As a St. Louis Cardinal’s fan, I have to admit it was hard for a moment to just let it be, and make my peace with the fact that the Cubbies – our little brother from Chicago, whom we’ve picked on for 108 years – are the champions of the baseball world. It’s not happened once in my life. I’ve never lived in a world where the Cubs are champions. I thought to myself, “I don’t know what the rules are now. How do I function?”
But then Kris Bryant, the wunderkind from the Northside, had to go and smile.
If you haven’t seen it yet, then google it. Bottom of the tenth. Two outs. Game 7 in the World Series. Cleveland is rallying. They’ve got a run in. Tying run on. Championship run at the plate. They’re one mighty swing away from Steve Bartman times a billion. The Cleveland batter hits a nubber past the pitcher’s mound. There are a thousand ways to mess these up. Muff it. Overthrow first. Trip on a Goat. Charge the ball and slip on wet grass (which Bryant does!)
Kris Bryant saw the ball come off the bat, and did what he did a thousand times this summer. He swooped in on the ball. But this was unlike any of those other thousand chances. For 108 years of ignominy is weighing on your shoulders, your city, your history, and this little grounder. Bill Buckner is out there begging, “Please miss it. Through the legs, please. Don’t let me be the only one.”
Kris Bryant swooped in on the ball, and before he even got there…he smiled.
It wasn’t arrogance. It wasn’t Michael Jordan flashing his teeth like a dagger at you before he drained the 15-footer to cut you into little pieces. Chicago rode that smile for six basketball championships. (So could we dispense with the “poor Chicago” talk for the rest of time, please. I’m still a Vikings fan, mind you.)
No, this was different. This was pure innocence, and pure delight, this was a child calling out, “I got this Dad!”, or the joy you feel when you find Fluffy outside shivering in the bushes after looking for her for three hours. “Oh there you are!” This was just joy.
The joy of knowing it’s “in the bag” before the play is made – not because you’re cocky, but because you just know “this is it”. And that smile won this Cardinal fan’s heart over. It made me smile as well, and brush away a little tear.
And so I think to myself…
…isn’t that in a way a picture of what serving Jesus should be like? Don’t we know that it’s “in the bag”, more or less? No matter the outcome of the election, no matter what life throws at us, Jesus is still by our side, and he’ll see to it that it’ll all work out OK in the end. And shouldn’t that inspire joy in us who claim to follow him, even before we make the play?