“The Cubs Win The Pennant”.
Granted, Chicago had the best record in their league during the course of this season, but let’s be honest; nobody really thought we would hear and see those words until the 6-4-3 that ended it on that late October Saturday night.
What occurred on October 22, 2016 was something that truly goes beyond sports. When you’ve got “news” folks talking about a story like the Cubbies clinching the National League title, you know it’s a really big deal.
This particular timestamp in baseball lore got me thinking about how significant sporting events really can, and often do, mean more than just a box score to so many.
Let’s use the Cubs as a prime example. A team that hadn’t made it to the Fall Classic since 1945. That’s a lot of folks who sadly never were able to see what we witnessed on the North Side. They were parents, grandparents, aunts and uncles, who passed down their admiration for a baseball club to their kids, grandkids, nieces and nephews. For some, it might just be one of the strongest links between them.
I’m a Texas Rangers fan first and foremost, but the Cubs are a very close second because of my mother’s father. He grew up around Chicago, and his father was a White Sox fan; so naturally, he followed the other town’s club. The final Cubs game he saw was Game 7 of the NLCS in 2003.
After that series ended, I called him and we talked about how the series played out. To my great surprise, he was very nonchalant about the whole ordeal. “Well, it just wasn’t meant to be” he told me.
When he passed away later that year from cancer, he left me two items: a watch and the ‘03 Central Divisional Championship T-shirt I bought for him after the Cubs won the division earlier that year.
Last Saturday night, I had that shirt laid out on my living room chair, held onto that shirt in the top of the ninth inning, shed a tear or two on that shirt after the final out, and then went to sleep holding that shirt in my arms. For me, that shirt represents so much more than just an article of clothing; it’s the main bond I have to my grandfather. I suppose my Saturday night was not unique among many Cubs supporters.
I bring this topic of connection up because I’ve heard it said from time to time that sports is simply “entertainment” or “just a game”. In fact, a college professor who ran our radio station once openly asked us “Why do we even have sports?”
Yes, sports is a form of entertainment, and it’s not the end-all-be-all of human existence. But to dismiss it as simply nothing more than entertainment, in my opinion, is a tremendous disservice. It involves real people, which often features real stories that are relatable to people who aren’t even fans. And when something like Saturday night does come to fruition, it brings a confluence of generations and memories together.
As sportscasters, we are in the very unique and fortunate position to be witness to extraordinary events; whether its a high school team earning a championship, a college or minor league club defying the odds, or a professional baseball team doing something millions never got to see in their lifetime. We are the ones incredibly fortunate to tell the tales that will last for ages.
And, if we are honest with ourselves, we sometimes take this privilege for granted. I’m just as guilty of occasionally seeing what I do as “another job”. I would strongly encourage of all us, whatever level we might be at in this profession, and whatever event we may be assigned to cover, to enjoy the experience and the opportunity to be storytellers. After all, we are getting into these competitions for free, right? Might as well enjoy the perks.
Is every match going to be thrilling, exciting and full of drama? Certainly not. Are there going to be lean years where you wonder if anyone is listening or reading your material? Absolutely.
Just remember, on those occasions that you think your efforts go unnoticed from listeners, readers or even your employer, more than likely, that is far from reality.
In fact, chances are what you do is bringing joy to hundreds, perhaps thousands; from those who support their kid’s athletic endeavors, to the plethora of fans of the team or club you’re following, to others who simply need a distraction from the tough news of the day and/or the troubles of life.
With your spoken and written words, you have the unique ability to contribute to lasting memories that can span generations, and in the opinion of this sportscaster, that’s far more important than any award, raise or pat on the back.
For the record, I’ve got the Cubs in 6. Sorry Cleveland, but LeBron got your city a title this year.