The Pre-Game Show
As I prepare for Game Seven tonight with the Chicago Cubs actually having a chance to win the World Series (yes, I know I didn't have to write that whole sentence, but I've never had the chance before today, and I just wanted to...), I harken back to a Twitter ridiculous debate I got into last night.
After the ballgame, I got into a debate (sorry...I mean, ridiculous debate) on Twitter with a Cleveland fan over why the TV ratings for Game Five actually beat the Sunday Night NFL game, which featured Dallas, one of the league's biggest draws. And then, after that discussion spun out of control, what The Big Story is for this final game.
Now, to be clear, if the Cubs lose, the team I probably would be most happy to see them lose to is the Cleveland Indians, since they themselves have the second-longest streak not winning a World Series. But it falls almost half a century short of the Cubs streak. And I hope they don't win. Not this year. Not even a hint of, "Hey, good luck to us both." I'm happy to wish Cleveland good luck, may the best team win next year if the Cubs do happen to (hopefully!!) win tonight. Not this year. This year, as you probably suspect, I only hope the Cubs win. But my sole point which began our "debate" wasn't about that, it wasn't about what team is best, it wasn't about what cities deserves to win or is most likely to, or which team deserves "pity." It was about one thing and one thing only -- how on earth could Game 5 of the World Series have higher national ratings than Sunday Night Football, with Dallas playing?? And then, what is the Big Story of the World Series?
There's only one reason for that and only one Big Story. And it's so obvious it felt ridiculous to debate. Which I even said. Several times. After all, people who don't even like baseball know that the Chicago Cubs are society's definition for futility and failing, having not won a World Series for 108 years. They are the point of jokes about how, if the Cubs ever won the World Series, hell would freeze over. Stories pour out annually from journalists across the country, and have for decades; broadcast reports and features are done on television yearly; even numerous ongoing documentaries get made about yet another World Series failure of the Chicago Cubs. The Curse of the Billy Goat, now in its 71st years, is as infamous in sports as Boston's Curse of the Bambino was before the Red Sox finally won. The general public -- including those who know absolutely nothing about sports -- knows that there is something significant this year when the Chicago Cubs (the Chicago Cubs??!!) are simply playing in the World Series, let alone have an actual chance to win. That's the Big Story. That's your lead. That's why more people watched the World Series than watched NFL football.
The Cleveland Indians may well indeed be a great team, the city may have had their own long sports failures, the Indians themselves may even have their own long streak of not winning a World Series, even if almost half a century shorter -- but all that (all of that) pales wildly in comparison to the general public across the entire country knowing for generations that the Chicago Cubs have not won a World Series in 108 years and knowing that if the Cubs actually won it would be such a monumentally rare event in society, and so they are tuning in to the ball games to watch, to see what happens, to see if maybe the Cubs could actually win after 108 years and themselves be a part of seeing that historical event (an event that doesn't even come "once in a lifetime") if by some chance it bizarrely happens. The general public, including those who don't tend to watch baseball, is not tuning in with massive numbers and stunned anticipation in order to watch the...Cleveland Indians, great and deserving a team as they are. Because this isn't about great and deserving. As meaningful as the game absolutely, understandably is in Cleveland...this is a national, societal, sociological, generational event . The story, the Big Story, the only actual lead story headline for the nation and even for people who couldn't care less about any sports is -- will the Chicago Cubs, the icon of losing, failure and futility, win the World Series after 108 years.
And it's not even because all the country wants to see the Cubs win and Cleveland lose. There are probably lots of people (outside Chicago...) who adore the Cubs as the "Lovable Losers," and are perfectly fine with the status quo staying that way. And others are turning in, not because they care who wins, but just because they want to see what happens -- whoever wins. Yes, I do suspect most people by far do hope the Chicago Cubs finally end their 108 years of futility and actually win. But this isn't about who does win or who should win or who deserves to win. It's about after 108 years, the symbol of failure, the Chicago Cubs, actually has a chance to win.
And to think otherwise is myopic and foolish, crossing the edge into idiotic.
Oh, and Go, Cubs.
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Robert J. Elisberg is a political commentator, screenwriter, novelist, tech writer and also some other things that I just tend to keep forgetting.
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