God, the Chicago Cubs, and the Church of Baseball

Chicago White Sox fans pray for their team during a 2014 game.  Photo: Nam Y. Huh| AP | File

As a fan of a team that will likely never win a World Series in my lifetime (a distinction, we suspect, you Chicago Cubs fans are about to lose), you’ll find no bigger supporter than me of the notion that baseball is the perfect game.

Sure, we joke from time to time that it’s like a religion, but we don’t really mean it.

Today, the Chicago Tribune appears to mean it, analyzing — overanalyzing, really — the spiritual meaning of baseball in its story today. For all of its superior qualities, baseball is still the weapon of choice for the overreaching writer.

Being at a ballgame, or even following one on the radio, Sister Kathy Sherman said, “gives you a sense of mindfulness, and a sense of the present.”

“You think about what’s happening there,” Sherman said, “but you’re also present to the larger moments of life.”

Sexton said that especially in today’s hyperstimulated world, where fans are often checking their phones instead of watching the game, baseball can provide an avenue for reflection. If people allow, the game’s rhythm and pace, chided by some as plodding, can afford fans the ability to stop and think, to both observe the game in great detail — the way the catcher sets up or the shifting of the outfielders — but also take time to think about their own lives. And playoff baseball, with each pitch magnified, will be an experience of ecstatic moments, Sexton said, the possibility of failure on one hand and “potential magnificence” on the other.

It is this experience that leads fans such as Arain, a lawyer who lives in Hyde Park, to include the team in their prayers.

Two years ago, Arain went on the hajj, the Muslim pilgrimage to Mecca. He prayed for health, for his family and friends, and for his third-grade teacher. It was a time, he said, for reflection, when he thought about everyone and everything that was important in his life.

“And I found myself,” Arain said, “praying for the Cubs to win the World Series.”

If you believe that God answers all prayers, then it’s clear his/her answer to Chicago is often “no.”