When I conceived this blog a year or so ago, I decided that politics would not be a topic of discussion. It was just after 2016, and my friends know where I am on the political spectrum. I saw no need to add to the angry noise of Facebook and other media.
Baseball, however, has no such off-limits protection.
Only in the past few years have I realized the similarities between politics and baseball. In both domains, millions of people loudly and irrationally defend their loyalties. Friendships and families are stretched thin because of them. And people on opposite sides of baseball or political divides will interpret the same event differently.
Sometimes I think I alone am to blame for our country’s current demise. In October of 2016, a good friend of mine (who was voting the same way I was) asked me a hypothetical question in a bar: “Okay, Larry, God comes up to you and says you can make the decision, which would you choose? Hillary wins the election… or the Cubs win the World Series? You can’t have both.” While I am a serious Cubs fan, I am also a guy who loves my country more than the Cubs. One choice was about a game grown men play in pajamas, and the other was about the future of our country. So, I chuckled and replied, “Well, that’s a no brainer.”
My mistake was not making my choice absolutely clear. What if God misunderstood my response that night? What if He or She actually thought I was choosing a baseball championship over a presidential outcome?
You can imagine the guilt and expensive therapy this has caused.
This weekend – the last weekend of the regular baseball season – those two elements come together once again. I’m traveling to St. Louis for my 55th high school reunion. (Yes, we had a 50th five years ago. We just can’t get enough of each other.) Not only are the Cubs currently in 1st place, but the Cardinals are still mathematically in it, along with the Brewers. And, of course, we all know the political uproar that has been going on for a year and a half, and is twice as loud now.
I lived in St. Louis until I was 44 and was a serious Cardinals fan. Fond childhood memories of Gibson, Boyer, Flood, Musial, Schoendienst (I even knew how to spell his name without looking it up), and I even remember Mike Shannon when you could understand him. I heard Harry Caray introduce his new broadcast partner, Jack Buck.
But after moving to Chicago, and wearing my Cardinals hat to games at Wrigley, I began to enjoy the friendlier confines. And then one day, it happened. Carole and I were in the left field bleachers (because, as I knew from my Busch Stadium days, right field sucks), the wind was blowing out, and a gust came along and relieved me of my Cardinals hat. It flew out of the stadium onto Waveland Avenue. I figured that had to be a sign from God. Who am I to argue?
From that point on, I was a Cubs fan. What surprised me was that some of my long-time friends could not let it go. With some of them, it’s become a lighthearted bantering back and forth, like arguing toasted ravioli vs. real ravioli. But for others – and you know who you are!! – there’s nothing lighthearted about it. They take their baseball seriously, the same way I take my politics.
So this weekend, I’ll be a blue voter in a red state, and a Cubby blue baseball fan in a Cardinal red city. And guess what will be on TV in every bar? The Cardinals play the Cubs at Wrigley to close out the season.
But this time, if someone tells me God wants me to choose between politics and baseball, I’ll be unequivocally clear in my response.