Election lessons learned from baseball’s ultimate confrontation


As a news junkie, I’ve been watching a lot of coverage about this year’s elections, particularly the presidential race. I read and watch news from a variety of sources in an effort to understand both sides. The race has been intense, nasty and frustrating.

But this is not a column about the election or who has won. By the time you read this, the election will be over. I’m writing it before we know the results.

Fortunately, we have had the distraction of an exciting baseball playoff season. I am married to a lifelong Cubs fan so this year’s playoffs have been a big deal at our house.

The World Series has been a perfect diversion from the divisive, mudslinging, I’ve-really-had-enough presidential campaign. The Chicago Cubs and the Cleveland Indians – two teams that (before Game 7 ended) had a combined 176 years without bringing the championship home to their respective cities – gave us a whirlwind seven games, ending in extra innings with a rain delay to boot. There were plot shifts, surprise moves, setbacks and crazy endings.

Who can’t help but smile at the Chicago Cubs? The Cubs were a feel-good, underdog, come-from-behind story. Each World Series game was incredible no matter who won. In two cities, each with their own sets of problems and fans who were desperate for a win, everybody united behind a common goal: rooting on a home team that hadn’t seen a championship in so many years.

There wasn’t much trash talk or hostility. There was a whole lot of singing, dancing, cheering and chanting. It happened in both cities. Despite controversial calls by the umpires in just about every game, no one lashed out.

People celebrated and suffered in the streets in both cities. They watched the game on big screens, listened at bars, stood for hours, sometimes in some pretty rainy weather. The stands and streets were packed with people wearing their loyalty on their sleeves – a sea of blue and red that cheered and pushed for their teams side-by-side. Cubs fans in Cleveland cheered as the their team pulled ahead in Game 7 even while surrounded by Cleveland fans who wanted their team to win just as badly.

Yet we heard very few reports of violence or confrontations connected with any of these games. Sure, there were some arrests. In a Cleveland Plain Dealer article after Game 7, 14 were reported arrested, some for drunkenness, some on charges completely unrelated to the game. One fan punched another fan. No charges were filed.

In today’s world of constant bad news and conflict, isn’t this a little surprising? These were massive gatherings between two passionate camps that stayed peaceful and celebratory.

Unlike some championships that have led to riots, fires, overturned cars and lots of arrests, the celebrations after the Game 7 extra-innings win by Chicago stayed positive and the fans in Cleveland accepted defeat. Players on both side acknowledged the talent and efforts of the opposition.

Then, an estimated 5 million people came out to cheer on the Cubs when they paraded through the city on Nov. 4. According to some reports, that makes it the seventh-largest gathering in human history, behind such events as the Kumbh Mela pilgrimage in 2013 in India (30 million) and the papal gathering in 2015 in the Philippines (6 million).

The parade started at Wrigley Field at 10 a.m. and ended with a noon rally in Grant Park. In between, the convoy rolled down Michigan Avenue and streets crowded with fans. You could see people packed together, all cheering and shouting and having a good time. Despite what could have been a lot of fighting over the best position to get a good view, people were enthusiastic, but well-mannered, having fun.

It was great to see that a major city, home to millions of Americans, could host massive celebrations that stayed positive and civilized. And that the losing team, with just as much passion and devotion to their cause, could handle defeat with acceptance, grace and class.

Now that this election is over, let’s hope our post-election fallout manages to avoid the conflict and hostility of the races themselves. Wouldn’t it be wonderful if this election teaches us we have to come together as a nation and learn to work together again? Imagine all parties recommitting to solving problems together for the good of the country with compromise, patriotism and courage leading to smarter, more effective and more rational governing.

This year, we could learn a lot from baseball about how to win and lose with grace and positivity.