The Chicago Cubs are in the World Series.
Do you know what the true power of a good story is? A compelling story, based on a world that may or may not be similar to ours, forces itself into our particular universe and becomes a part of it. Life imitates art, not the other way around. We understand the world through such stories. Even in a world defined by the data in every aspect of our lives, our interpretations of it are inherently story-like in nature with characters, plots and themes.
The story of the Chicago Cubs is as follows: They are the lovable losers. They lose — that’s what they do. They have not won a World Series since 1908, which sounds more impossible the more you think about it. It is almost certainly true that no one reading this article has lived to see this happen.
Yet, for Cubs fans, there exists another dimension to the Cub story. They do things the right way. They play more day games than other teams, which is the way that the game was “meant to be played.” They play in one of the oldest, most revered ballparks in the world and were the last team to hold out from adding a video scoreboard until 2015.
And now they are in the World Series, fighting for the next chapter of this legacy.
Of course, the problem with stories is that reality will always prove them insufficient. The Cubs are not some kind of ideal. In fact, they are a business that charges ruthlessly high prices for tickets and has an owner with questionable political donations. Wrigley Field is crumbling and filthy. The image of the Cubs as a group of scrappy, hardworking losers is a clever marketing strategy.
But also consider this: The story of the Cubs intersects ever so briefly with that of a certain child, growing up in the Chicago suburbs. Their story really does a number on the kid — he stays up nights watching games, and for a short time wears nothing but Cubs gear to school. His first email ID is cubsnut820.
The plot of his story will take him to a boarding school in northern Massachusetts, where he will encounter Massholes — a different breed of beast entirely. He will watch as, during his five years in Mass, the city of Boston go nuts as the Red Sox win World Series title. He writes his college essay about the Cubs. He keeps them in his heart during cold military winters, and slowly, in his mind, the story of the Cubs begins to morph into the story of America itself.
And if we are talking about stories, certainly we must discuss the great American story.
The American story, of course, is a much disputed one. This is increasingly true today, when people are more divided than ever, and are more aware of these divisions than ever before. The presidential race shows this very clearly. It’s been pretty disheartening to watch some of the debates. Many people, including myself, cannot help but question the idea of American exceptionalism. But the idea of an America that is open, free and willing to stand for certain ideals continues to shape the decisions of the country today.
America has always held diversity to be one of its main assets. That whole assumption is now under siege. Before he dropped out, Bernie Sanders used to say that the Middle East’s war with ISIS was a battle for the “soul of Islam.” I do not consider it an exaggeration to say that this election concerns America in a similarly fundamental manner. And I sincerely hope by the end of this war that there will remain a firm belief in the idea that America is great because it is good, and when it ceases to be good, it will cease to be anything at all.
By the time that this piece is published, the World Series will probably be over and the Cubs will either have broken the most famous curse in history or will head into spring with the perennial battle cry of “There’s always next year.”
Either way, I suspect that the events preceding it will not change the underlying story behind the things they stand for. I hope I will be able to say the same about the events of November 8.
JAMES LEE is a College junior from Seoul, South Korea studying English and Philosophy, Politics, and Economics. His email address is firstname.lastname@example.org. “The Conversation” usually appears every other Monday.