It's harvest time. In every rural community, the people and machines used to bring in the bounty are hard at work, toiling to turn several months' effort and planning into a mundane miracle: Food, fresh from the ground. It is, generally, a joyous time. A bountiful time. The last hurrah before the winter fallow sets in.
Sometimes, though, the harvest isn't what it needs to be. In some parts of the globe - right now - there's farmers bitterly trying to salvage something from a poor growing season. The balance nature must strike to aid agriculture is pretty fine: Rain, but not too much; sun, but not too much; no untimely frosts, or too-early blooms, or storms which ravage the bounty.
Most people at most times have believed in gods which control their fate. Being gods, they're astonishingly unaccountable - ever called a god on the carpet? Ever given a god a good what-for? So people have, over the millenia, devised a multitude of ideas of how to attract a god's attention - murmured prayers and incense; prayers at a specific time of day; group singing; solitude; even sacrifice. Even ritual murder.
The wicker man is an example of this Bronze Age idea, an example with which we're familiar largely because of a 1973 cult classic film (later remade in 2006 as a Nic Cage vehicle). Julius Caesar and the geographer Strabo both describe the druids of Gaul making large, human-shaped piles of sticks, into which a human sacrifice was placed and then burned - anything, anything to get the attention of the gods; anything to get the rain (but not too much) and the sun (but not too much) next year.
Fire supporters, this season, face an uncertain harvest. The team might make the playoffs, barely, again, just months after signalling that last year's results (making the playoffs, barely) were not acceptable. We have spent months trying to invoke the right phrases to make the unaccountable gods notice us - shall we praise? Curse? Dance? Rage? The only noises from the unaccountable ones came from a lesser priest, and his words were not encouraging.
Despite this, for a time it seemed the harvest was coming ‘round, but no longer is that true. And again, we turn our faces to the unaccountable, and ask, "Really? This is the best you can do?"
As if in response, overnight a wicker man has appeared outside Toyota Park. No one saw its construction; no one anticipated that blood rites would be necessary. A small plaque at its base reads "Courtesy Andell Holdings." In an unprecedented turn, the hungry gods have built their own golem of tree branches, apparently intending to burn Frank Klopas in hopes of a better harvest next year.
Of course, we modern humans have moved past such superstition. We know that Frank was terribly inexperienced as a manager - he'd never filled out a lineup card for a team playing outdoors before being hired to helm the Fire. We know that the players brought here were partly his choices, and partly the decisions of the unaccountable.
We also know that the unaccountable are not truly gods - they simply imagine themselves in that role. We know they have devised a circular-pointing structure, cunningly crafted to protect their status.
And we know, way down deep, what that wicker man means. Frank will be burned, but not truly for the harvest. Not truly for the results. He will be burned so that the unaccountable gods can stay unaccountable, and stay gods. I now invoke their names to scorn them: Leon. Petrei. Hauptman. And the circular-pointing structure shall be lovingly maintained, even as the next victim of the wicker man is brought in and made Harvest King.
Jesse Marsh, watch your back.