Harry was finally talking to Cho Chang. Stars aligned. Fireworks started. The orchestra keyed up in the background.
Enter: the awkward clang of Ron Weasley… who saw Cho sporting a Tutshill Tornadoes badge, and immediately got confrontational with her about her loyalty as a sports fan. “How long have you supported them?” he demanded. His implication is that she, like the common masses, hopped on the bandwagon only after “they started winning” and “became fashionable.”
“I’ve been a fan since I was six,” she calmly replied. “ANYway, Harry…”
As it turns out, Cho was a “true fan,” even by the narrow standards of teen-wizard-angsty Ron. It was a girl-power moment for the readers; and another episode of romantic misdirection for poor Harry (don’t worry, bro…Ginny’s waiting!!)
I live in Kansas City where a scrappy team that has not played in the post-season since mullets were cool (and not just in San Francisco) made it to the World Series. An actual seven game World Series at that. And talk about fireworks… There have been fireworks, from epic displays at the stadium to firecrackers in the suburbs. Water in the Plaza fountains was dyed blue. Roadside tents everywhere hocked hastily-printed Royals paraphernalia, and the sea of blue looks like Kentucky during basketball season. (In case you aren’t from Kentucky—trust me when I say that is saying something.) It’s been like Christmas up in here.
Needless to say… some of us have shown up late to the party.
The ‘real’ fans sometimes begrudge the post-season fervor. Where have you been for the last 29 years? We’ve held the flag in the rain and the sleet, faithful in innings of endless defeat! (sorry… it’s a rhyme-y kind of time around here). There’s a small but discernible edge of resentment… Who are all these come-lately, fair weather fans to get excited when things are fun and exciting? Where are they when it is long and boring and sad?
Well… Fair enough.
For one thing, some of us <guilty> might TRY to watch sports during the regular season. But the thing is, there are just SO MANY games. It’s hard to know/remember when they’re on. And, it’s hard to see the importance of this #one# game, in the grand scheme of so many. Especially when there’s laundry to be done, and kids to be fed, and books to be read… And sometimes, the games ARE really slow and boring. Baseball, especially, can drag on for days. The weight of post-season drama, and the charge of excitement that happens when the best teams compete, makes it much more engaging for the peripheral fans. So sue us if we can’t sit through the endless Viagra commercials during the rest of the year.
But there’s something else, too—something a little more existential than the pace of play, and a little more lasting than a couple of innings. It’s got to do with community and shared experience. It’s about jumping into that wave of blue, knowing that it will carry you into a story bigger than yourself, or this moment.
It’s also got to do with communal Sabbath. Days (or at least hours) to Rest. To celebrate. To remember what it means to carve out space for something meaningful, and share it with family and neighbors.When else do we really do that? When else do we decide that meetings can be cancelled, that stores can close early, that the trip to Target can, (gasp) wait a few days… A kicking-it-and-taking-names sports team provides a rare moment to pause and breathe in the place in which we live, and the people who share it with us.
Those who have followed faithfully through uninspiring years –go you. You brought them to the big show. You can claim a part that the late-comers don’t get. But there’s something just as authentic about discovering, or re-discovering, the joy of a sport with deep roots in community and culture. There’s something just as faithful about wading into the moving stream of narrative. It’s like hearing a long-forgotten gospel– a story that we sort of knew, but that we’d never seen lived out in flesh, in our time.
Here’s what else I know: “fair weather” fans stream out of stadiums. They tear up signs, they throw new t-shirts in the trash, and they lament the hours and the ticket money they’ll never get back.
But that’s not what we saw in Kansas City last night. And that’s not the story we’re telling this morning.
What we saw instead was a packed stadium that erupted into chants and cheers… at the moment of heartbreaking loss. There were still fireworks. Even in the suburbs. In every borough and burb, there was much rejoicing. Because for a city divided by everything from contentious politics to an actual state line, this Cinderella story of a team has been as good for us as barbeque. Even though we didn’t win, we are still on the wagon together, and it’s a pretty fun ride.
So you see, Ron… Long time devotion brings its own kind of fervor, a unique sense of pride and ownership. For the rest of us, it’s an entirely different kind of story–but a story worth telling. It’s one we’re invited to take part in, no matter how little we understand about rules and statistics. It’s the story of how we will someday ask our grown children: “Remember that time when you were 6, and we let you stay up late to watch baseball?”
And knowing that she’ll remember. We all will.
We may be latecomers to the feast… but there is always room at the table. Hot dog buns and Boulevard brew for all. The bread of life. The cup of salvation…
That kind of community is good news in any season, fair weather or foul.
(get it? Foul? See what I did there? I know some sportsy things).
That sounds like a story I’ve heard before, somewhere. You can come in. No matter how late you come to the table.