Last night I gave up on the Cubs. I’m ashamed to admit that I left them after the 7th inning, turning off the TV and heading upstairs to bed. I had lost my faith. I ran away from the Cubs to a dark, alternate reality, watching an episode of The Walking Dead on my laptop.
I had stayed up until 1:40 a.m. the night before to watch the entirety of a truly horrific, Cub-like defeat. That game was a baseball lover’s dream: Jake Arrieta vs. Madison Bumgarner, the Cubs and Giants. And Jake Arrieta became the first pitcher to hit a home run off Bumgarner ever, a three-run homer no less that gave the Cubs what seemed like an insurmountable lead and a series-clinching win. Until they blew it. And then miraculously tied it in the 9th inning on a Bryant two-run homer. And then finally blew it again in the 13th inning.
I felt like the Cubs were going to be punished by the baseball gods for squandering a game like that. They were beating the best post-season pitcher ever in dramatic fashion, but ruined the story line. The writing was on the wall: this was going to be another tragic playoff defeat and the “billy goat curse” would live on yet another year.
That’s why I lost my faith during the next game, last night’s game, a game where it looked like they never had a chance after falling behind 1-0 right off the bat in the first inning and then having their hitters go down meekly in the 6th and 7th innings after falling behind 5-2.
But, apparently I had not completely lost my faith. Because though tired and nearly asleep when I finished my Netflix episode, I was stirred to have just one last look at the Cubs score. I know the score pops up by just typing “Cubs” into Google, so I did that in one last act of broken, tired faith. The screen shot of what greeted me is shown below. Great news!! Unadulterated joy, the likes of which I seldom experience!
I could scarcely believe my eyes! 6-5! 4 runs in the 9th inning!! I literally leaped out of bed and ran downstairs and frantically turned on the TV and was blessed to watch the last half inning. Aroldis Chapman, atoning for his own sins the night before, mowed down the helpless Giants with three consecutive strikeouts, and the series was over.
The Cubs had welcomed me back. They wrapped their arms around me and said, ‘Let us celebrate! Let us kill the Giant calf! We don’t care that you lost your faith for a while, we are always here for you, and you may partake in our joy just as much as those who stuck with us all the way through.’
You may notice my browser tabs and bookmarks on the screen shot above. I’m not embarrassed to show those, as they pretty much reflect who I am and my life (it’s actually a bit scary at how well they reveal who we are). There’s work, money, entertainment, social media, and even chess.
There’s another tab, though, which is a bit coincidental and perhaps providential. It’s called “Give me Mine” which is a sermon by Tim Keller. (If you haven’t heard Keller preach or know who he is, give it a try; he is the hugely popular, influential preacher of Redeemer Presbyterian in Manhattan.)
This particular sermon is on the Parable of the Prodigal Son. I had been listening to it yesterday in preparation for teaching St. Augustine’s famous book Confessions in my first-year seminar course at Wheaton College. Keller draws extensively on Augustine in this sermon, and it was suggested as a resource for our course.
I don’t want to carry the analogy or metaphor to any blasphemous lengths (hence not capitalizing “father” in the post title), but the notion that I was the prodigal son and the Cubs were the father was overpowering. But not because the Cubs are God-like as the father in the parable (though they have famously been walking their own unique Via Dolorosa for over a hundred years now…). Rather, the type of joy I experienced at the unexpected gift granted by the Cubs is a profoundly human joy that is at the heart of that great parable. While baseball is just a game, played by overpaid adults chasing a ball, it is a profoundly human endeavor, and it can help shed light on the more important things of life.