Is Somebody Up There Keeping an Eye on the Cubs? (From the Archives)

(First printed in the Chicago Sun-Times October 3, 2003)

Is God a Cubs fan?

Arnold Kanter certainly seems to think so.

Every Yom Kippur for the last 20 years, Kanter, a 60-year-old, self-described “recovering lawyer” and Cubs season ticket holder, has stepped up to the microphone at the Jewish Reconstructionist Congregation in Evanston between services to plead his case.

In 1999, he published his collected Yom Kippur musings in a slim paperback titled, Is God a Cubs Fan? (Its second edition, Is God Still a Cubs Fan?, was published last year.)

“It’s a question we’re continually exploring,” Kanter was telling me the other day. “If he’s a Cubs fan, he’s probably got a lot of explaining to do over the years.”

“Wrigley Field, it’s such a religious place to be. Where else do you get 40,000 people together rooting for someone they’re pretty sure is going to lose? That’s a real testament of faith.”

For Kanter, arguing about whether God is even a baseball fan is pretty much the same thing as arguing about whether God exists.

How can God not be a baseball fan? Of course God is, he says.

God, Kanter insists, is a season ticket holder at all 30 baseball clubs. National and American leagues.

God’s got great seats, too, come to think of it. And being omniscient, never misses a game.

But how does Kanter know that the Almighty prefers the Nort-siders to the Sout-siders, or any of the other venerable ballclubs?

Process of elimination.

Left field from the stands at Wrigley Field. Photo by karlnorling via Creative Commons/Flickr.
Left field from the stands at Wrigley Field. Photo by karlnorling via Creative Commons/Flickr.

1) God is not a Yankees fan. That’s just a given.

2) God would not be a fan of any team with a domed stadium. Blocks God’s view. So, sorry Seattle, Toronto, Montreal, Minnesota, Tampa Bay, Phoenix, Houston and Milwaukee.

3) God wouldn’t be a fan of any team that offends Native Americans. Bye-bye Atlanta and Cleveland.

4) God wouldn’t root for any team that had artificial turf. Ever. The White Sox lose on this point. (Anyone remember the “Sox Sod” Astroturf at old Comiskey?) It also rules out Kansas City, San Francisco, Philadelphia, Pittsburgh, Cincinnati and St. Louis.

5) God clearly would not be a fan of a new team. If God’s a Diamondbacks or Devil Rays fan, then who did God cheer for before 1998?

Kanter has reasons to eliminate every team in Major League Baseball except for two: The Cubs and the Red Sox.

Spooky.

“Sometimes those two teams seem indistinguishable,” Kanter writes in Is God Still a Cubs Fan? “Both play in great old ballparks, neither has won a World Series in over 80 years, Cubs first baseman Leon Durham blew the 1984 pennant by letting a ground ball go through his legs and ex-Cubs first baseman Bill Buckner blew the World Series for the Red Sox with an error two years later.”

So which is it? Cubs or BoSox?

“We do what the ancients do,” Kanter says. “We look for a sign.”

Kanter says he’s seen signs at Wrigley before. Honest.

“When the Cubs put in lights at Wrigley, it was about the driest year Chicago ever had and the first night with the lights the game was rained out.”

Mmm. Yes. Biblical even.

But God’s not supposed to take sides, right? In wars or on the playing field.

Well, if the stories from the Hebrew Scriptures are true, God may love everybody, but God does have favorites.

Look at the Israelites. God’s chosen people. So why not God’s chosen team?

Actually, the biblical history of the Israelites has parallels with that of the Cubs. Or at the least, their fans.

Both wandered in the wilderness for a long time. Forty years for the Israelites. Ninety-five for the Cubs. But who’s counting.

Both were faithful and believed — for the most part — that eventually, God would lead them to the promised land. (Now, will Dusty Baker be a Moses or a Joshua?)

Both have been persecuted by their neighbors and had some less-than-effective leaders from time to time.

Chicago Cubs vs the St. Louis Cardinals, May 8, 2013, by NoNo Joe via Creative Commons/Flickr.
Chicago Cubs vs the St. Louis Cardinals, May 8, 2013, by NoNo Joe via Creative Commons/Flickr.

In Scripture, both Hebrew and Christian, God has a clear preference for the meek and downtrodden. Clearly, God likes underdogs.

For sure, God loves people of faith, and Cubs fans are nothing if not faithful. Quite literally.

The Bible tells us, “Faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen.”

That certainly describes the opening-day crowds at Wrigley. Even when the Cubbies are cruising in last place, what do the fans say? “Maybe next year.”

It may sound silly, even sacrilegious, to say God could enjoy baseball enough to have favorites. But why not? God is God, after all, and there is nothing too big — or too trivial — for the Creator.

In Christian tradition, there is something called common-grace theology which says, basically, that God takes pleasure in all of creation — including culture — and that all goodness is God’s goodness. Including good baseball.

That’s not to say that God doesn’t also equally enjoy Sumo wrestling, competitive yoga, Greco-Roman wrestling, surfing, bowling, synchronized swimming, or any other number of physical pursuits that can showcase the beauty of the human spirit.

And nothing says triumph of the human spirit like winning the World Series after being perennial losers for most of a century.

So, is God a Cubs fan?

Hey, hey! Holy cow!

Absolutely.

To order a copy of Kanter’s Is God Still a Cubs Fan? for $14.95, call the Jewish Reconstructionist congregation in Evanston, (847) 328-7678 or go to www.jrc-evan ston.org/publications.html.

Posted on: November 6, 2016

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