Someone asked me how my blog and newspaper column came to be titled "Bleachers Brew". It's like this, it's an amalgam of sorts of two things: The bleachers area in the stadium/arena where I used to sit when I would watch baseball, football, and basketball games and Miles Davis' great jazz album Bitches Brew. That's how it got culled together. I originally planned on calling it "The View from the Big Chair" that is a nod to Tears For Fear's second album, Songs from the Big Chair. So there.

Sunday, April 16, 2017

An Easter Reflection (the Pope, sports, and the world today)

Top to bottom clockwise: The Jackie Robinson statue outside Dodger Stadium, Pope Francis, a Pakistani female footballer (from Benjamin Zand's report), and Mashal Khan who was killed by a mob.

An Easter Reflection
by rick olivares

In his Easter Sunday, April 16, message to the faithful, Pope Francis reminded all to recall “the risen Christ” and not to ignore the plight of those seeking refuge from war, hunger, poverty, and social injustice.

A timely and pressing message in this day and age. Rising above it. Boy, do I know all about that. And how.

How poignant is the day?

Coincidentally and interestingly, on the same day, in the United States -- 12-15 hours behind us in the Philippines -- it was the 20th Anniversary of the league-wide retirement of Jackie Robinson’s #42.

April 15, 1947 was the day where Robinson smashed the color barrier when he played first base for the Brooklyn Dodgers to begin a trying but ultimately remarkable 10-year career in Major League Baseball. Twenty years ago, the late Robinson’s number was retired from use from all professional baseball teams. It was a decree that was well met by both teams and their fans.

Thousands of miles away, British Broadcasting Corporation reporter Benjamin Zand’s photo and video report about Karachi, Pakistan, was posted on the broadcaster’s website. Zand met up with some forward thinking people working to remove the stain of the Taliban and violence in that country and to make Pakistan a better place.

In his report, Zand reported about the plight of female footballers who aren’t only widely accepted but have to deal with the violent backlash by the Taliban. Noted Zand, “However, those working towards reform, including members of the nation’s growing music community, feel that the reward is worth the risk.”

Imagine that? Your life is at risk for playing a game of football? All because some people would rather have you live like a stone aged hermit?

I think these two matters – an event and a report – distinctly unrelated yet are so important to the next step we the human race take especially with the world a more dangerous place today.

Especially for Pakistan that is still reeling from the death of college student Mashal Khan last Friday, April 14, at the hands of a mob that blamed him for blasphemous comments about Islam on social media. As investigations have shown, the Facebook comments that was allegedly posted by Khan, is fake. The Facebook page has since been mysteriously taken down. No doubt, the it was a deliberate attempt to blackmail him following the student’s complaints surrounding mismanagement of Abdul Wali Khan University by certain officials. And whoever put up the fake account achieved their nefarious and malicious intentions because Khan was killed at the hands of a brutal and mindless mob that never bothered to check the veracity of the reports.

The extreme times we live in are dangerous. It’s difficult to filter the demoralizing news that never seems to run out and I find myself reading with great interest a CNN International report that asks, “Can Dubai become the world’s happiest city?”

It’s odd that this city created out of a desert is bent on transforming Dubai into a smart and happy city. I, who eschew emojis as a means of showing my feelings, wonder if these digital icons can indeed bring good cheer in an otherwise insane world.

And that brings me back to Pope Francis’ message of “rising above it” and to “have hope” as personified by Jesus Christ’s resurrection. And we as individuals and as a people should “break down all the walls that keep us locked in our sterile pessimism, in our carefully constructed ivory towers that isolate us from life, in our compulsive need for security and in boundless ambition that can make us compromise the dignity of others."

The Pope also denounced the systems and bureaucracies "that strips them (people) of their rights and shatters their dreams."

And the message is crystal clear – to break down the walls just as Robinson did and to battle of systems and bureaucracies that shatter dreams like the female footballers in Karachi.

Life is tough. We make sacrifices. We break down And we do what we can.

As Zand put it congruently, the rewards are great.


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