Two weeks ago (in 2007) I was at Wrigley Field in Chicago, watching the Cubs beat the Pirates and step toward the playoffs. As I drove home, I imagined conversations that might be heard if a Chicago sports talk program aired on a religious radio station.
Good morning, this is Father Michael Patrick O’Connor talking to you live from our studio and devotional chapel on Waveland Avenue, overlooking the friendly confines of Wrigley Field. Go ahead, caller, you’re on the air.
Caller 1: Hello Father Michael, it’s Cathy from Elgin. I have been a Cub fan all my life, but some of my friends have lost faith in the Cubbies. They think the team will always find some way to lose. What should I tell them?
FMPO’C: Well Cathy, it’s interesting that you use the word “faith,” as that is exactly what us Cub fans need right now.
Sure it’s been a long time since the Cubs won the National League pennant in 1945. Whole generations have come and gone since the team last won the World Series in 1908. But we can’t switch allegiances and cheer for an American League team. We must have faith that this could be the year the Cubs win it all.
“Hope springs eternal in the hearts of Cub fans everywhere,” my father used to say. Despite the losing streaks, the lack of clutch hits with men on base and a reliable closer, we still believe in the Cubs. They are the team of our fathers and our fathers’ fathers. They are so much a part of us that cheering for them is like cheering for ourselves. We can overcome; we can grab the brass ring.
Cathy, tell your friends to keep the faith. How about another call?
Caller 2: Hi Father, it’s Andy from Omaha, listening on the Internet. Do you think they should make a movie about the Cubs?
FMPO’C: Yes and hopefully a better one than Rookie of the Year. In that film, Henry Rowengartner (Thomas Ian Nicholas) is a twelve-year-old Little Leaguer who breaks his arm. When the cast is removed, he celebrates by going to Wrigley Field with his friends.
When an opponent hits a home run that lands nearby, Henry follows tradition and throws the ball back onto the field. But since the tendons of his arm healed tighter than before, his throw goes all the way to home plate.
Desperate for good pitching and greater ticket sales, the Cubs sign Rowengartner to a major league contract with funny and predictable results. Some of it is just plain silly, much like the Cubs in the mid-1970s.
A better movie would be like Fever Pitch, except with scenes of Wrigley Field, the Bleacher Bums, and the joy felt by 40,000 fans singing “Go Cubs Go” after every victory.
Millions of fans have loved the Cubs since before the days of Banks, Kessinger, Santo and Williams. Now with Lee, Theriot, Ramirez and Soriano leading the way, there’s bound to be a happy ending. We just don’t know the day or the hour of its arrival.
When we read the Book of Job, we find that Job endured many long years of affliction and disaster. Yet he did not curse God or start cheering for another team. We too must have faith that in God’s time—we will be rewarded for our devotion. So, who’s on line one?
Caller 3: Hey, it’s Steve from Chicago. Do you have a good prayer to get rid of all the curses put on the Cubs over the years?
FMPO’C: I know some people say that the years of last place finishes and excruciating near misses are evidence that the Cubs and their fans are jinxed. I disagree.
Granted, trading Lou Brock for Ernie Broglio was an All-Star mistake, and the College of Coaches was a very bad idea. But those were just poor choices made by human beings. Since God gave us free will, we have to live with the consequences of our bad decisions. That’s baseball; that’s life.
C.S. Lewis writes in The Problem of Pain, “Try to exclude the possibility of suffering which the order of nature and the existence of free-wills involve, and you will find that you have excluded life itself.”
Like Job, we are stronger from our suffering. We enjoy every small victory that comes our way, yet we still know the pangs of humility. Not many Yankees fans can say that.
As for the Curse of the Goat, the story goes that Billy Sianis, a Greek immigrant and Chicago restaurant owner, brought his pet goat to the 1945 World Series—the last one played at Wrigley Field. When the Andy Frain ushers ejected him from the stadium, he cursed the Cubs. But they were right in kicking him out—goats can really stink by the seventh inning.
Forget about curses and believe in the Cubs with a sincere heart. Lou Piniella will do the rest. Of course, a prayer to St. Sebastian, the patron saint of athletes, can also help. Finally, we have time for one more call.
Caller 4: Hi Father, it’s Rory from South Bend. Do you have any advice for this year’s Notre Dame football team?
FMPO’C: Oh, Rory my son, the lessons of faith are even more important there, but we’ll have to wait until next week. Keep the faith!
First published in the October 5, 2007 issue of The Tennessee Register.
© 2007 Christopher Fenoglio.