A Very Long Season

Too much is happening these days to coherently discuss. So let us speak of the Cubs.

Let it fly. Since pigs must be.

Let it fly. Since apparently pigs can now.

Hyperbolic statements are generally not suited for those with pretensions to historical-mindedness, but I think this one will hold up: The 2016 World Series was one of the greatest in baseball’s history, capped off by a Game 7 that ranks in the top tier of baseball games every played.

And the Cubs are world champions. Repeat: The Chicago Cubs, they of the North Side, are world champions.

But now a word of warning to the Cubs. From America.

They love you now. But they will hate you.

(Ask the Red Sox if you don’t believe me.)

Everyone starts small like you did, Cubs. The United States rose from the rough-and-tumble colonial leagues in the late Eighteenth Century, gathering strength for a few decades to contend in the bigs. In the middle of the Nineteenth Century, the team nearly broke up over differing interpretations of the members’ contracts, but they worked it out after a bench-clearing brawl and changes in management. Rebuilding years followed, in which the U.S. was able to convincingly defeat the veteran Spanish team but still hadn’t completely broken out from the pack in the Western Hemisphere Division. Argentina, for one, was still able to attract many of the league’s best players.

The first half of the Twentieth Century, though, saw the playoffs come. After the French and British teams prematurely exhausted themselves, the U.S. defeated the Kaiser for the pennant and advanced to the World Series against the Nazis (same ball club, different ownership) a couple decades later. By 1945, it was the undisputed world champion, with the hardware to prove it.

However, no one likes a winner. They say they do, but if they don’t get to be the winner themselves, then they simply resent whoever does get to stand atop the podium. So the U.S. finished the season astride the world, but had to assume league-wide responsibility for keeping lesser sports from undercutting their own achievements. Insidious Russian soccer players had to be prevented from spreading their revolutionary game into baseball-friendly territories and stealing their fan base. No team but the U.S. had both the means to protect what they’d built, and the will to do so.

But soccer is seductive (“Look, all you need is a ball!”). Many countries could not stand up to the onslaught, or were willing to give in for expediency’s sake. Often those whom the U.S. was defending attacked the very efforts the U.S. was making on their behalf. Perhaps they’d have preferred those other games to the messy yet dignified one they grew up with. But perhaps not. Certain multi-sport athletes who’d seen both sides would have argued the latter. Ultimately, the U.S. did well in that struggle, and continues to try repeating its success in the current season. But no one’s work is less appreciated, no victory less valued by those it benefits.

So, Cubs, congratulations on long-delayed victory. But beware its fruits.

In the meantime, fly the W.


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