September 22, 2015 will be remembered as “the day Yogi died.” Lawrence Peter “Yogi” Berra was loved by millions of people even though he played for a baseball team that many did not like. His outstanding ability and endurance on the field made him a star, but his humble personality and wise thinking made him a fan favorite.
Most everyone has heard a “Yogiism”–a statement made that was wise in its essence, but a little warped in its rendition. The most famous Yogiism is probably, “It ain’t over till it’s over.” Everyone realizes that expression is not quite “correct,” but they also know the thought is accurate.
I believe the secret to Yogi Berra’s longevity in the hearts and minds of the people was the fact that they identified with him. In his playing days, he was a catcher, a position admired because of the difficulty of it. He was also a “clutch hitter”–coming through with base hits at key moments in ballgames. Finally, he seemed to be a “regular guy” even though he was part of a profession that was beginning to separate itself from common people.
But probably the thing for which Yogi will be remembered most was his way of expressing himself as he was speaking. Because of his achievements in playing, coaching and managing baseball, his intelligence was easily seen. However, when he spoke, the syntax and grammar were “off” just enough to give his sayings that extra “punch” that others did not have, even though they were saying the same things.
Many people identify with someone that has trouble expressing themselves, especially in public speaking or interview situations. I would imagine that is probably attributable to the fact that the biggest fear among people is that of speaking in public. When others identify with you and respect you, you have a greater chance of influencing them. Yogi Berra and his legacy are proof of that.
Paul, the apostle, knew that truth. Though inspired by God, he was a man with whom people identified. He wrote in 1 Corinthians 9:22, “I have become all things to all people, that by all means I might save some” (ESV). We may not be baseball players, or famous for any reason, but we can live in a way that is wise, both before God and people. As with Yogi, even though we may not come across the way people expect, maybe people will be forced to consider the wisdom behind it.
If godly wisdom does not now characterize your life, begin today. After all, “It ain’t over till it’s over!”
Calvert City church of Christ
Calvert City, KY