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A theological analysis of the Chicago Cubs

Rich Mayfield

Note to fellow Cub fans: You may want to wait until the Cubbies are eliminated from any post-season play before reading further. This column is meant to be both incredibly insightful to those folks who aren’t die-hards and deeply sympathetic to those of us who are.

Now that the Chicago Cubs are in the National League Championship Series, every trite truism about these lovable losers has been dragged out and paraded before us.

Even the most ardent baseball fan must surely be saturated with the incessant reminders that this particular franchise hasn’t won a World Series in nearly 100 years.

Every miniscule fact, every picayune statistic has been minutely mined to the point where it is impossible to imagine anything left undiscovered and not disseminated.

And still the writers keep writing, and still the announcers drone on about this archaic achievement and that colossal collapse. What more can be said?

Just this.

Up to this point I have yet to hear, read or see a theological critique of the Cubs’ achievement. As both a die-hard Cubs fan and a theologian, I thus find it incumbent upon me to provide this missing component.

I write this exactly 12 years to the day after the former Cub manager and part-time theologian, Leo Durocher, departed this world for another. Durocher, some of you may remember, was known affectionately as “Leo the Lip.”

He was, in his time, certainly the most hated man in all of baseball. His arguments with umpires were dramatic triumphs. His ridicule of opposing players were vicious and his exploits with women legendary.

Durocher didn’t so much manage a baseball team as dominate it. He was king, dictator, father, mother, teacher S all rolled into a

5-foot-6-inch frame.

Fifty years from now, he will probably only be remembered by the most ardent of fans, but I am certain that one brief quote of his, four short words, is endowed for eternity.

It was Leo the Lip who said: “Nice guys finish last.”

You really have to say it with a growl to get the full effect. It’s a line that too many football coaches shout at their young charges. It’s a spiel that may cause us to smirk but, deep down, many of us really believe.

If there is one thing in this great land of ours that is pounded into our heads from a very early age it is that great spiritual truth: Don’t ever be a loser!

I know it is there somewhere in The Good Book – II Lombardians, I think: “Winning isn’t everything. It is the only thing.”

It’s a dire warning, one that we carry with us for the rest of our lives. As we scramble and fight to make it to the top, we justify our actions, no matter how ugly or demeaning, by the holy words of the prophet Durocher S “Nice guys finish last.”

Once upon a time, a nice man made much the same point as Leo the Lip, only he didn’t see it as such a bad idea. In fact, finishing last seemed to be a great notion to him.

He spoke of turning the other cheek and loving one’s enemies. He urged his friends to be generous with others and forgive the wrongs that had been committed against them.

Most folks thought him a fool. Eventually they decided he was either subversive or insane and so he was done away with.

Two thousand years later, we still find ourselves thinking that Leo makes more sense. We don’t want to play the fool. We don’t want to finish last.

But all of us have witnessed folks who have deserted friendships and massacred relationships for the sake of getting ahead. We have all seen marriages destroyed and families ripped apart because someone felt they always had to come out on top.

Every one of us can think of someone, maybe even ourselves, who have sacrificed all the wrong things to get to where we desperately thought we needed to be.

Rest in peace, Leo. You said what many of us believe and most of us act out.

But if this is what it means to finish first, then what’s so bad about finishing last?

Rich “The Word” Mayfield writes a Saturday column for the Summit Daily News.

He can be reached at

pastormayfield@earthlink.net.


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