(Here’s a piece I wrote at the beginning of November — before the disaster of November 8th. Because the reflection is so upbeat, I hesitate to publish it now. Optimism somehow seems inappropriate after the recent election. But for what it’s worth, this is what I reported before Trump’s election.)
The worm has turned. Now anything is possible.
It’s the dawning of the Age of Aquarius. The 2012 New Era of the Mayan Calendar has begun. And along with those new beginnings, Theo Epstein’s arrival as President of the Chicago Cubs has changed everything there in just five (albeit painful) years.
Now the Chicago Cubs have won their first pennant in 46 seasons – their first World Series championship in 108 years!!
Count ‘em: one hundred and eight years!! (As they say, “Anyone can have a bad century.”)
Look, I know that in the end sports don’t really mean anything. I know that my colleagues on the left would tell me that it’s all part of the scam. It’s a distraction from what’s really important – love, peace, social justice and the struggle for their practical realization.
Professional sports are one of the ways working stiffs like me are tricked into channeling our energies towards false identities, superficial causes, and corporate celebrations. It’s a narcotic; a dope more powerful than religion. It keeps us asleep and tranquilized, when we should be out in the street throwing Molotov Cocktails.
I know. I know.
But I have to admit that I’ve happily allowed myself to be scammed like that for all of my 76 years – or at least for 66. I mean I’ve been a Cub fan ever since my family on Chicago’s North Side got their first television around 1950, when I was 10 years old. Since then every summer afternoon from April through October (and at night when they were on the road), the Cubbies have broken my heart and the hearts of all their fans (as Steve Goodman put it) “year after year, after year– after year, after year, after year.”
Who among us can forget 1969, when they blew a 9 ½ game lead in August and finished 8 games behind the Miracle Mets? What about the horrendous turn of events in 2003 when they wasted a 3-1 series lead against the Miami Marlins and missed going to the World Series by just 5 outs? (Thanks, Steve Bartman!)
All that time, I’ve lived and died with the Cubs – mostly died. Ernie Banks was my boyhood hero. I imitated his batting stance. Yet, the “lovable losers” have disappointed with unbelievable consistency . As I said, they’ve been doing it to us all for those 108 miserable years!
All that time, at seasons’ end, we’ve been forced to say “Wait until next year.”
Well, the wait is over. Next year has arrived! The Chicago Cubs won their first World Series. And (I blush to admit) it made me very happy.
Thanks to the generosity of my daughter and son-in-law, I was in Wrigley Field’s “friendly confines” for game four of this year’s wrangle with the Cleveland Indians. The atmosphere inside and outside the park was absolutely electric. And when the Cubs scored first, the din made me think I was about to lose my hearing. It was delightfully excruciating. “Go, Cubs, go. Go, Cubs, go!”
My euphoria however soon turned to déjà vu. The Indians came back and turned that early lead into a 7-2 rout against my home team. We left the park tired and cold with a distinct feeling of “here we go again.” The Indians had a nearly insurmountable 3-1 series lead. The feeling was sooo familiar.
Next year, anyone?
But the Cubs came back! They won their final game in Chicago, and then two more on the road in Cleveland. Three in a row!
The final contest was a rain-delayed, extra inning thriller that no one with my Cub history will ever forget. Even there the Cubs blew what had been a 4 run lead in the 8th inning when their best un-hittable relief pitcher (Aroldis Chapman) gave up a 2-run homer. It was heart-stopping. But the Cubs went on to win.
So what do I take away from it all.
Sports are transcendent. They’re better than church – more fun. They give us a chance to identify and commune with people of all stripes and identities recognizing our common humanity despite those differences. It is possible to overcome it all.
Sports give us hope. They help us realize the truth of Mother Jones’ observation: “You lose, you lose, you lose, you lose, and then you win.”
Triumph is inevitable. It’s the way the Universe is constructed. At least that’s what the great spiritual Masters – and sports fans all over the world – tell us.
Now if we can just transfer those convictions and realizations to what’s really meaningful, we might be able to turn our entire battered world into friendly confines.