From Chicago’s North Side and the banks of Lake Erie in Cleveland, the word spread. There are miracles. The impossible had happened! The Chicago Cubs won the World Series. Coming from a 3-1 game deficit in the best of seven series, Chicago team swept the Cleveland Indians in the final three games both at their home of Wrigley Field but in Progressive Field, Cleveland’s home ballpark. Not only had the Cubs ended a 76 year absence from appearing in baseball’s ultimate event, they ended a 108 year famine by winning. No one alive remembers the last time the Cubs had won the World Series. Hardly anyone alive was in the stands the last time the Cubs played in the Series. And now, the dream was realized. The streak had ended; there would no longer be any “wait until next year.” Next year finally arrived! Even my wife, the ultimate non-sports fan, was talking about the game, excited by the result.
So, what now? There is the requisite ticker tape parade in the Windy City. President Obama has invited the team to the White House, even though, as a South-Sider, he admitted being a White Sox fan. The players will be adulated as heroes, since Americans seem to value sports and entertainment celebrities above all else. Salaries will be renegotiated. Endorsements will flow. There might even be a player who will be “going to Disney World.”
But what about the average fan? What does “Joe Sixpack” do when his longest existing fantasy has been realized? Another World Series victory, however significant in itself, is qualitatively different from the initial achievement. Sure, this was not the Cubs’ first World Series victory. Yet, having them more than a century apart is pretty much the same as winning the first time. No one alive remembers the first victory. Few, if any, even remember the last Series appearance.
Is the loss in the victory bigger than we imagine? Can we dream a new “impossible dream?” as the Man of La Mancha suggests? We need collective, communal goals, fantasies to bind us together into something greater than the individual. Sports fandom has a way of building community among people who may have nothing else in common. Yet, in their mutual appreciation identification with a particular team, they have become a unified whole. Perhaps, this was never any more present than in the ever-optimistic, “wait ‘til next year” Chicago Cubs fans.
How do we develop a new, yet achievable, communal fantasy? We have a Black president and are, hopefully, days away from our first female POTUS, thereby accomplishing two dreams shared by many Americans. We can desire a functional Congress but that will hardly bring tears to our eyes or joy to our hearts. We long for world peace, an end to hunger, a safe future for all our children. If any of these are achieved, we will feel gratitude and deep love, although probably not the same emotional elation as a long-awaited sports victory. Perhaps I am reading too much into this; after all it was only a baseball game.