Hard times for the pure of heart: is it possible to live ethically in modern society?

I think we’d all love to live every phase of our lives in happy accord with high moral and ethical principles. We’d love it if we were never confronted by logical contradictions and cognitive dissonance, by cases where our walk was at odds with our talk. But the truth is that we live in a society that’s complex, at best, and a cesspool of corruption at worst. It’s just about impossible to get through a day without compromise, and every time we compromise it’s difficult not to feel as though we’ve failed a little.

Some people are better at dealing with the conflict than others, whether through denial or a well-developed, pragmatic knack for keeping things in perspective. Unfortunately, I don’t do denial at all and while I like to think of myself as having a strong pragmatic streak, in practice my principled side tends to dominate my decision-making in ways that occasionally deprive me of convenience and pleasure.

I know I have a problem here, and I know that I’m not the only one. I’ve been thinking about it a lot lately and maybe writing some of this down will help. Maybe a reader will have a comment that will foster a bit more perspective, even. I may be a slightly older dog, but I am more than willing to learn some new tricks.

Let’s start with baseball. Yesterday was Opening Day for my hometown Colorado Rockies as well as my favorite team, the Boston Red Sox. Denver was just crazy. I live a few blocks from Coors Field, which was sold out (and friends tell me there weren’t even scalpers – no tix for sale at no price, no way, period). In addition to the 47K inside the park, there were probably another 50-100,000 outside, in the streets, parking lots and bars of the Ballpark neighborhood. I’m not sure, but I assume that the 16th Street Mall and Larimer Square were also zoos, as well as any number of sports bars in the city’s outlying neighborhoods and suburbs. In other words, yesterday was a massive holiday.

And I couldn’t take part. Sorta. I did wander up into LoHi, where Highlands Tap & Burger makes a point of showing all the Sox games. Had a beer. Had a great burger. Had a nice time. But it wasn’t the same as being part of a shared cultural celebration that looked, from a distance, even bigger than the 4th of July.

Why? Well, my friends know that the Rockies are my least favorite team. So do some strangers, if they’ve ever made the mistake of asking why I hate the Rox. The short version is that it’s a matter of principle: in 2006 the club went public with the news that it was basing official decisions (including personnel) on religion. Specifically, they were looking for “character,” and “character” means evangelical Christianity. I wrote about my feelings on the subject at the time and I revisited the issue a year later when the Rockies made it to the World Series.

Like the Constitution, I don’t really care what religion someone is. And since it’s a privately owned business, I guess there aren’t any de jure legal problems with them running things this way (although I imagine they’re wide open to a civil suit should someone in the organization feel discriminated against). But that doesn’t mean that I don’t find the policy reprehensible to its core.

Further, since I’m no longer an evangelical Christian myself, I can’t help being a little put off by the fact that the team’s ownership just said that I lack character. Trust me, I’m a huge fan of character. I think more teams ought to make character a centerpiece of how they run things. If you’ve been paying attention, you probably realize that teams with persistent character issues always seem to find a way to underperform their talent. And, as a guy who loves competition and has been an athlete his whole life, I’m sick of the sports section reading like a police blotter. I doubt I’m the only one.

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