Sunday, October 12, 2008

G-d and the Chicago Cubs

Everyone should go read this. Because I said so. Actually no, because she's an amazing writer, and I think she made a very interesting point, and did it well. It may or may not be known that I have at various points in my life, lived in Chicago; and since no Jew has actually lived on the South Side of Chicago since roughly the sixties, we're all Cubs fans. Except for the obstinate ones who shall not be named but you know who you are. (Midnight Otter, that one was for you and your family in case you missed it. Don't think I don't know where you live....)

I have always wanted to be one of those amazingly cool girls who know everything about sports. I know girls like this, and I think it's cool of them that they know stuff about sports. And don't get me wrong - I can appreciate a good sports game, be it baseball, football, basketball, and even on the very rare occasion soccer. (Golf is completely lost on me. It will never not be boring) And I am a loyal fan of all my local sports teams (the Sox don't count, they're all the way across the city) in a general, city loyalty kind of way. Chicagoans are nothing if not loyal to their sports teams. But try as I might, I really can't get up the interest to memorize stats and nuances and famous plays made by various players. If I were being honest, I couldn't even name you more than two or three of the Cubs. And though yes, it disappoints me every year when the Cubs foul up again, I know better than to get too invested in it to begin with.

My brothers, on the other hand, are a different story. They are true fans. Not only do they know every stat and every play by play, and every trade, everything as it happens, but they follow the baseball season like a second religion. My Mom mentioned something to one of them about I don't even know who it was, I think it might have been the Red Sox, after the Cubs threw the playoffs, and my brother said "Why are we talking about baseball? The baseball season is over." For my brothers, it's over when it's over for the Cubs.

I mention this because even though I'm not a hard core Cubs fan, I know what hardcore Cubs fans are like. And they are a lot like religious zealots. First of all, there's the zealotry. The irrational belief in and hope for a redemption. The cultishness. And perhaps most of all, the beautiful sense of hope at the beginning of every new season, and the warmth of unity and brotherhood shared with at least half a city, just for being a Cubs fan. It's a pretty powerful thing.

Anyway, I was just recently home for the chagim, or part of them. In the course of my visit, I met up with some old and very precious friends. One of them is a long time respected teacher and mentor of mine, and we got into a heated conversation that didn't really go anywhere. The thing was, I knew exactly why it didn't go anywhere, and I couldn't bring myself to introduce the main point of disagreement, the point that would move it forward.

I don't really remember how the conversation got started exactly, but somehow I brought up certain events that occurred in the Beit Shemesh area in the last couple of years. My point was that these occurrences were actually approved by religious leaders, who seemed to be saying that Judaism believes that what these people were doing was halachically sanctioned and not only permissible but correct. Now I don't know about the rest of you, but nowhere have I ever read that it is halachically permissible to harass frum people (or anyone else for that matter, but mind you these people aren't exactly breaking shabbat or anything) because of the way they are dressed. I don't mean low necklines, tank tops, and short-shorts. I mean a kippa srugah, and maybe the mother doesn't cover her hair completely. Anyway, the long and short of it is, the argument my Rebbetzin was making (and she is, by the way, a legitimate Rebbetzin) was that leading a community is incredibly complicated and difficult, and that what the community leader really means or says is very often distorted by others for their own purposes. And that further there are good people and bad people in every community. And these points are of course not only valid but extremely important, and I submit to her superior wisdom and experience in that area. But it had never been a point I disagreed with, and it wasn't the point that was bothering me now. What was bothering me now, and what I could not bring up, was that it wasn't the people I was worried about - it was G-d.

Because no matter how many good people there are in the world, and no matter how many crummy people, and no matter what good or evil who may have done to whom, I cannot help a growing sensation that it matters very little in the end. I think we may end up all equally screwed, and I don't think that it's a license to be evil. I just makes me sad to think of all the people who go to so much effort and have so much faith and are still going to get screwed over in the end. G-d may have a plan that factors us all in, but He's had plans for others before us, people who were ten times as blameless and did ten times as much good, and they weren't happy plans. I know that this sounds like a very typical tzadik virah lo kind of situation but I'm not buying it right now. It's not that I think it's not true exactly, but it's just.... not that relevant somehow. It's too small to answer the question. Like so many Jewish arguments.

Anyway, to get back to the Cubs. I think believing in the Cubs is a little like believing in G-d. And the Messiah metaphor might be more apt, but this one feels relevant too. Every year we hope in the Cubs and every year they let us down. So many people put their trust in G-d and then get slapped in the face for it. But the kicker is, just like Cubs fans, they still come back for another season! No matter how many times it happens, they just keep believing in G-d and trusting in Him. It's like my friend the Rogue Unicorn said - we can't help it. It's in our blood.

And I still can't decide if that's beautiful or just achingly heartbreakingly sad.


Blogger Yosef said...

Fact check -- Jews, observant ones, do indeed live on the south side.

10:09 PM  
Blogger Miri said...

ok I forgot about the UofC Hyde Park people. I meant non-university affiliated communities. University affiliated communities are by nature transitory and so don't count.

3:56 AM  
Blogger Nemo said...

I guess, according to you analogy, being a Pirate's fan makes me a complete heretic.

8:19 AM  
Blogger Rogue Unicorn said...

thanks for the link,babe.
i'm not sure i agree with your main theological argument, but i'm too tired to be coherent right now.
Oh, those Cubbies

1:55 PM  
Blogger Miri said...

I don't know very much about sports, and basically nothing about the Pirates, so I'll have to take your word for it.

Indeed. A well argued point. :)

2:54 PM  
Blogger Nemo said...

They haven't done anything in years, and we don't expect any changes in the foreseeable future.

7:53 AM  
Blogger Miri said...

ay, there's the rub; see the Cubs keep making it to the playoffs and then choking. They clinched their division for the last two years. That's the problem - they get our hopes up every season that maybe this year it'll be different, and then they let us down.

10:53 AM  
Blogger Tobie said...

I feel as though Chicago Cubs fans kind of enjoy the whole "look at us! Oh how we are unfairly cursed!" bit. I mean, they do seem to keep coming back and they don't have to.

Sports fandom, however, always seemed to me like patriotism or the sort of piety of ancient Greece. In Socrates' time, belief in the gods of your city wasn't a question of theology or truth, it was a question of simple loyalty. People tended to think (and you see echoes of this in the more Biblical approach to God) that it wasn't about your god being the God or even being the coolest god, it was about him being yours personally and therefore you had to stick with Him. Which is how I think baseball teams and countries work too. It's actually a bit refreshing of a concept- not threshing through the more complex absolutes, just "Yup, that's my god."

3:09 PM  
Blogger Miri said...

That's interesting. And also a fairly accurate description of both Cubs fandom and Judaism. So you see, it all plays into my metaphor very nicely....

9:49 AM  

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