Never have I seen expressions of such unbridled joy by so many people at once, as when Chicago’s historic baseball team won the final game that sent it to the World Series on Saturday night.
In this city with sharp separations along economic and racial divides, a diverse crowd was jumping, singing and crying for joy – strangers embracing and high-fiving each other. Cars honking in celebration – happily stuck in traffic as pedestrians meandered between them.
A woman, who told me she moved to Chicago in 1984 and had ever since been waiting and hoping to see the Cubs in the World Series, began welling up with tears as she recounted her story. She said the Saturday night victory was a symbol – that a city she loves is more than the headlines of alarmingly-high rates of shootings and murders that have dominated discussion.
A man of Latino descent – who was born and raised in Chicago – said he had teared up, too. You can’t understand the emotions, he told me, unless you live here and have been through what Cubs fans have been through.
A 31-year-old man, while celebrating among a jubilant crowd in front of the storied Wrigley Field, was thinking of his grandfather. Still alive, he had been waiting decades for the Cubs to go to the World Series, and here they were tonight – the young man on the street, his grandfather celebrating vicariously through him.
Year after year, decade after decade, it has been a common bond between Chicagoans, between their present and their past: they have gone to games at Wrigley Field, many times for the old-time atmosphere of the stadium and the sense of community among those of various backgrounds and interests that Wrigleyville, the neighborhood around the stadium, afforded.
They went even though the Cubs often lost. The team’s successive owners made little effort to improve the team, locals will tell you, because they didn’t have to. The paying crowds showed up anyway.
Shared common experience is a rare thing in Chicago – a bond for a diversity of people that I dearly wish could expand its hold among a greater population. Saturday night, it was at its most brilliant and dazzling.
Imagine who we could be, what we could do, if it was always like that.
For so many people last night, the game was more than just a game. It was a sign, proof that hoping is not futile, that they can feel a connection to history and to each other.