Wrigley field during the World Series.
(photo credit: SUSIE WEISS)
Try as I might, I can’t stop singing that iconic Cubs theme song, written by the late, great Chicago folksinger Steve Goodman.
A long-suffering Cubs fan – and Grammy Award winner for his song “City of New Orleans,” made famous by Arlo Guthrie – Goodman wrote the tune in 1984, even as he battled leukemia.
Earlier, he had penned a much more downbeat, even somber “A Dying Cubs Fan’s Last Request,” in which he bemoaned his team’s perennial failings and asked that when he died, his ashes be scattered over Wrigley Field, the Cubs’ beautiful stadium.
Goodman died at the young age of 36, just six months after writing “Go Cubs Go.” Little did he know that his song would be proclaimed, over and over again, by more than five million delirious Cubs fans who gathered at their gigantic victory parade – said to be the seventh-largest assembly in human history – following last week’s dramatic World Series victory over the Cleveland Indians. After having gone 108 years without winning baseball’s supreme trophy – the longest drought in the world of sports – the Cubs thrilled America and fans across the planet, by finally capturing the elusive prize.
I was privileged to be at the fifth game of that Series, and rarely have I ever felt the energy and enthusiasm that I encountered there. It was – and I say this as a practicing rabbi – a truly inspirational, spiritual experience. People in the crowd sang together, danced together and hugged one another in a rapturous joy that dissolved all the differences between us. Young and old, black and white, Jew and gentile – we were somehow brought together in a rush of relief, fulfillment and sheer, unadulterated joy. This was more than a game; it was a vivid guarantee that when the mood and the moment is right, people of the most diverse backgrounds can find common ground and get along.
Which brings us, alas, to politics and the American elections. Because I write this before the final results are in – such is the life of a columnist and his paper’s deadlines – I cannot comment on Tuesday’s outcome. But I can say with some certainty that when the shouting is finally done – despite the foreboding of some and despite the unprecedented divisiveness of this campaign – the American people will come together and support the victor. The president will speak before a joint session of Congress, and all of the assembled, Democrats and Republicans alike, will stand in respect for the office and politely applaud the duly elected servant of the people.
That hallowed blending of diversity and unity – E pluribus unum – has always been the strength and success of the democratic process: A time to argue and a time to make amends; a time to malign, or even mock, the other candidate, and a time to make peace. Though this campaign has torn America apart, tarnishing its image the world over, the US always seems to eventually find its way back to normalcy and world leadership.
It picks itself up, regains its balance and moves on.
Would that we in Israel could learn that vital lesson, that we could find a way – not only in times of war or national crisis – to treat with respect and honor those with whom we differ, those whom the people have legitimately chosen. All too often, we turn the Knesset into a zoo, or a circus, where each side screams at the other, instead of intelligently debating the issues in a dignified manner befitting their stature as leaders.
The recent rally on the anniversary of Yitzhak Rabin’s murder – at which speaker after speaker used his or her time to viciously malign the current government, rather than praise the many admirable qualities of Rabin – illustrates how much we have to mature in our own governmental structure.
When the ruling coalition and the opposition view each other more as the enemy than as a rightful branch of the same national tree, we ensure that the future will be filled only with more rancor and recrimination, the operative motto being “I want mine!” Sports, like religion or politics, has the potential not only to divide people into separate streams and teams but also to ultimately bring us together under one banner. Today’s victor may be tomorrow’s also-ran, but if we can bring ourselves to see the bigger picture, if we can step back and take pride in another’s success, then we all will be winners. The writer is director of the Jewish Outreach Center of Ra’anana and a member of the Ra’anana City Council; email@example.com