Back in 2008, Barack Obama made a comment comparing the longshot odds of an African-American winning a presidential election to the odds of the Boston Red Sox winning the World Series.1 Famously, the Red Sox had won in 2007 for the first time since… well, OK, since 2004. But before that they hadn’t won since 1918.
Obama took some (admittedly light-hearted) jabs for rooting for the Red Sox, and since he is currently rooting for the Cubs he’s getting some of the same criticism this year. Having lived in a number of places in the country myself, I can relate to having mixed sports loyalties, or at least multiple sports sympathies. I grew up in Red Sox territory and will always have some loyalty there. My mother’s side of the family comes from Chicago and I have a number of other connections to the Windy City (including having lived there during my first year of college.) I never figured out that my mother’s side of the family having come from the South Side that I was supposed to have White Sox in my DNA, so I ended up with a lot of love for the Cubs. Living for close to half my life in San Francisco (including being there for Loma Prieta, the day that baseball saved hundreds of lives) left an indelible Giants brand, but the abovementioned sympathies remain. If the Giants aren’t in the series, I don’t think that it’s hypocritical or fair-weather fandom to root for the Cubs, or for Obama, a Hahvahd man, to have rooted for the Red Sox.
In any case, my recollection is that Obama himself drew the parallel, creating a narrative that life imitates baseball which dovetailed nicely with his 2008 «Hope» campaign.
Now it’s 2016, and as I write the seventh game of the World Series has just begun. I don’t know the outcome, but the narrative here fits with the best that sports ought to be: the Cleveland Indians haven’t won the World Series since 1948, and the Chicago Cubs haven’t won since 1908. No matter how this turns out, the results will be historic.
The Cubs have come back from a 3 – 1 deficit after game four to force a seventh game. That in itself is a unusual comeback — a rare one if they go on to win.2
The parallels to this election cycle are spooky. Okay, it’s all symbolic, but if Obama can draw those 2007 World Series and 2008 presidential election parallels3 then I can put on my foil hat and compare the narratives.
Clinton is from Chicago. Yes, that’s where she’s actually from despite the other places she’s also from. She is the first woman nominee from a top-two party in US history, and in good shape to be the first woman President of these United States.
Her opponent, Donald Trump, is arguably the most openly misogynist4 candidate ever to clinch the nomination of a major party in the United States since the Nineteenth Amendment guaranteed women the right to vote. He is also a «longshot» candidate, not having held previous office and having run a campaign about which «unconventional» would be an understatement.
Note as well that the Republican Convention at which Trump was nominated to be the GOP candidate was held in Cleveland.
Shall I also point out that the Cleveland team is the one bearing a name based on a complete lack of cultural or geographic knowledge? Never mind the team which has an offensive caricature for a logo.
This election cycle has had so many last-minute twists and turns — I’ve lost count of the the number of «October surprises» and expect there are a couple of November surprises still in store — that it’s fair to compare it to a World Series which has gone to Game Seven. (Do I even need to point out that the election is for the office commonly referred to as «leader of the free world»?)
So who is going to win? I’m bad at predicting, but I’ll keep doing it anyway. My prediction — and my fear — is that the World Series will predict the outcome of the election, that if the Cubs win Clinton will as well and that if Cleveland wins Trump will be the next President.
Why fear? Because there is enough irresponsible rhetoric from the Trump camp about rigged elections. A conspiracy theory suggesting that both the United States elections and Major League Baseball (or is that Big League Baseball?) could be rigged just heaps more momentum on the campaign of FUD (Fear, Uncertainty, and Doubt) which seeks to unweave the fabric of our nation.
So perhaps I’ll suggest only that the World Series is being played out in an atavistic manner which will presage the Presidential election. That a win for the Cubs will embolden the Chicago faction, and that a win for the Indians will embolden Cleveland.
Or hey, all I’ve been doing is promoting a nutball theory based on vague and tenuous coincidences and supported by nothing scientific, empirical, or even logical. So maybe Trump has already won.5
- I haven’t found the citation for this. It’s my own recollection. Take with appropriate chunks of rock salt. ↩
- It’s happened, but not often. Ten times total. It’s even happened to the Indians before: http://m.mlb.com/news/article/3620268// ↩
- Yes, those ones I haven’t cited. ↩
- See comments about the word «misogynist». ↩
- Or maybe I’m just angry because Donald Trump has taken all the fun out of conspiracy theories. ↩