My dad and I used to go to Yankees games together, despite having to spend $50 just to eat there. We made it a point to go together. Occasionally we’d lament the blue bombers performing worse than their multi-million dollar contracts warranted. But most of the time, we cheered them on, held out our hats for foul balls we knew would never reach us, and cringed beside 30,000 other fans whenever a batter swung at the dirt.
The short version: it brought my dad and I closer together.
But as the years went on, my love for baseball faded. Veteran Yankees like catcher Jorge Posada, shortstop Derek Jeter, closing pitcher Mariano Rivera and the like left. The team was beginning to perform poorly, too. I slowly, but surely, stopped watching. Simultaneously, I was going to college and kindling my love/hate (mostly hate) relationship with politics.
This isn’t to say correlation is causation, but there’s a close relationship between my happiness and baseball. When I went to Kenwal Day Camp and attended Mets games with my friends, I hardly ever cried. Attending Yankees games with my dad was always great. Playing little league softball (not baseball, but close enough) was always fun, even when we lost (and we did that a lot). Years later, watching the St. Louis Cardinals with my long-distance friends in person was a highlight of my 2015 trip to Missouri.
It’s not just hitting a ball with a stick—although I truly envy anyone who can react in less than half a second with a thin bat to smack a moving target as small as my fist or someone who can repeatedly drill said ball sixty-and-a-half feet with sniper-like precision. It’s the spirit it can instill.
I can thank this latest World Series between the perpetual underdog Chicago Cubs, who broke their 108-year World Series dry streak, and the Cleveland Indians for reminding me of this. Save for the political ads sprinkled in between, tonight was strangely cleansing. My dad and I hung out again without tensely talking about Stony Brook or politics. Meanwhile my mom, who never watches baseball, was cheering for the Cubs until midnight with us.
Let me just say that’s a lot more pleasant than writing my senior project or writing an essay about how apocalyptic 2017 might be. For a few hours, I even forgot about what’s at stake in this election. The ideological balance of the Supreme Court, whether or not I’ll have healthcare next year, the future of millions of undocumented immigrants and if we’ll be sending more people off to war are among a few of those things.
I’m not advocating we forget any of that, of course. But sometimes we just need a break for our own sanity, and there’s no shame in that. This World Series game in particular gave me necessary respite, if only for a moment, and temporarily renewed my faith in humanity.
That’s truly magical. I might actually start watching baseball (when it returns) to make myself sane again.
In the past, I’ve openly griped about how taxpayers have footed the bill for stadiums, sometimes at the cost of other services. I’d get annoyed that we seem to emphasize athletics over academics because it’s “simply a distraction.” I’d yell at managers for not more harshly punishing their players who turned out to be domestic abusers, not to mention fans that riot when their team loses.
I’ll probably still continue to do that, because these are terrible issues that should be addressed. But there’s no way I am going to yell at the game, because it is more than that.
Sometimes it can bring us together, even if for separate teams, as it did for me. We could use a little more of that today. It can be flat-out entertaining, a break from the non-stop madness of the election cycle or the world falling apart. And sports stories, when done right, can reflect on larger issues and show the full range of the human spirit—because, lest we forget, athletes are human too.
Perhaps from now on I’m going to heed the wise words of the late Supreme Court Justice Earl Warren: “I always turn to the sports pages first, which record people’s accomplishments. The front page has nothing but man’s failures.”
So thank you, Cubs and Indians, for putting on a show for the ages.