The End is Near!

Unlikely prophecies in unlikely places

In my small home town in southern Illinois, we don't often get to see some of the more esoteric forms of human expression on a day-to-day basis.  That's why during a stroll through town yesterday, I was shocked to encounter such a sight.  With his long white beard, flowing white hair and white robe barely covering his sandled feet, I was filled with both dread and curiosity at the message contained on the sign he clutched crookedly.


"The End is Near" the sign warned.  I shuddered with thoughts of approaching apocalypse and tried to grasp its meaning.  Sure, there's enough out there to make one wonder – flood, famine, hurricanes, war, Tom DeLay.  Fighting to master my sense of doom and satisfy my curiosity, I approached this robed prophet to learn more.


"What are you talking about?" I asked.  "What ‘end' is near?  Who are you?  Where are you from?"  He looked at me and I shuddered when he spoke.  "St. Louis," is all he said.  "St. Louis is 75 miles from here.  What brings you to Du Quoin?" I asked.  "I used to live under the Highway 40 Overpass near downtown, but I got kicked out because of stadium construction," he lamented.


I had to ask.  "What end is near?"  He looked me in the eye, a look of pending disaster, a stare with the intensity of the midday sun.  "The Sox", he said.  "The Cardinals may end up playing ‘The Sox' in the World Series again.  It'll be 2004 all over.  THE END IS NEAR!" he wailed like a banshee.


"Oh, you're a baseball fan," I said.  "Look, the only ‘Sox' left in contention are the Chicago White Sox, not the Boston Red Sox.  They still have to face the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim near Los Angeles but really Anaheim," I replied.  "The White Sox may never make it to the World Series.  Beside, even if we were to have an I-55 Series, the Cardinals match up quite well against the Sox."


"OOOOHHHHHH!" he shrieked like a latter-day Jacob Marley.  "You fool!"  He pointed a long, bony finger at me.  A white hair on the knuckle glistened.  "It's 2004 all over again.  The Curse.  The Curse.  Don't you know that the White Sox haven't won a World Series since, like, 1917?!  The last time they won a Series, they actually had some poor soul named Shoeless Joe Jackson playing for them.  They wouldn't even buy them cleats then, for God's sake."  He grabbed me by my collar and pulled me close, his hot, rancid breath further punishing my senses.  "Shoeless Joe," he whispered.  "How pathetic.  I knew a guy named Left Foot Larry under the 40 bridge.  He didn't have any shoes either and believe me, it wasn't pretty."


"Wait a minute," I said as I wrestled away from his grasp.  "Are you telling me that there are parallels of biblical proportion in the way the World Series may be shaping up, that the Cardinals may be facing ANOTHER team of historic destiny that had to fight just to get into the play-offs?  That even though both teams still have to qualify for the Series by winning their respective league championships, the 2005 Series could portend elements of déjà vu all over again from the 2004 Series against the Red Sox?  I just can't accept this!  The Cardinals are going all the way," I cried, but now with a note of uncertainty!


"Now you see, my friend," he said.  "It's destiny.  It's karma.  It's when the moon is in the second house and Jupiter aligns with Mars.  The threat is real."  "Wait a minute," I said.  "Now you're stealing lines from ‘Hair' to make your point, but you're wrong.  The Cardinals have really improved their starting pitching.   Their offense is the envy of organized baseball.  Their defense, especially up the middle, is rock solid.  They are managed by the most competent, experienced, and intelligent field management team the game has seen, and they are playing a team possessed of one purpose – winning the 2005 World Series.  If the Cardinals can get past the Astros in the NLCS, they may be unstoppable in the Series.  Every single indication that I see points to the Cardinals winning the Series this year."


He looked at me.  Now he was uncertain, wavering, processing MY prophecy for the Fall Classic, and finally he broke.  "You're right," he said.  "I've been such a fool.  The Cardinals ARE going all the way."  He put down his sign right there on Main Street.  He pulled off his robe to reveal a business suit.  "Thank you," he said.  "You've given me hope for the future.  I can't wait to return to my family, my job, and my home in Ladue."  "Glad you see things my way," I said proudly. 


As we started off on our separate paths, he turned back to me and offered a parting comment.  "What about the All-Star Game, Bud Selig's last laugh at St. Louis?" he asked.  "Wouldn't Chicago have home field advantage in the Series?"  I shrieked at the unimaginable, that something so utterly irrelevant and capricious as the outcome of an All-Star Game could haunt the Cardinals two years in a row.  I solemnly retraced my footsteps, looked in dismay at his discarded possessions, put on the robe, picked up his sign and sat down on Main Street.  I realized that for so long as Bud Selig is the Commissioner of Baseball, the end would always be near.


Rex Duncan

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