At the outset of these playoffs, I proposed that it should be a fine incident if the Chicago Cubs and the Cleveland Indians were to meet one another in the World Series. This suggestion met with notes of disfavor in some of those to whom it was leveled, amidst complaints secondarily that it would be unexciting or have the appearance of a fix, and primarily as it would create as an inevitability that one franchise’s “curse” should end. Yes, that is rather what I was getting at, I explained but moved none of the complainers. As much as sports championships or their lack mean anything, this year’s contest puts a great deal before us.
In my time, those teams that I selected as my own have across various sports carried home multiple championships — enough for any lifetime, easily. As a consequence of such incidental fortune I have taken on the rulers’ magnanimity, extending to all the wishes that they should experience the taste of the ultimate victory at least once. Let my team lose; let some different, some downtrodden or forgotten fans know the pleasure. I expect that such an attitude — or more to the point the expression thereof — to come across as irksome even unto the manner of effrontery. And I don’t care. I am the winner, after all.
Outside the blood-stained rivalries and unexplained thorns of hate, such an attitude, even in the absence of such a bounty as above described, is not uncommon (though far from universal). I suppose it is an expression of that masculine urge to see others bettered and happier than they were. For what else is one’s payment in this life but to witness the unqualified joy of the other? We labor that we may know that this world we shortly shall leave is a finer one than that upon which we recently entered.
Do you favor the Cubs? If they win, do they lose their identity? Do they become the Red Sox — just another supremely wealthy team for the many to despise? Is their losing not iconic, essential, even, to their being? Then again, it is a long time to go without winning. To close the cycle at 108 years, with a halo of dharmic mysticism, what would it mean? If the Cubs were to win, is it a sign that the end of the world as we knew it is come? Is it no more than great happiness for those that have suffered longest, albeit in chains of their own election? Do you favor the Indians? Poor, battered Cleveland. Their Indians have been thrice denied, the rooster never sounding yet. Their Browns were awful, were stolen, were returned and are awful. They have been lately rescued from the uttermost abyss by the Cavaliers, but cross-sport salvation only raises one so far. Do we regard the Indians for their mixed legacy, or for the pain of their followers?
In the shadow on the field lies the opposite we must acknowledge: Whosoever wins prolongs the other’s penance. Do you approach from the negative, then? Practically speaking, the Cubs have a wider window than the Indians, owing largely to considerations of revenue and payroll. Perhaps they can wait. Then again, the Indians past success is so much nearer at hand. Perhaps they can wait. Perhaps one can choose no side, watching for the enjoyment of baseball and of seeing someone celebrate, but it will always be there in your thoughts: Someone has to lose; someone has to suffer. Do or don’t, we are damned. Perhaps they will play forever.