Barry Zito has hit on a clever tactic to be left alone. In a GQ interview, he acknowledged that he was a Christian who enjoyed reading C.S. Lewis. His interviewer, Nathaniel Penn, gives what I think is an accurate recap of the public perception [certainly was mine] of Zito prior to the interview:
During his prime years with the Oakland Athletics, Barry Zito won the Cy Young, dated Alyssa Milano, surfed, played guitar, meditated, and generally personified that beloved baseball archetype: the flaky lefty. In 2006 he signed a massive, history-making deal with the Giants, only to lose control, inexplicably, of his celebrated 12-to-6 curveball. Since then he has been great only in short bursts: a month here, six games there. Now he personified something else in baseball: the mega-contract bust. But last fall, with the Giants facing elimination in the playoffs, he saved their season and led them to their second World Series title in three years.
No more half-baked image or ideas for this guy. The 34 year-old MLB pitcher didn’t just shake off the flaky label in the interview, he beaned it on the first pitch and then rushed home plate and clubbed it as Flaky oozed its last vial of quirkiness across home plate. I mean jeez, Barry. Being married, owning and enjoying firearms would have been plenty. No, you had to go C.S. Lewis on them. Here are some of the gruesome details:
To what degree are you a different person than the person you were in Oakland?
I think I’m a little bit less of a seeker these days. I’ve found something that I just really love, which is the Christian faith, and it’s new to me. I grew up being a seeker and being completely out of the box and testing and reading and trying all different religious things and kind of philosophical approaches and such, and it’s kind of a backwards route. Most people are raised very rigidly in an organized religion and then they try to fight their way out of that. I needed structure [laughs]. A lot of these kind of spiritual things are all based on the self and that was just too—I couldn’t handle that anymore. I don’t know. I think it led to a form of—it can lead to narcissism, I think.
Even now I can hear the rumbling from secular humanists grabbing their broken-cross-I-mean-peace-sign pitchforks, ‘Narcissist? Whoa, is he saying…’ Perhaps I exaggerate Zito’s expected fall from celebrity grace [actual Grace being what he appears to have embraced]. One of my favorite MLB bloggers, Craig Calcaterra from Hardball Talk, a proud non-reactionary type, weighs in:
The bigger takeaway, I think, is that while it’s often tempting and easy to pigeonhole hippie/playboy/zen/surfer types on the one hand, and it’s tempting and easy to pigeonhole Christian gun owner types on the other, there are a lot of people — probably most people — who fit neither of those easy caricatures. Zito is his own dude, comes off as a pretty thoughtful dude, and there’s something cool about that.
By the way, in the specific Lewis book Zito cited, The Problem of Pain, he might have come across something like the following–Lewis on the issue which I’ll characterize as why bad things happen to good people:
Let me implore the reader to try to believe, if only for a moment, that God, who made these deserving people, may really be right when He thinks that their modest prosperity and the happiness of their children are not enough to make them blessed: that all this must fall from them in the end, and if they have not learned to know Him they will be wretched. And therefore He troubles them, warning them in advance of an insufficiency that one day they will have to discover. The life to themselves and their families stands between them and the recognition of their need; He makes that life less sweet to them. If God were proud He would hardly have us on such terms: but He is not proud, He stoops to conquer, He will have us even though we have shown that we prefer everything else to Him, and come to Him because there is ‘nothing better’ now to be had.