Michelle Martin

How to have hope

Thursday, May 4, 2023

Have you ever rooted for a losing team?

If you’re from Chicago, and have any affection for your home teams, I’m sure you have. Most Chicago professional teams have long records of futility, with brief glimpses of glory sprinkled through their histories. And I’m only saying “most” in case there’s some successful team out there I don’t know about.

The Bulls had the Jordan era, with six championships in nine years. The Blackhawks run was shorter, with three Stanley Cups in six years. Then there were the 2016 Cubs — winning the World Series after 108 years — the 2005 White Sox and the 1985 Bears. Yes, the Bears last Super Bowl win was almost 40 years ago.

While the Cubs clearly have the record for the length of the championship drought, I don’t think they can beat we Sox fans for sheer misery, especially not this year. The team snapped a 10-game losing streak April 30 with their first win since April 18.

During the streak, they lost by going down early and never challenging — see consecutive 7-0 and 8-0 losses to the Blue Jays during the streak — and they did it by coming close, but never closing out the win, forcing the best-in-baseball Tampa Bay Rays to play the bottom of the ninth in their home stadium two consecutive days — the first two times this season the Rays weren’t leading after the top of the ninth in St. Petersburg.

It even included the White Sox taking a no-hitter and a three-run lead into the seventh inning, only to come out of the seventh losing 10-3 on the way to a 12-3 loss. A 12-9 win on April 30 was as unlikely as the previous day’s loss, with the White Sox scoring seven runs in the ninth inning.

So what’s a fan to do? How is a fan to have hope? There’s looking at things rationally: It would defy all odds for a team to never win again after Tax Day. There’s looking at the bright side: Those of us who enjoy a day at the ballpark can look forward to plenty of good, inexpensive seats. There’s even finding the wonderful stories amid the doom and gloom: Closer Liam Hendriks, who announced in January that he had non-Hodgkins lymphoma has completed treatment, is now cancer-free and is gearing up to pitch again this season.

One thing a fan can’t do is make the team win. No matter how much we think of the teams we root for as ours, no matter how much the teams appreciate fan support, we can’t make the players pitch or hit or field any better. Anyway, I’m pretty sure they’re trying because it’s their own careers on the line.

Years ago, Dominican Father Mike Ford, now the director of the Dominican Shrine of St. Jude Thaddeus at St. Pius V Church, told me that when people expressed doubts about God’s plan for their eternal life, and said they had a lack of faith, he gently corrected them. It wasn’t faith they lacked; they believed in God. It was hope, hope that God would fulfill his promises.

God, of course, is the alpha and the omega, the beginning and the end of all things, not a baseball team failing to live up to preseason expectations. But if we baseball fans can learn to let go of despair and let the players play and let the result be what it is, maybe we can let God be God and stop trying to be in charge of the universe. All we have to do is hope.


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