Charlie Burgoyne of Franklin, West Virginia, is the father of our daughter-in-law, Holly Branch. Charlie is really a great guy. As an avocation, he served a long-time as a registered high school baseball official in West Virginia, but he gave it up whenever the National Federation of High Schools came out one year with an incredible rule change. The following is his account of it.
He was the plate umpire of a game in which “a ball was hit very hard off the end of the bat, which hit the ground going in the direction of the first base line dugout. With verbal intensity, I distinctly called ‘Foul ball!’ But, it was spinning fast, and started edging toward the first base line.”
Charlie said it was the longest time he had ever seen a ball spin on the ground. It finally spun itself over into fair territory. The pitcher picked up the ball. The batter kept standing in the box. The potentially scoring runner from third base stood halfway down the line. So, once again, Charlie called “FOUL BALL!” When challenged about his call, Charlie stipulated, “It is a foul because I said it was foul!”
Before the rule change, it should have been ruled a fair ball. But, the rule change eventually clarified that if the umpire calls “foul ball” then the ball is foul regardless of ultimate position or circumstances.
He said, “I really blew the call,” then surmised, “Being an umpire is all powerful. We have been accused of being able to determine the outcome of games. With the rule change, an umpire could deliberately and intentionally rule a hit ball foul when it could potentially become fair just to affect the game, and nothing could be done. I reasoned that the rule change was too much for me, and I decided to give it up.”
Has it occurred to you that you and I have that same kind of potential when it comes to making judgment calls about others and what they do? We are empowered by secular rules that undergird the assumption we are all powerful. Taking the position as the typical armchair arbiters, we none-the-less image ourselves as the experts. And, if we call it a “foul,” then that is what it is.
Finger-pointing is always part of it, too. Charlie complained to the coaches, “If the first baseman had come over and picked up the ball like he should have, we would not be having this problem.”
Because of strong bias or outspoken personal opinion, we tend to relish the opportunity to declare “foul” despite not knowing what it is like to be in another’s shoes. We see it in dealing with the races. We see it in the churches. We see it at work. We even see it at football games. There is always somebody or a group of somebodies too quick to call “foul.” That is why our society is so stunk up!
That is why we need to be guided by the fair rule of the Word of God and the Person of Jesus Christ who directs us to make the right call. Read the Book of Acts. That is why the Jews were so avid about calling “foul” as it involved the ministry of Apostle Paul and the Christian church. They refused to be guided by the Word of God, and they refused to understand the Person of Jesus Christ.
The point is that we are not consistently nice to others. We are too quick to call “foul.” We are not consistently patient with others. We are too quick to call “foul.” We are too anxious to down others. We are too quick to call “foul.” Truth be known, we just like to call “foul” whenever we see an opportunity to take advantage of others.
There are absolutely too many written exhortations and instructions in the Word of God about how to treat and deal with others. It would make a “fair” difference if we got familiar with what they are.
In the mean time, Charlie told some of his friends that he quit because of health reasons. What health problems, they would ask? After a brief pause, Charlie would say, “The coaches were sick of me umpiring!”
The Rev. Ron Branch is pastor of Faith Baptist Church in Mason, W.Va.