I have only loved one professional sports team in my life: the Chicago Cubs.
As any baseball fan can tell you, that is a tough labor of love for the most part. The Cubs, the poor Cubbies, have been frustrating locals and legions of followers around the world for decades, but that hasn’t stopped millions of us from hanging in there. Our heartfelt mantra, “There’s always next year.”
The roots of my affection date back to childhood trips to Illinois. My mother grew up in Kewanee, a small town in the western part of the state, and she went to school in Chicago. So, our family spent a lot of time visiting Midwestern relatives — before they all packed up and moved to South Florida. Those prairie winters are tough.
But by the time our trips to Illinois — Cub Country, if you will — came to an end, I was a fan. Hooked. I bought packs of baseball cards, building a collection of my favorite Cubs. (During game six of the National League Championship Series last week, I dug through an old box in the back of a closet to find them and to get over the way that game slipped away.)
And thanks to the the Chicago superstation, WGN, and the legendary Harry Carey’s play-by-play, I was able to tune in and feel like I was there — almost in Wrigley Field.
Another memorable year
This baseball season has been magical for the Chicago Cubs.
New manager Dusty Baker has rallied the team, and its fans, out of the dark history and talk of that Billy Goat curse.
Followers of the Cubs have faith — they believe. But there’s always a lingering doubt about it all.
It’s a lot like religion.
Writing in the October 3rd issue of the Chicago Sun-Times, Cathleen Falsani makes that connection with an interview of Arnold Kanter, a 60-year-old Cubs season ticket holder who published “Is God a Cubs Fan?” in 1999.
“Wrigley Field, it’s such a religious place to be,” Kanter tells Falsani. “Where else do you get 40,000 people together rooting for the someone they’re pretty sure is going to lose? That’s a real testament of faith.”
But how do we know that the Almighty is pulling for the Cubs? Kanter has a five-point, process-of-elimination system:
1. God is not a Yankees fan. That is just a given.
2. God would not be a fan of any team with a domed stadium. Blocks God’s view. So, sorry Seattle, Toronto, Montreal Minnesota, Tampa Bay, Phoenix, Houston and Milwaukee.
3. God wouldn’t be a fan of any team that offends Native Americans. Bye-bye Atlanta and Cleveland.
4. God wouldn’t root for any team that had artificial turf. Ever. The White Sox lose on this point. It also rules out Kansas City, San Francisco, Philadelphia, Pittsburgh, Cincinnati and St. Louis.
5. God clearly would not be a fan of a new team. If God’s a Diamondbacks or Devil Rays fan, then who did God cheer for before 1998?
The conclusion: every team is out, except for the Red Sox and the Cubs.
“Sometimes those two teams seem indistinguishable,” Kanter writes in “Is God Still a Cubs Fan?” — the second edition of his book that came out in 2002. “Both play in great old ballparks, neither has won a World Series in over 80 years, Cubs first baseman Leon Durham blew the 1984 pennant by letting a ground ball go through his legs and ex-Cubs first baseman Bill Buckner blew the World Series for the Red Sox with an error two years later.”
But which team is it: Boston or Chicago? Falsani writes of a few connections that point to the Cubs:
• God may love everybody, but he has favorites. Chosen people? Why not a chosen team?
• The ancient Israelites wandered in the wilderness. Cubs fans have been wandering since 1908.
• Both the Israelites and Cubs fans “were faithful and believed — for the most part — that eventually, God would lead them to the promised land.”
• God looks out for the meek and the downtrodden. He likes the underdogs.
• The clincher: God loves people of faith — “the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen.”
Three decades of belief
Is God a Cubs fan? Maybe, but perhaps the greatest point that Falsani makes is that God enjoys all of creation — including culture — and that there is nothing too big — or too trivial — for the Creator.
An interesting perspective worth considering in the bleachers — or pews — when our minds begin to wander.
I’m just thankful that the Cubs — win or lose — haven’t changed for me in 30 years.
A few things in this world shouldn’t.
Contact MBJ editor Jim Laird at firstname.lastname@example.org.