Last night the unthinkable happened. Hell froze over, pigs flew, and the Chicago Cubs won the world series. This upending of the natural order unearthed an enthusiasm rarely seen in such uniformity; even White Sox fan couldn’t help but get caught up in it. Sure, Chicago had Jordan and the Bulls, and the Blackhawks are always solid, but this was something different, this was something special.
I moved to Chicago four months ago for work. A lifelong, but admittedly not die-hard, Yankee fan, I didn’t give a second thought to the Cubs as they dominated the National League all year long. Slowly Cubs fever swept the city. First they took down the short-handed Mets, and a buzz began. By the time the Cubbies closed out the Dodgers in the NLCS that buzz had evolved into a thundering swell. As a lover of baseball above all, I couldn’t help but be caught up.
And so it was I found myself in a small bar last night, as nervous as I’ve ever been and hating every person not focusing on the game down to the marrow in their worthless bones. This game eclipsed everything. Sport is a beautiful proxy for conflict. Man’s basest instincts bring us towards confrontation, and sports not only allow for a healthy release of these antagonistic necessities, but encourage them. No greater breeding ground for catharsis could be imagined than a Cubs v. Indians World Series. Two teams who needed a World Series victory more did not exist in this world. It cannot be overstated how important this game 7 felt in the moment.
But even more important than either of the teams playing was the sport which they were representing. Baseball is the apex of American sport. Sportsmanship and respect for your opponent are more apparent in baseball than in any other sport. There are no touchdown dances or elaborate celebrations. Take too long to round the bases after a home run and you could find a fastball in your ribs next time up. This series exemplified these qualities beautifully. When Heyward made a great play in right on a foul ball, the batter laughed and tipped his cap, respecting the skill. When Baez committed his second of two errors last night, did the base runner get in his face? No. They could be seen talking about it, player to player, each respecting how much the other had gone through to reach the summit of their sport.
The Cubs eventually would win game 7 in 10 innings, the city would erupt, and all the trials and tribulations of a much maligned franchise would be washed away for the moment at least. While the Cubs will play next season, and could very well win the World Series once more, I think the most amazing thing is that baseball gives us the opportunity to care so much and to compete without the showboating or extravagances of other sports. Are the salaries insanely high? Yes. Do some players showboat? Yes. But showboating is not the norm, and who can blame an athlete for taking what they can get when they have a limited shelf-life and market forces are at work.
Forgive me for rambling, but I loved this team, I loved this season, and thanks to this World Series, I was reminded once more why baseball is the great American pastime.