One of the old Milwaukee Braves owned a home not too far from my parents house in the early 1960’s. Whenever his  name was mentioned my mother would say something like, “he drinks too much.” The man and some of the other Braves had a reputation for drinking heavily and that was one of my mom’s pet peeves. Mom had a brother who was alcoholic and that partially explains her disdain for heavy drinkers.

In her own way mom taught me limits  to hero-worship. Admire the Milwaukee Braves as a baseball team and their performance on the field but don’t admire them to the point of thinking that heavy drinking is a good thing.

Milwaukee Braves logo (1953–1956)

Milwaukee Braves logo (1953–1956) (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Well, the Braves  left Milwaukee at the end of the 1965 season and frankly it took me a while to warm up to the Milwaukee Brewers but by the late 70’s they were my team to follow.

By the 80’s there were a few scandals emerging from the Brewers. Everyone seemed to know who did drugs and I don’t mean the performance enhancing variety, Eventually some of the more notable Brewers came forward and admitted their drug problems and sought treatment.

Milwaukee Brewers

Again, there was an evident limit to admiring our home-town heroes.

The commonality between the heavy drinking Braves and the drug-addicted Brewers is that each vice did nothing for their careers. In fact, if anything, their addictions harmed their careers. They simply were seeking pleasure and drugs and alcohol were the means to obtain it.

Today Major League Baseball has a huge credibility problem as well-known players are busted time and time again for using performance enhancing drugs.  The Milwaukee Brewer’s star player, Ryan Braun, lied about it for over a year and finally came clean after he became boxed in by irrefutable evidence.

It remains to be seen if Braun can rehabilitate his career. He might at some level if he hits a lot of home runs without the drugs and becomes an anti-drug crusader. People tend to be forgiving of home town heroes, not-so-much if they are on the visiting team!

Why do gifted athletes like Braun do it? Why risk their careers for better stats?

I suppose it’s the fame. It’s an insatiable demand to be the home town hero no matter what it takes. Fame becomes a god that the player seeks to control, but the god actually controls him.

My mom’s counsel was more practical than spiritual. It doesn’t mean it  was useless counsel, it just meant don’t admire baseball players too much and don’t follow them in their vices.

The take away for the biblical Christian is certainly in tune with mom’s advice but it’s also more. Christians can be slaves to their gods just as any athlete can be slaves to theirs. Put whatever label on it you want. Fame, power, control, pleasure, comfort, self-esteem, etc., they all add up to false gods that can control our lives.

If Jesus is not on the throne of our lives then some other god will be.

I, like many other Milwaukee fans admired Braun and believed him for a long time. Yet, his fall is not surprising, because I know as a pastor, biblical counselor and fellow human being we all have feet of clay.

My prayer for Braun is not that he recover and hit a lot of home runs and become an anti-drug crusader. Braun’s greatest need is that Jesus finds him. (For the Son of Man came to seek and to save the lost.” Luke 19:10 ESV)

Jesus is the only hero worth following to the fullest.