There is no doubt that 2016 has been a tumultuous year. Social unrest, a caricature of an election, and media coverage of the next societal outrage. This October has been particularly interesting with the upcoming election lingering around the corner, accompanied by two adults tossing out school yard insults at one another in what we can loosely consider a debate. There has been one current event that has kept me grounded. That being, the MLB playoffs.
Alex Rodriguez said after the Cubs victory last week, “For the first time, in a long time, we own the fall.”
This statement resonated long after the post-game recap. Being a lifelong baseball fan, the fall playoffs, and even the World Series, have been put on the backburner to NFL regular season outcomes and college football rivalries. Why has baseball become such a secondary priority in a culture so immersed in professional sports? Because we don’t appreciate what we have.
Baseball is a game unlike any other. In baseball, there is time to waste, and there is time to think. There is time for drama and time for suspense to build. There is time. We don’t appreciate time. In a society that has become defined by speed, baseball does not appeal to the general populous as it once did. We no longer take time to contemplate. We no longer want to wait for an outcome, instead expecting everything to be instantaneous. However, this fall, America finds itself longing for that time. We want the suspense and drama. Here’s why…
The two teams with the longest championship draughts in professional baseball will square off against one another. While the game itself has been lifted to the national forefront due to the cinematic storylines leading up to the games, the significance of the two teams describes our deepest desires as a society. The need to return to simplicity. The need to return to the world where our parents and grandparents and great-grandparents, and great-great grandparents (this one is for you Cubbie hopefuls) grew up. The nostalgia that has manifested across the United States with this upcoming World Series is unlike anything I have seen in my lifetime.
Adults and children the same are cheering, smiling, and in some cases, crying over what the Chicago Cubs and the Cleveland Indians have accomplished this fall. People in these cities, and in some cases nationwide, have forgotten about the election and impending doom the media portrays as a result. They have reverted to a child-like state of ignorance is bliss and their teams are going to the World Series. They have joined hand in hand with other fans to watch pitch by pitch as a world title becomes closer to reality than a dream. Is that such a bad place to be?
Baseball reminds us that we are all kids at heart. Not salespeople, factory workers, managers, teachers, or doctors. No, we are all individuals with hopes and dreams and aspirations and these teams have reminded us of this. We are not behind on our bills. We are not dreading our jobs on Mondays. We are not needing to clean out the gutters before winter hits. We are carefully counting the days, hours, and minutes until the Chicago Cubs play the Cleveland Indians in the fall classic and bring back how we felt as children watching our heroes take the field. We are sitting too close to the TV like we did when our favorite player came to bat on opening day. We are sitting inches from the radio to hear the voice of our favorite sportscaster announce the starting lineup (this is for you, Tom Hamilton).
Baseball reminds us that while life has ups and downs, we always have our next at bat, our next pitch. There are times of endless failure, but tomorrow is a new day. We can stop letting our days melt together in endless pursuit of the weekend. Instead we can take each day as new beginning, a new at bat. There are unscripted theatrics. There are absurdities. There are people who haven’t hit in 20 at bats, but launch a home run to win a game. They are the hero. Everyone can be a hero. Everyone matters. From the middle reliever charting pitches, to the catcher with beat up knees blocking every pitch that comes at him, to the fan that has been sitting on the first baseline for 50 years waiting for this time to come. There is hope. There is faith. These games embody the peace that our souls desire, in the infinite multiplicities of mysteries, failures and triumphs that make life beautiful.
Baseball is reminding us to have fun. Just have fun. One constant between Joe Maddon and Terry Francona is the culture they have created in their respective clubhouses. The players are loose, relaxed, and most importantly, smiling. They are not viewing the games as do or die situations. They are enjoying each present moment, as though they were in a sandlot pick-up game. One can’t help but to smile and laugh upon seeing Javier Baez smirk as he makes an outrageous throw across his body. Jason Kipnis can be seen laughing and joking in the dugout in late innings of a playoff game, as if it were spring training. These teams are loose. They are having fun in the most pressing situations. We can do this to. We can learn from this. We can enjoy every present moment, because life, like baseball, is only a game. We create our own outcome, our own happiness.
The point is, this year’s World Series is showing us that there is so much good left in the world. The unbelievable is believable and every day can bring us something entirely unexpected. These games show us that baseball, like life, is unpredictable, poetic, and most importantly, fun. What a time to be alive! I hope that everyone watching the games this week can bare these musings in mind. What an amazing year…