You, you were always rooting for the underdog.
Your favorite films were all about the fight of the underdog: Braveheart, Rudy, Shawshank Redemption. And as a rabid sports fan, you always rooted for the teams that never or rarely won: the Wizards, Red Sox, and Tottenham. If you were watching a game, all I had to do was ask which team was expected to win to know which one you were cheering on. How many times did we sit together at the last minute of a basketball game and you’d have to turn the channel because you just couldn’t watch your team lose so painfully in those last thirty seconds? “It’s over…nevermind.” Boy, you’d get depressed. But then you’d be right back there rooting for them again the next game. When the Red Sox beat the Yankees in 2004, we had just gotten married and went to a few pubs to watch the series because we didn’t have a TV yet. We also listened to a few of the games on the radio which we both agreed had a certain charm to it. I was in awe of the way you established an instant kinship with fellow Red Sox fans- total strangers, at the bar one night, giving high fives and smiling with delight as your team won. I was also afraid after the game as we made our way through all of the NY Yankee fans and you proudly wore your Red Sox hat and jacket. You hated the Yankees with a passion because they had the unfair advantage of money that could buy good players- something like that.
In life too I think, you were rooting for the little guys- the nice guys, the ones who got a bad deal. You made friends with the homeless guy with the dreads at our subway stop on 7th avenue. You were friendly with the “weird guy” at church that was a bit much for most people to handle, always saying, “I feel bad. He has a rough life.” And I think you were rooting for me too…and for our marriage- which very often, felt like the underdog in one long, intense game.
Grieving feels something like that too- long, intense, pretty hopeless.
I want the respite of faith. (ah, that reminds me of that time we went to Prospect Park and I said it was a “welcome respite for my eyes.” You laughed and said “No one talks like that!” )
But in believing, it seems I’m in danger of doing exactly what Lewis describes,
“Am I, for instance, just sidling back to God because I know that if there’s any road to H., it runs through Him? But then of course I know perfectly well that He can’t be used as a road. If you’re approaching Him not as the goal but as a road, not as the end but as a means, you’re not really approaching Him at all.”
Or will I drift off into what theologian NT Wright describes of the confusion of many practicing Christians and churches about the hope in which they profess:
“Frankly, what we have at the moment isn’t, as the old liturgies used to say, ‘the sure and certain hope of the resurrection of the dead’ but the vague and fuzzy optimism that somehow things may work out in the end.”
No, I cannot succumb to the vague optimism on sympathy cards. There is nothing behind it.
Though I vacillate weekly, daily, momentarily, between faith and doubt, underneath it all, the confusion, horror, and unbelief, know this my love:
I am rooting for the underdog.