Worshippers in the Ivy Cathedral
Or: Another Baseball Philosophy Blog
There's an old saying - being a Cub fan and expecting them to win is a lot like praying to God and actually expecting an answer. Well, it's not actually an old saying, but it could be.
I was browsing through the Facebook photo album of our writer the Uncouth Sloth, who has the most ridiculous Cubs collection I've ever seen (for a needs-to-be-updated reference point, start here, or better yet, find him on Facebook and see the up-to-date basement o' glory). He's got a basement full of it -- he's got a royal blue Cubs couch and matching recliner! He's got walls covered with pictures, autographed bats, baseballs, pennants from every playoff team, he's got a commemorative brick, he's even got a seat from the ballpark! It'd be enough to make the greatest Cub fan weep in awe.
It doesn't take much of a study of that amazing basement to realize that Rob's life-long passion has been the Cubs. But, although he's been a Cubs fan since he was a kid, as the years have passed he's become a husband and father, a responsible citizen, and a pillar of morality (yes, Rob, really). Yet, if his epitaph says anything but "life long Cubs fan," I think his family and friends will be surprised, confused, and perhaps even disappointed.
Like many of us, Rob has invested his time, his money, and, most importantly, his heart into the Chicago Cubs. I doubt he would disagree when I say that he lives and dies by how well the Cubs play. I also do not think that he'd disagree were I to write that he expects the Cubs to win, even when he knows that they won't.
Atheists and even many -- but not necessarily most -- religious-types would probably suggest that praying to receive an answer is an exercise of futility. God, were He to exist, would not work that way. And yet, I doubt you'd find many people who actively pray without holding some kind of hope of seeing any kind of result, coincidental or not.
Certainly, there are Cub supporters out there who react with incredulous scorn toward those who actively and openly display an emotional response to such an apparently scientific game. If you think about baseball from an emotional, instinctive place, then they look upon you as though you should have died off with your neanderthal brethren thousands of years ago. Seriously. If they could set their phasers to Obliteration and blast you out of existence, they would. That is not an exaggeration. They believe that baseball -- and the outcomes of baseball -- should not only be viewed through a very clinical, scientific scope, but if you actually respond to poor outcomes in an emotional way then you are apparently missing the point and you are a pitiful, contemptible creature. And under no circumstances should you ever "expect" anything -- if you follow a team with the expectation of seeing a championship, then you are an indescribable fool. The team owes you nothing, they say, and you should expect nothing. We've seen these free thinkers on the net, and perhaps you've even met one or two at games or bars, although that type tends not to escape their home basements too often and people without the social skills to make real friends rarely go to pubs.
On the contrary, I think it's an extremely human reaction for us to expect certain results based on our efforts. It's just unfortunate for us that, in the world of sports, we could cheer ourselves hoarse, spend ourselves poor, and watch until we go blind, and yet our efforts have no direct effect on the final score.
Still, it is not wrong to expect results, to hope for them, and to feel crushed when they are not delivered. It's just a part of faith, where prayers are made with hopes that they will be heard, in spite of the overwhelming evidence that they aren't. In the green cathedral that is Wrigley Field, where baseball is practically a religion to some, and a divine comedy to others, there is a reason why fans are called "the faithful."
I would just caution us all to be careful -- baseball, as with life, has never promised its faithful any kind of reward. And in baseball, the only "fair" that exists is the one that rests between the two chalk lines that mark the playing field.
Expect to win. Expect to sometimes be emotionally crushed. Expecting anything else marks you as not being a fan, or a part of the faithful. Instead you're just an observer. And that's fine too. The field is big, and the stands hold tens of thousands. There's room for everybody, and we'd all benefit from remembering that.