I had the same conversation with a couple of different friends recently, baseball fans whose teams were long gone from the fall competition:
Me: “Have you decided who to root for in The Series?”
Them: “Sox. For Jim.”
They said it with a tone that suggested the choice was obvious, and needed no further explanation.
Our friend Jim is one of the best baseball fans I know, with a reverance for a good changeup and a great pick at second base. He’s also from the south side of Chicago, a White Sox fan deep in his childhood, in his genes, from the days (do these days still exist?) when The Ballgame on the radio was the soundtrack of summer. This matters to him in ways that most of us could never understand.
When the Sox made the series, he began calling around, hunting for tickets. There were none to be had in Chicago for anything less than a second mortgage on the house. But he called me yesterday afternoon to tell me he’d scored a pair for tonight’s game 4 in Houston.
I harbor no illusions about the baseball gods. They are not as one Almighty, choosing sides, that we might pray they choose Jim’s. They’re more like the Greek gods, squabbling and divisive. To watch a World Series is to watch their struggle play out.
Tonight, I will pray to those among the baseball gods who have seen Jim’s worthiness lo these many years, who understand what it means to see him sitting field level, 13 rows back down the right field line.
When he told me where the seats are, he said, “Foul ball territory. I’ll have to keep my head in the game.” I’ve never known him to do anything else. Baseball gods, I beseech thee, in the name of thy loyal servant Jim.