Six days before one of the most infamous elections in US history, in a time when there had never been a wider trench between Democrats and Republicans, when an unspoken cold war breathed its icy breath down each of our red, white, and blue spines…the curse of the billy-goat was broken. And without our realizing it, a nation came together, if only for a fleeting moment that tasted like cracker jacks, and smelled like cotton candy.
Let’s roll back the clock to 1945. Come with me…Sinatra on the radio, Pin-ups on the walls, and Wrigley Stadium pregnant with the roars of the fans. William Sianis rolls into the stadium on the north side of Chicago with his smelly pet goat. After many complaints about the odorous beast, he is asked to leave. At which time he declares, “Them cubs, they ain’t gonna win no more.” And they didn’t. Not a World Series.
Flash forward 71 years. Rihanna on the radio and the walls, Wrigley Stadium still pregnant with the roars of the fans…it’s 2016. A new war, one that has nothing to do with Nazis or surprise attacks, fills our lives. Bitter diatribes are at every turn. Our smart phones in hand, we peruse Facebook, Twitter, Instagram….any platform we can, to find a supporting argument for our passion or our venom. We all worry about the future of our nation with different moral compasses, different lifestyles, and different core beliefs. How will any of us ever feel patriotic again in these unsettling times where we all, regardless of our affiliations, seem to know this year will define a new future? We all sit under the curse of the elephant and the donkey.
However, Wrigley Field is unchanged. Criticized for not updating, that emblematic red marquee still ushers the fans inside. The ivy-covered walls stand proudly as elders of the National League. The hand-turned score board reminds us of a time when technology wasn’t king, though few of us have enough candles on the birthday cake to remember such a time. I certainly don’t. I’ve experienced it only as folklore. However, the outdated field reminds us of the great AMERICAN pastime. It is one of the last remaining simple things we have…and man, don’t we need a little simplicity?
On November 2, 2016 all men and women, of all races, religions, and political parties held their breaths collectively. Could the Cubs, still under the billy-goat’s spell, get that last out in the 10th inning? Could they win the game, so long and painstaking, that it had now carried over into November 3rd? Could the billy-goat be wrestled to the ground in the wee hours of that Fall night?
Indeed he could, and with one swift throw, and a man out at first, it happened. The players stormed the field, pairing laughter with tears. They were boys again, jumping up and down, for the love of the game. The crowd thundered with praise and all men stood together, singing the song of the full-grown bear.
I don’t know the outcome of the election yet. I don’t know what our country will look like just months from now. However, I have the tiniest hope that we are all still Americans. I hope that when we take off our baseball caps and put on our suits, or uniforms, or badges, that we remember who we were. It took the Cubs 71 years to tackle that goat, but they broke the curse. I now have but a shard of faith that as a nation we can wrangle a donkey and an elephant. I’ve seen it now, in my own lifetime, with my own weary eyes. There was a night at Wrigley field, where we were all Americans…and it was sweet.
Photo courtesy of The Wall Street Journal