O Me of Little Faith

The great bishop, saint, and trinitarian apologist Gregory of Nyssa once described his brother, St. Basil, as having a “two-handed faith.” Basil’s faith, Gregory said, was ambidextrous, because he could accept pleasures with one hand and suffering with the other hand and he was convinced that both were part of God’s plan for him, both could lead to worship, both were avenues toward faith.

I know what that’s like now.

On the one hand I have my Chicago Cubs, a team about which my wife and I are passionate. We’re going to Chicago in July to watch games at Wrigley. We watch games together when they’re on WGN at home. We sometimes record afternoon games so we can watch them at night after the kids go to bed. (Baseball on DVR, by the way, is a brilliant advance in technology. You can condense a three-hour game down to about an hour with judicious commercial skipping and the occasional fast-forwarding of, say, managerial trips to the mound and other in-game time-wasters.)

As a Cubs fan, I also loathe the Cubs’ arch-nemeses, the Cardinals. I respect Tony LaRussa as a manager, but don’t like him much. I respect Albert Pujols as a hitter and all-around person, but don’t like him out of principle. I think Rick Ankiel’s story — though it’s recently been tainted by performance-enhancing drug accusations — is one of the best in baseball (he once was a young, up-and-coming pitcher who forgot how to throw strikes and became a headcase, eventually being forced out of baseball because of it…so he transformed himself into a power-hitting outfielder and, several years later, now starts again for the Cards).

So I’ve always respected the Cardinals but never really liked them. But there’s one Cardinal I have never even respected. Never. His name was Jim Edmonds. He was arrogant. He had dark hair with dorky looking frosted tips. He pouted after EVERY. SINGLE. CALLED. STRIKE. He stood too long to admire his home runs. He made amazing catches as a centerfielder, but most of baseball has always suspected he turned routine plays into diving catches by timing his approach…just so he’d look awesome doing it. Jim Edmonds was a flopper. A surly, full-of-himself, whiny, goofy-looking flopper. All Cubs fans hated him, more than any other Cardinal ever. Ever!

And now Jim Edmonds is a Cub. He’s been a pretty bad player for the last couple of years. He’s close to 40. He’s a little slower than he used to be. He lost his power stroke. He ended up playing centerfield for the San Diego Padres this year, but was hitting something like .180. So they released him. Goodbye, hair-highlighted flopper.

And then the Cubs claimed him off of waivers. Jim Edmonds is now a Cub. And Cubs fans everywhere are experiencing ambidextrous faith as a result. When he started his first game in Cubbie blue on Friday, he was booed after every at-bat…except for the one where he got a hit. Then he was cheered politely. Cubs fans are confused. We want the Cubs to win. We want Jim Edmonds to fail. It used to be that his failure was good for the Cubs. But now? We need him to succeed, even though that goes against everything we have ever wanted.

When Cubs pitcher Carlos Zambrano — who has had in-game run-ins with Edmonds in the past — was asked what he thought about the new signing, he let out a short “No comment” and refused to say anything else. Obviously.

So with our right hands we pump our fists for the Cubs. With our left hands we flip the bird toward Jim Edmonds. Now we’re going to have to bring those two hands together to cheer for both.

It is excruciating. Help us, St. Basil.

Update: I couldn’t bring myself to post a photo of Stupid Jim Edmonds wearing a Cubs uniform, so Bryan at Prayers for Blowouts did it for me. You can see it here. Don’t look at it too long, though, as it can melt your brain.

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