.

The Nationals were playing the Philadelphia Phillies. I am a Phillies fan, and I have been since I can remember (I grew up in South Jersey). My brothers (most of whom were at the game) are Phillies fans. My parents (who were at the game) are Phillies fans. I think even Jen is a Phillies fan (because she loves me) and that my kids are Phillies fans (except when they want to be Nationals fans). In fact, I dare say that 40% of those in attendance that evening were Phillies fans (although the great majority of "Mormon Night" participants appeared to be faithful to the home team). The large percentage of Philly folk was due, at least in part, to the fact that the Phillies were in the midst of a multi-team battle (which did not include the Nationals, except indirectly) to make the playoffs and were entering the final week of the season. (Note: The Phillies would end up miraculously winning the National League East Division on the final day of the season and making the playoffs for the first time since I was in high school, only to be swept by the Colorado Rockies in the National League Division Series. There's a lot of pain to being a Philadelphia sports fan. I wish it upon none of my children.) As a result, we were able to cheer on our team with some of the most, um, "passionate" fans in sports. I'm just glad for my kids' sakes that certain words are made somewhat more difficult to understand when chanted by thousands of inebriated Philadelphians.

As it turns out, we didn't actually see a whole lot of the game. You see, it takes a certain amount of patience and an intensity of interest to sit through an entire baseball game without it turning into background noise to the conversation you're having with the person in the next seat. Four small kids and seats far enough away to make the action appear as if it were occurring in miniature didn't help matters. So, happy that we made the trip but with very tired children, we left somewhere in the mid-late innings. The Phillies won the game, I vowed -- as I do every year -- to take the kids to more games next season, and we all slept well, dreaming of the those famous "Philadelphia Filthies" of 1993. Mormon Night at the Washington Nationals was a success.


david & cynthia said...

I did a search on google for mormon day at the Phillies game and your blog came up. I was just wondering, is this the game where the Philadelphia missionaries came to sing the Star-Spangled Banner? If so, my little brother who is a missionary there was at this game and I was looking for pictures of "Mormon Day" at the stadium. Do you happen to have any? My brother is terrible at telling us details of things that happen on his mission. He tells the bare minimum hahahah....those kids! Well anyway, thanks! looks like it was fun.

Michael said...

I am constantly flustered by the fact that Washington got a baseball team the year I left. Fortunately, the Mariners have both a Mormon night and a Military night. I imagine there's a chance one of your boys will be out there playing some day.