In wining a game that started November 2, 2016, the Chicago Cubs secured their first World Series in over 100 years. Two days later – five years and one day ago – the city of Chicago hosted a parade and rally for the winners. According to estimates, millions turned out. Between the end of Game 7 and the Chicago celebration that Friday, Cubs fans felt relief, sadness, and joy.
Where did all that collective joy and energy go? I recently noted a few things that have happened since that victory and celebration that make it seem like a lifetime ago:
-Just a few days later, the 2016 elections occurred with a result that surprised many. This was part of a particularly contentious period in American politics. What are athletic victories and losses in such an environment?
-COVID-19 came several years later. While this had an effect on sports, it predominated life for an extended period. Looking back through the COVID era can obscure even relatively recent events.
-The Cubs themselves became more like all other teams. After winning, fans and observers had high expectations for more victories. While they did make the playoffs in subsequent years, they did not win an additional World Series and the team traded the remaining core of the team away in the summer of 2021.
Are championships won by local sports teams transformative for communities? I continue to argue no. Those millions who marched and the many others who enjoyed the victory had a good time. It remains a good memory. It can counter long-held sports anguish. But, it does not necessarily translate into changed communities. Did the Cubs win and then fortunes of neighborhoods and organizations improved (beyond the Cubs)? Did people and communities have more courage and trust to tackle issues of common interest? Did the Cubs become a symbol of what can be accomplished with principles or patterns that could be applied elsewhere? Or, did they have a good season, reverse a long-held curse, and life went on?