The Week that Rocked America!
Okay, America, take a deep breath, sit down, and untangle your panties. We just survived a historic 7 days and there is a lot of scratching heads and temper tantrums. So calm the hell down, take a salt bath, and soak your ass. We have a long way to go before the next election. It will take a while but we will get through it together (while divided) as we have always done. Despite it all, America, I am proud of you. Still. Now some may call me delusional, hopelessly optimistic, or crazier than an alcoholic at Mardi Gras but I have faith that somehow, some way, we will grow from this and become a better, more mature America. In a lot of ways I am like a parent who still has faith in his sixteen-year-old son even though he totaled your car while driving drunk and killing his buddy in the passenger seat. The tunnel we are moving through is long and dark we and I think I see light up ahead. Either that or it is the headlights of an oncoming semi-truck about to turn us into a can of Spam. Either way, like it or not, we are in this thing together. Yes, I admit, I am probably wrong. This could be the one mistake we have made which will be irreparable. I am hoping, for the genuine sake of the generations we will hand this country to in the future, I am more wrong than 2+2=5. Hell, if Germany can shake off the Hitler dandruff from their shoulders (there might still be some flakes), we should be able to shimmy-shimmy-shake and bake away from the impulsive loco election on November 8th. Anyways, I hope I am wrong. I usually am (not). But this isn’t an opinion piece (yes it is) and I am not going to talk politics (because everything is politics). Finally, I am not going to speak about November 8th no more in this piece (well, maybe just a little). No, I am going to take you back to November 2nd to a baseball stadium in Cleveland, Ohio just before the midnight hour.
The rain began to fall and the teams left the field and headed into the dugout. It was game 7 of the World Series and the game was tied after nine spellbinding innings. People (like me) who should have long fallen asleep needed no smelling salts to keep their eyes open . Rajai Davis. Kris Bryant. Zobrist. Miller. Kluber. Chapman. I leave out too many names. But that is okay because the names of all involved will be etched in the bark of oak trees and retold for a century. Myths grew out of this night. Where were you?’s will be asked in bars by strangers. On one side of the fence celebrations took place like exorcisms. On the other side defeat achieved a state of grace, the vanquished held their heads up in nobility. An Iranian friend of mine, who had never watched a game in his life, spent his night in a bar in Los Angeles breathlessly watching each pitch, each blunder, and each each heroic deed. His bewilderment of the drama and suspense, amplified as each inning passed, was shared with a nation. As the rain fell, America, we looked at each other and knew this game in some undefinable way transcended the sport. We also knew it was an absolute perfect model for what is great about the game. Those in the stands, adults and children, alike vibrated in a communion of electricity, hands clung together, and suspense hung on every pitch. On that night, the King of a city, victorious in his march of redemption during the past summer, sat in the stands with his wife and cheered with his subjects. All garments of royalty displaced by the camaraderie of sport.
Many people I spoke to prior to the game were torn between both teams. I was one of those. The Cleveland Indians, underdogs, over-achievers, gutsy and gritty giant slayers led by their tactician Terry Francona. His story is one of second chances, a rebirth, after leading the Red Sox to their first championship in 86 years ten years prior. Then he was run out of town in disgrace only to reemerge in Cleveland. In the opposite dugout was Joe Maddon, a bit of a maverick, flamboyant, not getting any younger, some of his decisions throughout the playoffs left many wondering if the pressure had finally wore him down. The pressure of curses, goats, Bartman, centuries. Their last championship closer to the Lincoln assassination than to JFK’s. Two franchises in the heart of America. Two cities. Cleveland. Chicago. History has been etched on their streets. Presidents of the past and of the present drank their waters and sons to their lands. The lakes which wash upon their shore carry the waves of a sea, their legends growing like those out of Homer’s Odyssey. 1908. 1948. How much we have changed since these two teams had last won a World Series. America, I look in the mirror and can barely recognize you. But beneath the wrinkles and the winks of an eye, there you still are covered in scars. Then the game was over after a night and part of a morning and while the city of Cleveland cried, the city of Chicago cheered.
The rest of the country cheered too. Us fans of baseball young and old, leaned on the unfolding drama of the Series as a pillar, a spiritual monument to hold and take out into the world, away from the stadium, to share with the uninitiated, to lead by example and to be gracious and courageous. In the world of championship sports, seldom can we look to both teams as winners. But in this World Series we could, even though only one team can wear the crown. Carrying the heavy burden of history, the claws of the faithful gripping their backs, these two bloody rivals, crawling to home plate, finished the game collapsing next to each other. Competition brought out the best of these two teams and the unwavering commitment to toughness was an example of the best of our country. Leave it to baseball, the American past time, to restore order some of our more respectable facets which had seemed so depleted, so buried under an abundance of blunder and bluster with the American presidential campaign.
The Chicago Cubs won the World Series in a game which could only be described as apocalyptic in the very best sense of the word while matching it with a drama which can only be described as Shakespearean in the scope of its history. Yes, America, books will be written, songs composed, poetry recited, and finally some people can rest in peace in Chicago after Game 7. While in Cleveland, the hunger will continue to burn and their King will take the lessons of teamwork from the diamond and apply them to the already riveting repertoire of his legend on the basketball court. Long live King James.
In the midst of the elation of that night, a premonition for the following days seemed to materialize out of the air. As the heavy cloud came from the west and flew east, those moments of midnight meditation, upon reflection, was a foreboding to the state of our country outside the baseball diamond once the rain caused the game to cease. Yet, so much we could learn from a game somehow has no place in the game of politics. A campaign season which had lasted for what seemed like the length of a short but brutal war would end the following Tuesday, and with it, all goodwill from the World Series would be swept away with a Tsunami on November 8th, Election Day. All the jubilation and courteous conduct had seemed to vanish like a mirage in the desert and we were left dizzy and punch drunk with two foes whom many didn’t care for either way. Lesser of two evils isn’t how we pick the teams we root for, so why should that hold true for our leaders?
No America, this isn’t an article about politics or opinions, it's about seven days in a nation. On November 2nd, a culmination of our shared history was revisited through baseball and our heroes from the past were conjured up as if they were unsettled ghosts who had a few more things to say before they pass into the next life. Then rising up from below, the darkness of our history seemed to stir up and now the rift seems to be even greater while just a week before we seemed to be closer than ever in between the chalk lines of a diamond. Sure I may be called optimistic, out of touch, or just bat-shit crazy but, America, will the right hand ever shake the left hand and realize it is easier to build something with two hands working together? Never will we be great if this doesn’t happen. This I say to both sides. Then I think back on the election, now almost a week since. I think of Illinois voting for Hillary and Ohio voting for Trump. How could these two places diverge so much on politics when the week before they seemed the same; cheering and crying, striving together for their teams and rocking stadiums in both cities. How long ago it seems since November 2nd
A few months before the week that rocked America, I traveled with my friend John Woody to a minor league baseball game in Coney Island on a hot summer afternoon. The two teams playing were the Brooklyn Cyclones, a Met's affiliate, and the Staten Island Yankees. The crowd watched the game together and we had hot dogs and beer. On the field were young men with dreams and aspirations of making it to the big leagues. Perhaps amongst them was a player who would change the game like the players we saw on November 2nd. This could be said for any other arena, especially political. Somewhere in this country someone, woman or man, is toiling away, feeding their mind, and making connections about how to lead. This person out there is going to change our country and when the opportunity comes they will seize it because they were training for it their whole life. Then when that moment comes we can maybe look back on our history, which is the history we are living now, and understand that all of these events had to have happened so when the moment of greatness arrives we can savor the moment that much more. Then, perhaps, we will reconcile the imaginary oppositions of black/white, citizen/immigrant, Cub/Indian. Ambitious they may be, these are my hopes.