An understatement. Please understand that the capitalization of that "h" above has nothing to do with the reference to Joe Maddon being the start of a sentence.
From this point moving forward, He shall remain spoken about and referred to in the biblical form. It's the Cubs, for God's sake. There's nothing left but something bigger than baseball -- a higher power -- to hang all hopes on. When an organization and a fan base is reduced to calling themselves "lovable" because of the way they've grown to accept losing and has been waiting this long for this moment to happen, the arrival of a savior -- or someone with the potential to be one -- can render a religious experience.
Now I'm not an atheist. I'm not Bill Maher or someone who believes somehow science put this whole thing together. But I am what can be referred to as a Cubs hater. Not to the depths that I wish ill on them, but one who for years has refused to fall victim to the unfulfilled promises that seem to hold hostage millions of people worldwide into believing that "next year" is going to come.
Not I. I've always been the one who always says, "Next year for the Cubs is always 10 years away." Always.
But now, with the arrival of the only manager not named Torre, La Russa or Bochy who could come here and resurrect this franchise, "next year" for the Cubs may finally mean what it means to every other team in baseball. It may finally mean exactly what it is supposed to.
The hiring of Maddon makes it hard, damn near impossible, for even the most die-hard of Cubs critics to not reverse faith. It's an exorcism in baseball. Along with the demons that seem to be leaving Wrigley (or is that what the construction is all about?), there is a lifting of spirits in those of us who couldn't find it in our Chicago-bred hearts to have a place for the Cubs. When the news broke before Game 7 of the World Series that Joe Cool was coming, that was one thing. But when He actually showed up?
This doesn't happen in Chicago. This doesn't happen to Chicago. We don't inherit gods in sports, we make gods. Ernie Banks, Michael Jordan, Bobby Hull, Walter Payton. Even coaches and managers. Halas, Ditka, Jackson (Phil) and Meyer (Ray) rose to greatness here. They didn't come to us with résumés laminated in gold or on scrolls. They became made men here. Same is holding true for Joel Quenneville and Tom Thibodeau.
Maddon, with a career that includes two manager of the year awards, four American League Division Series appearances and a World Series appearance in the past seven years, is like the sixth pitch in an arsenal that Theo Epstein never told us he had. All of this "breaking down to build up" plan that he has been selling us on -- which was reaching the point of sounding like the same swampland we'd been sold before with everything from the Eddy Curry and Tyson Chandler duo to believing in Jay Cutler -- now becomes tolerable and acceptable.
For the first time in a long time, it is something that leads this city to believe that as an organization the Cubs are both sincere and serious about making that blue "W" on those omnipresent Northside-only flags finally stand for something.
During the 10 p.m. newscast on channel 7, Mark Giangreco said they should have dedicated the entire 30-minute broadcast to Maddon. That, too, is an understatement. And not because of the hire, but more because of the team Maddon has been hired to manage. If the White Sox had made this move, the splash would have been almost inconsequential.
The Cubs do it: Louganis.
They say one man should never have that much power. But what happens when -- regardless of the future results -- that one man is not just the perfect one, but one who will be looked upon as a savior and doesn't mind it?
"Don't ever permit the pressure to exceed the pleasure." -- Joe Maddon at Monday's news conference introducing himself to the media as the Cubs' new manager
Herman Franks couldn't take the "whiny" players anymore. Don Zimmer had to deal with Don Grenesko. Dusty Baker had to deal with the loss of franchise cornerstones Kerry Wood and Mark Prior ... and Steve Bartman. Lou Piniella had to deal with Milton Bradley and the Fukudome experiment, and spoke openly about the unrealistic pressures of managing the Cubs. And the three managers who have followed him? No comment.
I say all of the above to say that if this doesn't work out with Maddon, so what. Right now, this is bigger than potential wins vs. losses. This is about a franchise -- as the Cubs did with getting Theo three years ago -- finally making a concerted, highly informed and well-thought-out effort to change the culture that for way too long they have seemed way too comfortable staying in.
There's no one to blame anymore. No fingers to point. There's no reason to continue to hate. At least, not for the moment.
So what's a hater to do? Keep hating? Can't now. Not anymore.
Because the Cubs have finally done something that is in the best interest of Chicago. And at the end of the day, for those of us who ride and die for this city, that trumps everything that can be held against them.
So yes, I'm going to start frequenting games. Spend more time at Murph's and Casey Moran's. I'm going to start calling my ProDesign Denmarks "Joe Maddons." Going to bring that Cubs baseball cap I got in 1984 -- when they were a Leon Durham error away from the World Series -- out of retirement. Going to embrace the new and start putting more time and interest into everything the Cubs do.
I'm going to openly cheat on the White Sox.
Because He has arrived. Maddonini is finally here. We can all convert. But first, we all must do what Cubs fans have been doing since the invention of baseball ... pray.