Growing up, I watched people around me get so emotionally invested in this thing they had no control over. Living in Indianapolis during the 90s – before Peyton Manning came to town and during Michael Jordan’s domination of the Pacers – those emotions were negative more often than not.
It didn’t make sense to me – living and dying by how a particular group of men performed their rather arbitrary jobs. Criticizing and second guessing folks who were the best in the world at what they do. Pledging alliance to an organization owned by billionaires and staffed by millionaires who bounce to the next city as soon as they got a better offer.
And yet, two nights ago we spent five hours at the bar below our apartment watching Game 7 of the World Series and running through the full range of human emotion – optimism, curiosity, despair, concern, frustration, anger, sadness, relief, and, ultimately, exuberance. When the final out was made at 12:46am EDT, we screamed and hugged and high-fived new friends and complete strangers. It was beautiful.
I am so thankful for the privilege of being present for that moment in history. I’m so thankful for how that moment made me feel.
I had the privilege of being in Chicago when the White Sox won the World Series, when the Bears lost the Super Bowl, when the BlackHawks won three Stanley Cups, and when President Obama won two presidential elections. And though I only felt like I had a personal stake in the latter two contests, being present with all those people going through all those feels were some of the more special moments of my life.
So even though we have no regrets about moving to New York, and even though I’ve now watched exactly one Cubs game from beginning to end in the last few years, part of me wishes I could have been in Grant Park again – eight years to the day that President Obama gave his first Presidential election victory speech – for what’s estimated to have been the 7th largest gathering in human history:
Photo by the incredible Nick Ulliveiri
Three times yesterday I was moved to tears by stories like:
The Cubs fan who listened to the championship game on the radio next to his father’s grave at Greenwood cemetery.
“I talked it out with my boys forever. I let them know that I told my dad - we had a pact. When the Cubs - not if, when - the Cubs got into the World Series, we would make sure we listen to the games together,” Williams said.
The 81 year old man who finally reached the promised-land of “next year.”
my grandpa has been waiting 81 years for this
This amazing piece of writing on how the final wait for a Cubs win mixes joy and sorrow.
The Cubs scored two runs, then got the final three outs, and the bar around Mary Beth got loud. People jumped up, and the young people to her right hugged and danced and high-fived. Others pounded on the bar, and the stereo blared “Go Cubs Go!” Mary Beth remained quiet, holding her victory shot. She raised her glass and tipped it toward the ceiling, toasted her mom, but then the sobs hit so hard, her shoulders shaking violently, that she couldn’t drink.
Until faced with it, she’d never known how she’d react to the Cubs winning a World Series. Turns out, she thought about her mom. The glass stayed in her hand for 30 seconds or more, until she finally steadied herself and knocked it back. Then she put her head in her hands and began to cry. That night, she fell asleep wrapped in her mom’s Cubs blanket, the one Ginny wore the night she died.
So even though I've long tried not to get emotionally invested in sports, I’m a lot less cynical about it than I used to be. Maybe humanity’s obsession with sports isn’t logical – but humans aren't logical either. Perhaps what’s important isn’t why sports conjure up so much meaning and emotion within us – but simply that they do.
The human experience is richer for it. At least, mine has been.