Wednesday, October 15, 2003

The Lamentations of October

Oh Lord, Your ways to us are mysterious. We beseech You to grant us understanding, to remove the scales from our eyes and show us the reasons for our suffering.

Oh that you allow death and destruction and sickness to be visited on Your people. That You permit flood waters to rise and fires to burn. That You send tornadoes to trailer parks and mudslides to mountain peasants.

Oh that You give tax cuts to the wealthy and pink slips to the poor. That You permit a madman on a donkey to knock down buildings with airplanes. That Kenneth Lay and Bernie Ebbers collect millions while the guy that holds up the 7-11 does time. That the good die young and the wicked endure.

Oh that the arrogant jerk gets the homecoming queen. That a muscle-bound movie star becomes governor. That not just one, but two Bushes have been President. That summer always ends, flowers always die, and Mondays follow Sundays.

Verily, oh Lord, Your ways are strange. But with baseball, oh Lord, they are exceedingly cruel.

Oh that the Yankees always win and the Red Sox always choke. That Mickey Owen, Bill Buckner, and Leo Durham couldn't get their gloves to the ground in time. That You allowed the designated hitter and artificial turf and the Montreal Expos. That we have been plagued with free agency and million dollar utility infielders and ball parks named after shooting stars of technology. That Jose Canseco and Reggie Jackson won championships and Ted Williams and Ernie Banks did not. That Pete Rose bet on games, and though we begged Joe to say it ain’t so, the Sox did indeed throw the Series. That the Dodgers moved to L.A. That You took Lou Gehrig and Roberto Clemente too soon. And just where have you gone, Joe DiMaggio?

But, oh Lord, although many things exceed our baseball understanding, it is indeed easier for a rich man to pass through the eye of a needle than for us to understand Your wrath against the Cubs.

The Cubs, dear Lord, the Cubs. For ninety-five years they have frolicked in sun-drenched mediocrity. They play in the paradise of ballparks, in friendly confines ringed with brick and ivy. They lose – consistently, routinely, sometimes spectacularly – but they lose just the same. We love them despite the fact that they lose. We love them in fact because they lose. They personify loserdom – they validate our own losses.

They lost despite Ernie, who always wanted to play two. They lost while Billy swung sweetly. They lost with Santo, they lost with Sandburg, they lost with Maddux and then they lost more when they lost Maddux.

Despite all, Cub fans have remained loyal. Think of them, Lord. Inside every Cub fan is a Wal-Mart greeter. Cub fans eat hot dogs, they wear bowling shirts, they drink Old Style and like it. They ride buses. They vote, oh Lord, early and often, and do not shirk their civic obligation even after death. They live in neighborhoods and support their local parish. They speak Polish and Spanish and Russian and German and even English with a funny accent. They are Your children, if ever any could make that claim.

But now, Lord, they suffer anew and know not why. For the lowly Cubs have unexpectedly risen to knock on destiny’s door. Redemption was but a game away. Redemption was but five outs away. Prior was on the mound, oh Lord. Prior – as wholesome as the chewing gum sold by the ballpark’s namesake. Prior – young, tall, poised, dominant. The Cub fan in everyone was rooting desperately for You to smile at last and nod assent to that most unhoped for of all hopes – the World Series, Lord, the World Series.

And then, cruelty of a sort unimagined. A fan, an innocent fan. A true Cub fan, with oversized cap and big nerdy glasses and ears plugged into the radio play-by-play. A fan who undoubtedly said prayers of thanks to You for his box seat on the third-base line. A fan who undoubtedly suffered through’84 and ’89 and knows by heart the legendary swoon of ‘69. Why, if there had to be one to commit the boner of boners, to break all our hearts and surely his own, why did You let it be this poor man, this accountant, this computer geek, this Blockbuster clerk? Why if it had to be, did You not cause some drunken, bare-chested frat boy with face paint and a Mohawk to serve as the object of wrath of a horrified and dejected city?

Lord, we still have hope. There is a game seven. There is Kerry Wood. There will again be thousands gathered at Clark and Addison while millions watch vicariously, waiting for the chance to celebrate at long last, to bury the past, to kill the goat, to forgive the nerd.

Please – one Job was enough to get Your point across. Harry: use your influence.