Many of my baseball-loving friends have the blues. And they couldn’t be happier.
Some of that blue belongs to the colors of the Kansas City Royals, questing for their first title in 30 years and desperate to wrap up the unfinished business of last year’s almost-world championship. No question, these are Royals in search of a coronation.
The rest have a darker shade to their uniforms – appropriate, since these are the friends who know the blues indeed. These are the brethren of the Chicago Cubs, the legendary hard-luck team that has not even seen a World Series game in 70 years without buying a ticket. The team that has not won a championship in over a century. The team cursed by a goat, now praying to be freed by the prophecies of the Back to the Future movies.
I promise, I’m not kidding.
If both teams manage to make the Series at once, I think Facebook may just explode. After all, these are fans who have not just been loyal, they’ve done penance. The moment is at hand – Luke Skywalker in the Death Star trench, Frodo Baggins at the edge of Mount Doom, Rocky Balboa ready to get the tar beaten out of him.
Er, never mind that last one. But it does make a compelling story.
And that’s a primal power indeed.
Stories surround us and penetrate us, binding the galaxy together – no, wait, that’s the Force. But it’s a small difference. This is a big world we live in, too large for us to take it all in at once. By shaping a story, we make it something we can hold and understand, something that makes sense.
It’s why sports can have such a draw. This is a story in its basic form, redrawn every day on the playing field: good guys and bad guys, victory and defeat, beer and hot dogs.
It sits at the heart of our politics. In a democracy, candidates compete to tell us the most convincing story, with themselves as the hero who can ensure success or avert disaster. Sometimes those stories are true. And sometimes … well, you know how to finish that tale.
It’s why good journalism can be some of the best writing around. Every person on this earth has at least one story worth telling; a skilled reporter can let you into that story as though it were your own and reveal the wonder that lies beneath the most everyday persona and event. Whether it’s a mighty flood or an airplane-throwing contest – and I’ve written about both – anything can be compelling if you find the heart beneath. (I’ve always said that the heart of every one of my columns is the question “Why do I care?”)
Granted, like any power, it can be misused. Often – maybe too often – we impose the story we want to see on the world around us, regardless of the facts. Researchers have recently suggested that our brains aren’t wired to seek the truth, but to cling to the items that support what we want to believe. Call it Simon’s Law: “Still a man hears what he wants to hear, and disregards the rest.”
But stories make us human. They fuel our curiosity and build a community. And if a story survives long enough, it can bind us across the centuries, tying us to anyone who ever invoked our version of “Once Upon A Time.”
Yes, even Cubs fans.
So if sports make you crazy, take heart. You’ve got a tale or two of your own that means just as much. From the outside, it may seem just as odd as celebrating men who swing lumber and fling horsehide. Let someone in. Share it. Revel in it.
How to do it? That’s another story.
And one that no one can tell as well as you.