So, full disclosure. I’m a Cardinal fan. A serious, committed, Cardinal fan. Since the age of five, I listened to Jack Buck call the games while in my bed, sweating from the heat of my stifling old farmhouse in Southern Indiana.
And, I’m a baseball fan. My childhood memories are full of my grandfather’s baseball card shop, walking to the corner drug store in my small town to get baseball cards with the money I dug out of the couch, and my trips to the Triple A team of the Detroit Tigers in the near by “big city” of Evansville, Indiana. And, before anyone says, “typical white upbringing”, also know I was dirt poor, eating government cheese for months at a time.
I say this so that you know the seriousness in which I write this reflection. Because, for a Cardinal fan to say anything positive about the Cubs and the city of Chicago is just painful in so many ways. But, I must. Because the game I watched last night and the reaction on social media told me something that I wanted to celebrate because it gave me hope, a rare thing lately.
America is not what you see in our current election cycle. We’re not Trump, who is a gross distortion of the American dream. Everyone wants to give him too much credit. On the right, he is a populist who appeals to “the people.” Please. Where I grew up, people would be talking about his eternal midlife crisis and keep their daughters away from him. On the left, he is the personification of America gone wrong. Let’s not give him so much credit. He’s always going to be a walking joke, like something out of Monty Python’s Upper Class sketch. Remember what happens to those guys in the end? They shoot each other. Even if he gets elected, he won’t ruin our country.
As for Hillary Clinton, it’s great that a woman is running for president. I just wish it were someone else. I’m sorry, but I do. I’ve tried to be positive about her. To be frank, I lean to the liberal side of the political spectrum. I consider myself a male feminist. I don’t understand her unwavering support for Planned Parenthood. Because for some reason, lately, criticism of this organization is equated with hating women. And she helps perpetuate that. No organization is above good, solid critique. Yes, it must be fair and reasoned. But it must allowed in a free society. I can’t shake the sneaking suspicion she’s the consummate politician, telling people what they want to hear. I find myself wanting four more years of President Obama. Or Condie Rice. Or Elizabeth Warren. Or any other woman, really. But I don’t fear Hillary Clinton will “ruin” the country if she gets elected.
But this political division misses a larger point. Neither of these people are us, not really. They’re both rich white people, part of the ruling class. They don’t really represent us. Many of my Trump supporting friends can’t stand much of what he says about women and Muslims. Many of my Hillary loving friends are seriously disturbed by some of the things leaked from her emails.
But, to be hopeful, you only need to look at the game of baseball to see what America is really all about. Last night, you saw all the hope and optimism of our country. You saw a long tortured but hopeful fan base finally rewarded for all their hard work. And yes, sorry, being a fan IS hard work. I hear all the naysayers who say it’s just a game. Kind of, but that sort of thinking misses the point through a willful snobbery or weird provincialism. Like it or not, sports teams are a personification of civic and city pride. Sure, it can get out of whack and cause people to focus on the wrong things. And at its worst, it often means sacrificing money to feed the homeless or make schools better just to give a pacifier to the millionaire owner so he won’t take his balls and go home.
But, baseball has always been about hope, hard work, and a bizarre optimism in the face of so called “facts.” The Cubs winning the World Series (Sigh. See, this is hard!), show what is still great about America. People still hope. People still hug strangers. People still believe things will be better. People still fight. And, as many Cleveland fans showed last night, they can be gracious and magnanimous in defeat, not “questioning” the results or “letting us know,” as if they are somehow more important than the game (or country) itself.
So, as you go to vote next Tuesday, remember, baseball is the soul of America. And, despite what people say, it’s not dead. Its still there, under the trash culture represented by the NFL. And last night, it showed us who we really are. We are Americans. The best part of us is that we hope.
Maybe I’m a cock-eyed optimist. Of course I am. I’m a baseball fan. And, believe it or not, we at Sick Pilgrim are about hope, even if its hope we will find hope someday.