Baseball: A Signal of Transcendence?

The New York Times reports today on its front page of a course offered at New York University by that venerable institution's President, Dr. John Sexton. The course is entitled, "Baseball as a Road to God."Here is a profile of the professor-president:

As the president of N.Y.U., Dr. Sexton could certainly teach any course he wanted. And as the former dean of its law school and clerk to a chief justice of the United States, he might have been expected to hold forth on jurisprudence. However, as a child of Brooklyn, as a scholar whose academic robe bears the number 42 in homage to Jackie Robinson, and as a practicing Catholic with a doctoral degree in religion, Dr. Sexton has for more than a dozen years chosen baseball and God as his professorial focus.

And, as they say in the pastoral fields of academe, here are the course's objectives and desired outcomes:

The real idea of the course, he put it in an interview, is to develop heightened sensitivity and a noticing capacity. So baseballs not the road to God. For most of us, it isnt a road to God. But its a way to notice, to cause us to live more slowly and to watch more keenly and thereby to discover the specialness of our life and our being, and, for some of us, something more than our being.

However, leave it to the Times to inject a discordant note into this otherwise bucolic baseball idyll:

Dr. Sextons own baseball career peaked as an all-star catcher in the Bnai Brith Little League in the Rockaways Billy Ryan and I broke the religion line, we were the first two goyim and included being in a third-floor classroom in high school when a teenage Joe Torre broke the window with a home run from an adjacent ballfield. Over the passing decades, Dr. Sexton adapted to the Dodgers departure from Brooklyn by joining his son in rooting for the Yankees. Whether such a transfer of devotion constitutes heresy is a question, perhaps, for the magisterium.

Robert P. Imbelli, a priest of the Archdiocese of New York, is the author of Rekindling the Christic Imagination.

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