By John Pierce

A neatly-dressed man in a crisp Pittsburgh Pirates cap and I struck up a casual conversation. Eventually I made some comment about his cap — and the challenges the team it represents has faced in recent years.

Smaller-market teams just don’t have the payroll budgets to compile All-Star rosters like the Yankees, the Red Sox, or the Pirates’ cross-state rivals in Philly.

He knew nothing about that, however. He was not a Pirates fan. He just liked the black and gold cap. It went well with his jacket and shoes.

He didn’t know Bill Matlock from Bill Mazeroski. Willie “Pop” Stargell and Dave “the Cobra” Parker rang no bell in the head ensconced in the black cap with the golden embroidered “P”.

Even my reference to the beloved Roberto Clemente did not register. So I didn’t even bring up Dick Groat, Manny Sanguillen, Andy Van Slyke or the skinny version of Barry Bonds.

This guy was just stylin’. Donning a Pirates cap expressed no loyalty to the representative team.

A somewhat related observation: Nearly 80 percent of Americans self-identifies as Christian. And politicians often identify even more heavily so when elections draw near. Certain segments claim to be exclusively Christian or more Christian than all the rest.

Yet all kinds of selfish, unloving things are done in the name of Christianity — things in direct contradiction to the life and teachings of Jesus. And, of course, even the most earnest and honest come up short.

But we who claim the banner of faith should take note: it is easier to wear the cap than to stick with the team. It is one thing to suit up, but another to get your uniform dirty.

Can you tell miss I miss baseball? And, I know, I didn’t even mentioned Ralph Kiner, Pie Traynor and Honus Wagner. But this guy wouldn’t have known them either.

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