Although I am a long-time Yankee fan, I am very pleased the two teams in this year’s World Series are giving their fans something they have not seen in many decades. For the Cubs, it has been 108 years since they last won a World Series, and for Cleveland a mere 68 years. Admittedly I am rooting for the Cubs for a number of personal reasons. My son-in-law’s dad was a successful congregational rabbi in a Chicago suburb for 25 years, and everyone in the family (including my two grandkids) are staunch Cubbie fans. My son and daughter-in-law who now live in Chicago are surely fans. In fact, they attended Game 5 of the series!
Two interesting newspaper articles about the Cubs recently caught my eye – because they put an interesting Jewish spin on the Cubs story and contained important life lessons. In his New York Times article entitled “The Cubs Reach the Promised Land” Rich Cohen, who attended his first Cubs game in 1975, compared the Cubs to the Hebrews, wandering for decades in the wilderness. Moses understood that it would take a new generation to claim the Promised Land. For the Cubs, that new generation has finally arrived with the team making its first World Series appearance in 71 years.
Ardent Cubs fans have continued to support their team year after year, even though it meant faithfully choosing a constant loser over a winner. Rich Cohen writes of a Cubs female fan as being Ecclesiastical. “Among all other spectators, only she understood the truth: Life is vanity; Come October we’ll be watching the Bears.” Like Moses, Rich Cohen has waited 40 years, and is hoping not only to reach the Promised Land, but to enter into its holy space.
Just today, The Jewish Forward featured an article about the team’s theme song “Go Cubs Go,” which has been played at Wrigley Field after every home victory since 2007, as the grounds crew raises the white “W” (WIN!) flag. The song was composed by Steven Goodman, a Chicago singer and songwriter who died of leukemia in 1984 at age 36, just a few days before he was scheduled to sing the national anthem at the Cub’s first-ever appearance in the National League playoffs. Goodman grew up in Chicago and was a high school classmate of fellow Cubs fan Hillary Clinton.
Four years after Goodman’s death, his brother David and friend Harry Waller snuck into Wrigley Field (bribing a groundskeeper with a $20 bill) and scattered his ashes over left field, just as Goodman had written in the song: “Let my ashes blow in a beautiful snow/From the prevailing 30-mile-an-hour southwest wind… and I will come to my final resting place, out on Waveland Avenue.” Goodman’s wife Nancy and their three daughters scattered the rest of his ashes in Doubleday Field outside the Baseball Hall of Fame in Cooperstown.
The Cubs never made it to the World Series in Goodman’s lifetime, but he never lost faith that someday it would happen. In 1981 he wrote “A Dying Cub’s Fan’s last Request.” Ever optimistic, he always introduced the song by telling the audience: “The Cubs are liable to screw it up and win so I can’t sing this song anymore.”
My big take-away from these articles: If not this year in the Promised Land, there’s always next year. You’ve just gotta have faith! Go Cubs!!!