US Catholic Faith in Real Life

October is the cruelest month for Cubs fans

Cathy OConnell-Cahill | Print this pagePrint |

As the St. Louis Cardinals and the Texas Rangers prepared to meet in the World Series this week, a "friend" sent me an article that began like this:

"The distance between St. Louis and Chicago is 290 miles. In baseball terms, the gap is much larger.

"Where to begin? The Cardinals are playing in their third World Series since the Cubs won their last playoff game in 2003. St. Louis has won 10 National League pennants since the Cubs won their last NL flag in 1945." And on and on, blah blah blah.

Yes, the St. Louis Cardinals are playing in the World Series, and the Cubs are not. Again. Even though the Cardinals were 10 1/2 games out of the wild card race on August 25, anyone who knows anything about baseball knew enough not to count them out until the last out of the last game. And sure enough, after being left for dead, they won 23 of their last 31 games (imagine!) to clinch the wild card. Resurrection metaphor, anyone?

U.S. Catholic recently profiled NYU President John Sexton, who teaches a class called Baseball as a Road to God. I decided to ask my husband--a guy whose encyclopedic knowledge of baseball parks, history, and rules is unparalleled--whether he agreed that baseball was really a road to God.

Well, says he, baseball offers you the chance to sit with friends for 3-4 hours as part of a community, sharing in the larger urban experience of unity.

There's a lot of failure. 

There's a communion of saints--an official version in the Hall of Fame, and (just like in any church or diocese), local versions, too: the late Cub third baseman Ron Santo was shunned by the National Baseball HOF for reasons that escape anyone with a half a brain, but his memory and his unvarnished Cubs game broadcasts are cherished here in Chicago. 

To this I might add: In baseball there's even an official way to "sacrifice" yourself: you give up a chance to get a hit in order to advance a baserunner. 

And like in Catholicism, there are indeed many rules, even for the most bizarre possibilities. Ball hits a bird? Second baseman can't get the ball out of his mitt and throws both mitt and ball to first? Guy decides to be cute and run around the bases backward? There's an actual rule for all those occurrences--a way to impose some order on a chaotic world.

Of course being a Cubs fan is a special road to God. Cheering for a team that hasn't won the World Series in 103 years requires a special blend of loyalty, faithfulness, and hope familiar to any Catholic. And of course the beauty of our "green cathedral," Wrigley Field, is a road to God unto itself.

So enjoy the World Series. The Cubs aren't in it this year, but hope springs eternal.