Whether or not you follow professional sports, it was hard to miss the Chicago Cubs swarming the field last Wednesday night and the happiness they brought to their fans.
Tears of joy flooded many player’s eyes as they jumped up and down like little kids. For all intents and purposes, they could have been a bunch of 12-year-olds who just won the local Little League Baseball Tournament.
In one magical moment, the Cubs had erased 108 years of frustration. A hundred and eight years of pain. A hundred and eight years of agony.
In the same instant, in the same moment, the Cleveland Indians players felt their hearts miss a beat, their breath stolen by a thief in the night. They felt their dream, their goal come crashing down to Earth. They felt their dream season become their nightmare. On this night, the thief was the two runs the Cubs scored in the top half of the 10th inning.
Thrill of victory and the agony of defeat
Anyone who has ever played a sport has experienced the pain of losing. But few have experienced the pain of playing an entire 162 game season and then fighting and clawing their way to the playoffs and ultimately to the grand stage that is the World Series.
The Indians slugged their way first to a three games to one lead. And when the Cubs chiseled that away and actually took the lead in the seventh game, the Indians still fought back to take the game into extra innings. And in the end, the Indians had to watch as they saw their hard work carried away, like a twig that lands in a winding river and swiftly gets taken far, far down stream.
Forever a winner or a loser
In one dugout, ultimate pleasure, the pinnacle of success. In the other, extreme, gut-wrenching loss, the kind that feels like a loved one has been ripped away, never to be heard or seen again. And like Charles Dickens’ A Tale of Two Cities, the two team epitomized the best and worst life has to offer.
The Cubs players will forever be immortalized in Chicago. They’ll be cheered wherever they go. Their names will be spoken with honor and pride. They may come to stink up the joint next year or even the year after that, it won’t matter. It just won’t matter. Fans will remember how they brought the city a championship.
In contrast, the Cleveland team will forever be a post-it note. Unless the team can find a way to climb back up the hill and win next year, they’ll be cheered and honored by Cleveland fans, but they’ll never be etched in stone like the winner’s names will be in the record books.
The push-pull of history’s fate
I watched very little of the series. The game seems slower than it once it did. I have too many other distractions that carry me away. But I find more and more that I get pulled into watching the final out. I’m attracted to the dichotomy.
I’m pulled to the winners. No surprise there, we all seem to like a winner. But I’m also pulled to the losers. How do they react? How do they mourn? What messages do they tell themselves? How do they use the obstacle to make themselves better?
In many ways, I find the losers reaction all the more compelling. In the grand scheme of things, we all fail at one point or another. We all lose. I like watching, learning, figuring out who is the winner inside and who will rise from the ashes of defeat to one day stand (figuratively and literally) on the winners podium.
Will it be the Cleveland Indians? I don’t know, but I for one will be cheering for them on and off the diamond.