ou were wearing a Dodgers cap while presenting yourself to me as a Cubs fan? I’m not sure I can keep being your friend.
Can you guess that my friend is a diehard Cubs fan? I had been to LA recently and bought a cap that said “LA” without realizing that the letters were actually a logo for the Dodgers, who battled the Cubs in the playoffs. I’ve done the same thing with B for Boston and NY for New York. It turns out I have begun a collection of caps for baseball teams and didn’t know it.
How about those Cubs! (Pardon me if you are a Cleveland fan.)
I am new to this baseball stuff. What strikes me most is that baseball players often have impressive beards and that I wouldn’t want to be in a spitting contest with any of them. I am trying hard to be a dutiful Cubs fan. So far I have learned that we really like to beat the Cardinals, and that we haven’t forgiven the Mets for 1969 or the Padres for 1984. Maybe some of that will ease up now that the Cubs had the best record in baseball and won the World Series for the first time since 1908. Another kind of history was made as well: When Dexter Fowler stood at the plate in the first inning of the first game, he was the first African American player to be in a Cubs uniform in the World Series.
Sports fans are persistent and deeply vested in their teams. For me, it’s Manchester United football (read: soccer, if you must) match-ups and 60 years of hurt since England has won the World Cup. It seems like we keep going to tournaments to get beaten by the Germans on penalties. I have some sympathy for the long drought in the Cubs’ history.
In my office I have a Manchester United scarf. For years it’s gone with me wherever I go. I brought it all the way from England. It’s a constant thing that I can look at and feel a connection to all the other rabid Manchester fans.
I sometimes say I came to America to get away from Chelsea fans. Wouldn’t you know it, my new friend Bill is a Chelsea fan. He stole my Manchester scarf and put the Chelsea scarf in its place. I thought maybe he would hold it for ransom and exact a hefty payment from me. Instead the two scarves are held in place by drawers to show how they rank against each other. Chelsea is at the top, to my consternation, and Manchester at the bottom. The theory is that if Manchester United wins, it goes up a little. The reality is that my team is settling into the bottom drawer.
As I watched some of the World Series games, it struck me that I could have been watching any sport—even the European football championship—as the cameras panned the spectators. The anguish in some faces, everybody on their feet at tense moments, the loud cheering, the ecstasy of a genius strategy at just the right moment, the agony when things go wrong.
Fans are loyal! Players can come from anywhere, but as soon as they put on the team jersey, they belong to the team. We all know there is a business underbelly to sports—professional sports are big money, and a lot of decisions come down to making money on a large scale. But still, we do like our teams.
In the middle of the series, my Cubs fan friend said, “All my life I’ve wanted them to play in the World Series. Now that it’s happening, it’s incredibly nerve wracking.”
Anything that’s important comes with that double-edged sword of great excitement and great anxiety.
The vast majority of teams don’t win, but we keep on cheering. It can’t be for the glory, which is so elusive. I think it’s to feel part of something, and to experience hope, a flicker of what might be. Cubs Nation has taught us that much.
Martin Luther King, Jr. said, “Our lives begin to end the day we become silent about things that matter.”
That’s true whether we’re bantering about sports, debating politics, or just having reasonable conversations with people at home or at work.
The Cubs have done a great thing with a five-year plan that got them where they wanted to be. Wouldn’t it be a great thing if we could harness that kind of team dedication, planning, hard work and fan frenzy around some of the social issues we face together? If we could pull together for real change, hope, and a flicker of what might be?
Maybe we could have a World Series of Health Care. I’ll bring the scarves and caps. I’m bound to have something for everyone.