Oh, somewhere in the favored land the sun is shining bright;
The band is playing somewhere, and somewhere hearts are light,
And somewhere men are laughing, and somewhere children shout;
But there is no joy in Mudville — mighty Casey has struck out.
Be still our baseball hearts — the Chicago Cubs won the World Series.
Boy did we need this. Not to take anything away from the Cleveland Indians who played an amazing series right down to the seventh game and an improbable eighth inning comeback to tie the game and send it into a rain delay. The Cubbies had just a tiny bit more at the end — a sliver more passion, that’s all — and that was the difference. And with everything so divisive in our country right now, I think just about everybody outside of Ohio was hoping for this. Certainly everyone in the restaurant we were in Wednesday night and in the bars we could hear across the street was screaming for the Cubs, and we are a long way from Chicago. It was finally a victory for the losers — a win for everyone who’s ever wished they could win when they were afraid they couldn’t.
At the same time, it’s with a little sadness that we say good-by to the Cubs being the great American metaphor for hope against all hope — the unfailing optimism of standing by your team no matter what. The Cubs have been the epitome of Mighty Casey in Casey at the Bat, that great American poem by Ernest L. Thayer first published in 1888, when, with hope springing eternal in the human breast, mighty Casey, in that one moment that could have changed everything for the bland city of Mudville, strikes out, sending everyone home to hold onto that shred of hope that maybe next year will be their year.
What do we do now that Casey got his hit, and Mudville is suddenly the champion of the world? You have a whole city waking up, rubbing their eyes and asking themselves, “Did that really happen?” Yes it did, Chicago. Yes it did.
But I wonder whether if in winning, they might have reversed their fortunes, but still managed to lose something. You have to wonder whether if in winning, they lost their identity.
After 108 years of expecting the Cubs to lose no matter what, they won. We were expecting some fan to reach in and interfere with the winning ball, and send all Chicago back to bed, to the real world as we all know it. But wait; oh dear. What do we do now? We don’t have the Cubs to kick around anymore, but neither do we have the Cubs to inspire us to keep hoping, either; and in many ways, the latter is actually a much more useful metaphor than the former, because we are all mostly losers, most of the time.
Here at the Catch, the Cubs could have been our team, because grace is for losers, and we are all about qualifying for grace turned outward by the losses in our lives and the hope that makes that grace spring eternal in the human breast.
So who are we going to look to now to inspire us to hope against all hope? Maybe Cleveland takes over the honors, or, if the Dodgers lose a few more postseason opportunities, they could be our new team. Or maybe your team from your town. After all, with 30 major league teams, only one winner means there are 29 losers.