14 April 2010

why my faith demands that i remain a cubs fan

The long-awaited Opening Day is now behind us, both for the season and the all-important home opener. Yes, baseball season is underway yet again. Which means that summer has returned, even though the weather might not have realized it just yet. Along with all of this comes the excitement and happiness of man, woman and child as they don jerseys and hats, cheer and jeer, start watching batting averages and try to remember just how an ERA is calculated.

And then there is the eternal optimism which outshines the entire collective whole of other teams - perhaps the collective whole of other sporting events, both professional and amateur - the deeply embedded belief that this year the Cubs will win the World Series.

For other teams it is enough to 'have a good season' or to 'make a decent showing.' But not for the faithful Cubbies, even when they put up the best record in baseball the dream is unfulfilled until they are the last team standing at the end of October. It is a quest, and it eludes us at every turn of the calendar.

So many times I have been asked why I am a Cubs fan. Typically I shake my head, laugh it off, and mutter, "Maybe it's time to move on . . ." Or, I explain how people don't just choose to be a Cubs fan, but that they are born into the tradition and - for better or worse, mostly worse - they are caught in the matrix intersecting at Addison and Clark. Some have managed to get out, others have been sucked in; the vast majority of Cubs fans are here (for some reason) to stay.

Still, the more I learn and grow I discover that my commitment to this team is more than mere chance, and it goes deeper than hereditary issues. This is tradition. This is heritage. And we always have a choice to walk away from such things, even when we think that it would be impossible. Being a self-reflective person, I decided it was time to understand what gave drive to this devotion. As with all things that I am committed to, this one came from the most central drive in my life - my faith.

Life is a situation where we are born into a set of circumstances, given the challenges of ups and downs. We have a family, intimate and extended, which is filled with people and situations and histories which we would rather not be there. All too often we are reminded that our lineage is not pure and untarnished pedigree, but that it is disappointing. Even Jesus had questionable and scandalous figures in his family tree. It comes with the territory. The same is true in our faith, as the church is full of people and situations and histories which we would rather ignore and erase. Still, in the same way that we are reminded that the Cubs belong to a bigger narrative, we must remember that the church (and our families) are part of God's story. He chooses to direct it for his purpose.

The experience of Cubs fandom is a collective journey of highs and lows, excitement and depression, ecstasy and regret. These emotions are not unique to those who follow this team, but they are shared realities - a common support for those who so deeply connect with a passing smile, nod, or head-shake in response to the team logo embroidered on your blue shirt. Before one thinks that this is simple pathetic absurdity, let me challenge you to find a more empathetic crowd to ride life's roller coaster with in most churches.

In sad reality, it is this social interaction which has filled the void of many congregations and has spoken to the heart of the human condition more than most preachers. The innate human desire to belong and connect permeates the experience of Cubs fans. And the euphoria of being surrounded by such kindred spirits in the sea of humanity which is Wrigley Field gives a sense of community long lost and untapped by people who are supposed to be about the kingdom of God. We learn from Cubbie nation . . . or, we at least should.

But what about the losing? The fact of the matter is that we're all losers in some way, and we're all losing something in this life. That's the state of the human condition. The sad thing isn't found in that, but in the reality that so many don't have the opportunity to wake up day after day, year after year, season after long season and have great excitement for the future. Those are the ones who should be pitied, not the faithful of Wrigley. Cubs fans and Christians alike know what it means to be happy, but more importantly what it means to be filled with joy in every circumstance.

"We are hard pressed on every side, but not crushed; perplexed, but not in despair; persecuted, but not abandoned; struck down, but not destroyed."

Go Cubs.

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