The Chicago Cubs and the Mystery of Faith: What Does It Mean to Believe in Something for Which Little Tangible Evidence Exists?

By Bouchard, Jay | U.S. Catholic, April 2017 | Go to article overview

The Chicago Cubs and the Mystery of Faith: What Does It Mean to Believe in Something for Which Little Tangible Evidence Exists?


Bouchard, Jay, U.S. Catholic


I often joke that I came out of the womb wearing a Cubs hat. I was born in New Hampshire into a family of Chicago Cubs fans on November 9, 1992. Three months later, I was baptized.

I chose neither of these things. But before I could walk, talk, or seek a rational alternative, both were part of my temporal and eternal destiny. Cradle Catholic. Cradle Cubs fan. My ancestral birthrights.

Growing up rooting for a team that had last won the World Series in 1908--the same year the Ford Model T was unveiled--often felt like an exercise in futility. Maintaining faith in the Trinity, professing the resurrection of the body, and placing trust in a higher power are often equally daunting. All the same, being Catholic and being a Cubs fan are as ordinary to me as wearing shoes. Heavy wet shoes, but still.

As a kid, I joined my parents at church every Sunday. Like most children, I was too young to evaluate my faith, to question the complexity and the legitimacy of theism, or to understand the full implication of those latter stations of the cross--where things get fairly bloody. Likewise, at a young age I was draped in Cubs paraphernalia and accompanied my parents and grandparents on a pilgrimage to Wrigley Field. It took me a while to discover that this, too, was a lesson in agony.

By adolescence I carried these two C's of my birthright with a stubborn resignation. Catholic. "Practicing?" people would inevitably ask. My response: "I have to practice. I'm not very good at it." Cubs fan. "Seriously?" people would ask sympathetically. "Too seriously," I would admit from a near empty bandwagon, year after year.

Then came 2008.

By that fall the Cubs had posted the best record in the National League. They were primed for a postseason run, and sports media across the country couldn't help but predict that the Cubs would win the World Series after an astonishing 100-year title drought. They were featured on the cover of Sports Illustrated and, as a naive 15-yearold, I believed they might finally break their curse.

They played the Dodgers in the first round of the playoffs and lost the first two games of the series. On October 4, the Cubs faced elimination and trailed 3-1 heading into the ninth inning. My parents had both already stopped watching, having endured too many years of disappointment to once more witness what they knew was inevitable. So I retreated alone to their bedroom to watch the final inning.

I was sick with fear. Desperate, I looked around the room and spotted a rosary on my mother's nightstand. As Alfonso Soriano came to the plate, I started praying. I prayed Hail Marys at such speed that I'm sure even the Blessed Mother couldn't comprehend the words.

Strike one. My sweaty fingers raced over the beads in an effort to save the Cubs. I completely skipped the sorrowful mysteries and the prayers between each decade.

Strike two. Now with even greater ferocity, I scrambled to finish the rosary. Swing and a miss.

Strike three. The Dodgers burst from their dugout. Series over.

The Cubs had failed me. Prayer had failed me. The rosary beads still hanging from my limp fingers, I rolled over and buried my face in a pillow.

It was irrational, immature, and selfish to think a ninth-inning rosary might compel God to intercede on the Cubs' behalf. Still, though I was too distraught to realize it then, the seeds of faith were growing somewhere within me as Soriano struck out. Those seeds were likely growing even before my baptism, but the Cubs' predictable collapse in 2008 offered me an opportunity to realize my faith and was an invitation to cultivate it in the years to come. …

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