Idol Chatter

Rockies.jpgThis is the way Sports Illustrated’s Rick Reilly explains what is happening to the Colorado Rockies this fall: “When it seemed even [Rockies fans’] patience had run out, God looked down and said, ‘Oh, geez, are those people still believers? Send them a gift basket.'”
It’s gotta be God, right? The good people of Colorado–my home state–have been cheering in futility since major league baseball first came to Denver 15 years ago. As Reilly says, nothing short of the power of God could have prevented more futility, but somehow these Colorado Rockies put together the best late-season string of games in baseball history, winning 21 of 22 since mid-September. Starting tonight, they face the Boston Red Sox in the World Series.

Sports fans believe in miracles, and so do athletes, and if you trust SI and the New York Times, the Colorado Rockies believe in miracles more than most. They are the most religious team in baseball, or something like that, from general manager Dan O’Dowd to the players themselves. Many Rockies are Christians, though they have not been outspoken about it and do not engage in many faith-on-the-field displays (pointing heavenward ala David Ortiz, cross necklace-kissing ala Orlando Cabrera). This is a faith-in-the-clubhouse team.
Similar abundance-of-piety claims were made of the Boston Red Sox players after they won the title in 2004, and are routinely trotted out about athletes and teams when they do well. Fine–the religious faith of players is an interesting angle for a reporter, but I wish we did not hear about it in such distilled fashion. In truth, religion is all over sports, just as it is all over every profession. There is nothing unusual about people being believers, nor about their faith being integrated with what they do for a living.
By far, the most unusual thing about this series is the two teams playing in it. Did anyone east of Wichita even realize Colorado had a baseball team? Even here it’s been tough to remember. Colorado is football country–every other car features a John Elway dealership logo, and Coors Field is due east of, and in the shadow of, the Denver Broncos’ Mile High Stadium (which has an official corporate moniker now, but I can’t bring myself to write it). It may be Rocktober, but here’s betting that the day after the last out in this baseball season, most of Denver will turn its attention back to the orange and blue.
As for the Sox–okay, it’s not unusual for them to return to the Fall Classic. Team ownership has spent a ton of dough to make sure this happens (not that that guarantees anything). But their non-Josh Becket starting pitching is spotty, the bottom of their lineup is a black hole, and they needed another major ALCS comeback to get this far. They aren’t as dominant as, say, the Rockies. Which is why, even with two World Series appearances in the last four years, Sox fans haven’t gotten over the worst Cassandra complex in all of sports.
And which is why I’m personally preparing for the worst. I’m a Colorado boy who lived in Boston long enough to fall for the Sox and spend many happy hours at Fenway, and many more with the radio or TV tuned in to daily games. I ran through the streets of Southie with thousands when the Sox clinched the Series in 2004. This year, I may run through the streets of my sleepy Colorado neighborhood when the Sox win again. But I kinda think God knows better. The Rockies may not be more religious than the Sox, but they do seem to have God on their side.

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