The church of baseball is back in the news.
In a city all-too-familiar with a certain curse, the Chicago Tribune explores how baseball and religion often overlap for long-suffering Cubs' fans:
When the Cubs' Starlin Castro cracked a home run in Game 3 of last year's divisional playoff series against the Cardinals, Affan Arain was praying.
Arain, who is Muslim, had excused himself from his seat and found an out-of-the-way spot in the Wrigley Field concourse for his daily evening ritual. The crowd's roar provided an unmistakable soundtrack, and he knew instantly the Cubs had scored.
"In the midst of that prayer," Arain said, "I prayed there would be many others."
The Cubs went on to hit six home runs that night, a postseason record.
For Arain, like many Cubs fans of all religious persuasions, baseball and faith are inseparable. While prayers are the most visible sign of this connection — queue the close-up camera shot of a fretting fan in the stands, fingers interlocked and head bowed — the spiritual connection between loyal fans and their team often runs deeper, emerging in more subtle expressions of devotion.
"Perseverance, loyalty, faithfulness, long-suffering — those are the things that we talk about in our lives, and those are the things that we need when we cheer for the Cubs," said Sister Ann Terese Reznicek, a nun of the Congregation of St. Joseph and a Cubs fan.
Keep reading, and the Tribune quotes John Sexton, author of the book "Baseball as a Road to God: Seeing Beyond the Game."
Additional Cubs fans quoted include both regular folks and academics, such as a religious studies professor who is the son of a Baptist minister.
Later in the piece, the Tribune visits a group of nuns/Cubs fans and relates this nice detail:
The power of prayer and the belief in a curse was a split topic among a group of Cubs fans at the Felician Sisters convent on Peterson Road in Chicago, where the nuns show their pride with blue-and-red sweatshirts and wheelchair tote bags. In the hallways or the cafeteria, the avid Cubs fans in the convent make sure the others know the score from last night's game. The nuns, several of whom played in women's baseball leagues when younger, watch or listen in their rooms and gather in the common area for potluck postseason parties.
"I pray for them a lot," Sister Mary Clarine said. "When I have a feeling they might not make it or they might not hit that home run, or get their runners in, that's when I pray for them."
Others were not so specific in their prayers, focusing more on the health and well-being of the players, and making an expression of caring.
"I think prayers are important. I think they know that a lot of people are praying for them," Sister Imeldis Lubash said. "It's just our faithfulness and our loyalty."
It's a timely, interesting feature. It does a great job of capturing both the passion and the prayers of the team's fans. Kudos to reporter Patrick M. O'Connell and the rest of the Tribune team.
So do the Cubs have a prayer of winning the World Series? That remains to be seen.
Meanwhile, O'Connell notes that some prayers went unanswered Monday night when Chicago dropped Game 3 of the American League Division Series in Chicago.
Yes, there's another religion angle: