People who study such things say we should be happy. And, oh yes, we are.
The Chicago Cubs clinched their first division title in eight years Thursday night and, better yet, we have never seen a Cubs team that looks so good. Thursday’s victory was only a beginning. We fully expect them to be in the World Series — and to win it.
Sorry if that makes you nervous. Sorry if that sounds like a jinx. But we’re approaching this the Joe Maddon way: “Embrace the target.”
Seriously, there really are people who study this stuff, and they say a winning baseball team truly can lift a city’s spirits, if you had any doubt. And they say the Cubs possess certain strengths, such as having been a Chicago team for a really long time, that should boost the thrill more. We have watched the team win and lose — mostly lose — since the horse-and-buggy days, and so we feel a deeper attachment. The Cubs are as Chicago as the river.
A good ball club, write social scientists Ralph C. Wilcox and David L. Andrews, can serve as “as recompense for the monotony and toil of city life” and offer a “sense of shared urban identity.” And those “authentic community attachments” are strongest with teams like the Cubs, as opposed to some carpetbagging operation that moves from town to town for the sake of a newer ballpark or a bigger tax break.
That sounds about right to us, though we’ve never found life in Chicago monotonous.
A good reason to cheer couldn’t come at a better time for Chicago. The news has been bleak of late, what with the horrendous gun violence, the tax hikes and the talk of a teachers’ strike. Even the presidential race, where Donald Trump has moved up in the polls, leaves us feeling despondent.
But then Anthony Rizzo hits two home runs in one game, as he did Wednesday. Or Jon Lester pitches shut-out ball for eight innings, as he did Wednesday. Or Kyle Hendricks pitches a no-hitter into the ninth inning, as he did Monday. Or Addison Russell makes another phenomenal play at shortstop, as he has been doing all season long.
And autumn sunshine peeks through.
We aim to enjoy this while we can, every minute of it. Because — and we aren’t just jaded Cubs fans talking here — it never lasts. The same people who study such things warn that the psychic lift we get from a winning sports team is sweet, but also fleeting. That “spontaneous” sense of community we feel while cheering the Cubs (or any other team) “cannot form the basis for community per se,” write Alan G. Ingham and Mary G. McDonald. “Community involves time and social commitment, and the investment of social capital.”
Sports, that is to say, is a kind of bread and circuses. Well, sure. The real business of building a strong, healthy and unified Chicago requires hard work, and carries a price tag much higher than the cost of a bleacher ticket at Wrigley Field.
All the same, there is a grace and beauty and home-grown quality to this Cubs team that has been a joy to watch. It is a team with strengths all around — hitting, fielding and pitching — much of it nurtured from farm teams up.
Summer is over but not the Cubs. Fall in Chicago is looking good.
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