"C.S. Lewis wrote fantasy stories because he thought, correctly, that that’s what the world is really like. The lie of realism is that somehow we've let people name ‘important fiction’ in which there is no soul, no spirit, no supernatural — “realistic.” In realistic fiction, there can be no magic, no supernatural, no God, no soul to the character. … We’re on a rock, mostly molten lava, flying through outer space at about mach-86 right now, like a yo-yo being swung around a ball of fire in the sky. That’s our setting. What kind of story are we telling? We’re in the sci-fi fantasy section of the bookstore." -N.D. Wilson
Well hello Girardis! I realize you don’t know me, nor would you
have any reason to care about me and my fellow Cubs fans for that matter, but I’ll
get right to my point.
We need you. Actually, that’s not true. We need your dad,
Joe Girardi, to be the 59th manager of the Chicago Cubs. And the
reason I’m talking to you about it is because your dad told reporters that each
of you gets a vote in what he decides to do next. And if he’s serious, what
that means is that it really doesn’t matter what your parents wants to do: you
outnumber them three to two, so it really comes down to the three of you.
We assume you’re Yankees fans (as you should be with your
dad as manager there the previous six seasons), so it may feel like it’s been a
long time since they’ve won a World Series: four whole years! Here in Cub
Nation, it’s been over a hundred. 105 to be exact. Your dad played for the Cubs
on two different occasions, so maybe he’s told you about that. That’s not a
drought, children; that’s Death Valley.
Your dad is a proven winner. He won Manager of the Year in
his first season with the Marlins, taking a team of nobodies to the verge of a
playoff berth. He then won a World Series with a team having the highest
payroll in baseball. This is exactly who we need on the North Side, someone who
can work with prospects and with highly-paid veterans.
So why would you have any interest in leaving New York? On
the face of it, I don’t know why you would. New York is a great place to live.
But just ask your dad: so is Chicago. Have you been here lately? Picture a
cleaner, less crowded New York, plus our large body of water adjacent to the city
has fresh water instead of salt. Plus, you probably haven’t seen the Bean, have
you? The Bean is great, you’ll love it.
And yes, the Cubs did have a chance to hire him back in 2007
when you still lived in the Chicago area, and your dad was looking for a job.
Heck, it was his dream job back then. They chose experience over talent and
desire, and well, it didn’t work out well.
Is this a little pathetic, a grown man groveling at the feet
of children? Absolutely, but we Cubs fans are a desperate lot. Is this selfish
of me to ask this of you? Of course it is. And trust me, I don’t feel good
about it. Asking you to leave your friends and your routine for a new life in
Chicago. But it’s come to this.
See, everyone wants to accomplish something in his life that
no one else has. For a baseball manager, that something is bringing a
championship to the Chicago Cubs. There’s no greater hill for your dear old dad
to climb. And you’ll get to be a part of it! You won’t believe your eyes, when
you watch the joy that your dad will bring to millions, when he hoists that
World Series trophy over his head. There will be nothing like it.
So when it’s family meeting time around the dinner table, I
hope you’ll take this to heart. Please, think of us. Think of history. And if
I’ve convinced any of you, remember that this is Chicago, so feel free to vote
early and often.
Hall of Famer Cal Ripken, Jr. was 22 years old and in his
third year in the major leagues when he won his first World Series as a member
of the Baltimore Orioles. After the win, believing it would be the first of many,
he was quoted as saying: “I think our World Series has found a home.” It would
be 13 long years before he would return to the playoffs. Even though he played
in more regular season games than any other player in the history of baseball,
he would never play in a World Series game again.
This brings us to Derrick Rose. Allow me to recap. Ever
since that fateful day last April when Derrick Rose went down with a torn ACL,
the entire city of Chicago has been breathlessly following his return. A
carefully orchestrated string of videos produced by Rose’s sponsor Adidas
fueled the fire of every Bulls fan, anxiously awaiting the end of the 8-12
month rehabilitation period his doctor promised. Another NBA player named Iman
Shumpert tore his ACL on the same day as Rose, and he returned to games in
early February. Bulls fans figured it would only be a matter of time before
Rose followed suit. We were wrong. February turned to March, and then April. Rose
returned to practice, and although his doctor has said that playing in games is
the next step in the rehab process, still no games. It became apparent that Derrick
wasn’t coming back this season, and most Bulls fans had resigned themselves to it.
And the understandable “common sense” reasoning went
something like this: the Bulls aren’t very good this year. The Heat look
unstoppable. Why risk reinjuring the knee when a return would mean being
humiliated by the defending World Champions and the best basketball player in history
not named Michael Jordan?
Then Monday night happened. Everyone on the planet penciled
the Heat in for a blowout. Two starters in addition to Rose were out, and the
Heat had lost just two games total since February 1st. No one, not
even the players’ mothers, thought they had a chance to win a game in Miami. But
the “next man up” Bulls didn’t get the “Heat in 4” memo and they stunned the
Heat and the world by winning the game, taking a 1-0 series lead. Yes, the
Bulls got blown out Wednesday night, but they took home court advantage away
from the best team in basketball and made it a series to watch.
So what does this mean for Derrick? Does it change anything?
It is true that no one knows what Rose’s reattached ACL
feels like except for Derrick Rose. No one can judge another person’s
experience, and if Rose is hurt, he shouldn’t play. But everything, including
Rose’s own statements, suggests that he is healthy enough to play, but is
holding back because he doesn’t have any interest in putting himself in danger
if it won’t lead to a championship.
And look, the Bulls don’t look good enough to win a
championship this year. But this is what makes sports so much fun. You never
know what will happen. What if the Bulls find a way to win 3 more games and advance
to the next round? What if they make it to the Finals? What if they somehow win
it all without their MVP.
Furthermore, what if Derrick waits till the fall of 2013 and he blows out his
knee in the first game of the season? A devastating injury can happen any time,
at virtually any moment of any game. Rose has the opportunity right now to help his team, and maybe,
just maybe, to be a part of something special. We all hope and expect Derrick
to play for his hometown team for another 10 years, and to amaze us time and time
again. But we don’t know if that will happen. We do know that we have this
So Derrick…seize the day. Not because you’re earning $16 million this
year. Or because everyone else is playing through their pain. But because there
are no promises in the world of sports, or in life. It’s a leap of faith, to be sure. Trusting
that the knee won’t give out. That you won’t crumple to the ground again, like
you did in agonizing fashion last April. But if you’re healthy, it’s worth the
risk. Cause Cal can tell you that you never know when that chance will roll
This one didn't make it into the print edition (it was inadvertently left out, even though it was listed in the Table of Contents) and it's one I'm pretty proud of. If you don't know what Fraggle Rock is, do some YouTubeing. Doozers are the best.
If you've got 25 minutes to spare, click here to listen to what I had to say about this at Christ Church Lake Forest on July 22nd, including addressing the common criticism about short term trips. When you get to that page, you'll need to click on my sermon, from July 22: "Cultivate: Staying on Mission."