Champions of Faith - a review

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It was with a bit of skepticism that I accepted a review copy of Champions of Faith earlier this summer (sorry Mr. Walsh, I have a pregnant wife and a new house, I've been busy). It's a movie produced by the good folks at Catholic Exchange that profiles the faith lives of Catholic pro baseball players. Given my love of baseball and my faith (not in that order), you might find my worries strange, but then consider that the last movie to combine baseball with spirituality was Bull Durham and you might understand1.

Though the DVD is excellent overall, as with anything, parents should watch it with their children as there are some troublesome parts. For one, there are simply too many moments in Champions of Faith where the players and coaches profiled show a Prayer of Jabez-ish mentality. Says one: "If you put God in first place, he'll put you in first place, if you put him in second place, he'll put you in second place." Really? Tell that to Job. Or, if you prefer a more contemporary example, tell that to the Devil Rays. Sorry Tampa Bay! Nobody on your team puts God in first place!

More seriously, the structure of the movie tends to promote this idea. It's great that Jack McKeon is a devout Catholic (and I'm generally inclined to appreciate an old man chomping on a cigar talking about his devotion to the Little Flower) but is that why the Marlins won the World Series in 2003?2 The movie doesn't quite say so, but it does talk about McKeon's faith in the context of that season. The same goes for the Cardinals' 2006 World Series. Jeff Suppan and David Eckstein are evidently faithful Catholics, but, but.... come on!3 Like I said, watch this with your children.

So why watch it at all if it's so problematic? Well, like I said, overall it does a good job. For the most part it gets out of the way and simply lets the players talk about their faith, which is always a good thing (except when it's not, see above). Specifically, though, there are two great parts of the movie that could be useful for teaching boys. The first is a powerful montage where a couple dozen players profess their belief in the real presence. It's powerful because they are clearly sincere. Boys sometimes just need to hear these things from somebody who's not mom or dad. You can argue all day about why that is and it's probably not a good thing, but there are many kids out there who will be moved by seeing their heros confess their faith in Jesus present in the Eucharist.

The second great part is the profile of Mike Sweeney. It's a real, well-presented example of humility. A few years ago, Sweeney took a beanball from Jeff Weaver and went after him, causing a bench clearing brawl. Now, if you know anything about Jeff Weaver, you can instantly sympathize with Sweeney, but Sweeney explains his realization that he needs to ask for forgiveness, and it's a great concrete lesson in one of the hardest parts of our faith to put into action. Most school age boys would benefit from that part.

All in all, it's a good movie. The camera work is excellent, capturing not only some of baseball's greatest shrines (shots of Wrigley Field feature prominently) but also some magnificent images of the St. Louis cathedral and a mission in California (maybe San Diego). Really, except for the few prosperity gospel moments, it succeeds in showing that real people, even people many children regard as heroes, take seriously and put into practice in their lives their Catholic faith in Jesus Christ.

Papa-Lu's rating: Three stars out of 4

Endnotes:

1 Entertaining movie if you can tolerate the constant blasphemy and Susan Sarandon. Back to post

2 Obviously, my being a Cubs fan has a lot to do with it, although Steve Bartman might favor the thesis that stealing a foul ball out from Moises Alou was divinely guided. Back to post

3 Interesting dynamic going on with this movie. It prominently features the 2003 and 2006 World Series, and the closing sequence begins with the White Sox winning in 2005. In fact, some Cubs fans may actually have their faith damaged by this film (j/k of course). Back to post

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This page contains a single entry by Papa-Lu published on August 30, 2007 8:28 AM.

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