The Waiting Game: Free Agency and Advent

by | Dec 21, 2015 | Spirituality, Sports

Jason Heyward swings at a pitch in the ninth inning.

Perhaps you’ve heard the rhetorical question, “If you were accused of being a Christian, would there be enough evidence to prove it?”

Lately I’ve been asking myself something similar: If I were accused of being a St. Louis Cardinals fan, would there be enough evidence to prove it?

The answer is yes. I look around my room and see a Cardinals hat and a poster of Busch Stadium II.1 There is a little ceramic cardinal on my prayer table. In my closet hangs a No. 22 David Eckstein jersey, complete with patches from the 2006 World Series, where Eckstein was the MVP. This is not all, but there was even more before before my vow of poverty.

I guess it’s not surprising that the Cardinals “have a stronghold on my emotional well-being.”2 My dad once put it this way: Danny lives and dies with the Cardinals. That’s why it hurt to learn that Jason Heyward, our best player in 2015, decided to join the Cubs.

Heyward was only with us for a year, but he was the ideal Cardinal. He hustled. He did the small things right. So it made perfect sense to sign him to a long-term deal this winter. It even made sense to overpay him — insofar as it ever makes sense to overpay a baseball player — since he’s entering the prime of his career. We tried to pay him top dollar, something the Cardinals almost never do, and he still chose the Cubs.3

And so the Cardinals felt “jilted.” They had to look in the mirror and ask: “Am I not as attractive as I think I am?”

The thing is, I felt jilted. I had been fantasizing about a Cardinals lineup anchored by Heyward. He would be like a new Jackie Robinson: a black man and a star player who would help to heal a racially divided city. I tried to personally recruit Heyward, another No. 22, by offering to put his name on my jersey. But Heyward decided that he liked the Cubs better. And that hurt.

It hurt like losing to the Cubs in the playoffs — which Heyward did with us last fall. I felt threatened by the Cubs in October, but now the Cubs are terrifying. But again, why do I feel terrified?

It must be that stronghold the Cardinals have on me. Which means my Advent prayer book has a challenge for me: “Whatever you trust to validate you and secure you is your real god.”

Are the Cardinals my real God? I seem to live and die with them. I do find the Paschal Mystery in their Game 6 comeback in the 2011 World Series. Even when they were dead — down to their last strike — they rose again and won. They were good. And at some level, that meant I was good.4

But now, maybe, they’re not as good. Our best players are leaving for the Cubs. And people like it. It’s no longer cool to be the Cardinals.

So, for validation, I’ll have to look to another ubiquitous presence in my room: God. There is proof that I’m a Christian too — a crucifix, an icon, a Bible, and so on. Thankfully, these symbols outnumber Cardinals logos. That doesn’t mean I always put God ahead of baseball. But it does point to a consoling reality: It is because of Jesus — not a baseball team — that any of us is good. It is with Jesus that we actually live and die. Thank goodness, Advent is not about waiting for Heyward. It is about waiting for God.


Cover image courtesy Flickr CC user apardavila, found here.

  1.  The one I grew up with. Busch Stadium III opened in 2006.
  2.  Borrowing a phrase from my friend Eric Immel. For Immel, it’s the Packers.
  3.  Heyward later explained that he took less money to play with the Cubs’ younger core of stars.
  4.  My apologies to other baseball fans — especially Cubs and Royals fans — who I have put down because of my team’s success…

Dan Everson, SJ   /   @djeverson21   /   All posts by Dan