The Cubs currently have a precarious hold on a playoff position, a position they haven’t been in since 2008. We won’t talk about what happened the last time they almost made the World Series. This is a conversation about hope — a dicey topic when it comes to sports.
I am a cynic, as some of you may have deduced from my earlier commentary on topical sports subjects. Such cynicism comes about when, for example, a team you root for because they’re from your home city, drafts someone promising and that player gets injured on his or her first play or goes to rehab or something *cough cough, Johnny Manziel*.
But what does that mean for sports fans in general? Are we too cynical to believe in sports anymore?
Unfortunately, the latest headlines seem to assert that we should definitely lose all faith in our sports heroes. Patrick Kane, the golden boy of Blackhawks hockey, is under investigation for sexual assault. Derrick Rose, the ever-injured hope of Bulls basketball, is currently being sued on rape allegations. According to major sports news outlets, other than blowouts and trades, horrible actions by treasured athletes who serve as role models are the only things to report. Even teams that are supposed to start as nothing but before they achieve all their hopes and dreams are a thing of the past. (If you’re confused about this, search “1980s United States national hockey team” and “2015 Cleveland Cavaliers” for a comparison.)
Let’s return to the 2015 Chicago Cubs to provide an example with which you can discuss the topic of sports cynicism versus hope.
The Cubs have not won a World Series in more than 100 years. This is a fact.
However, every time one talks to Cubs fans, they are excited and energized about their team and the future of the franchise. Of all the times I’ve interacted with Cubs fans, this is the only year their excitement is valid.
Being around this positive energy about the Cubs has brought to light an interesting conundrum, though. What about sports makes us so hopeful, and why do we feel hopeful when common sense would urge us to be cynical?
There is a slim statistical chance that the Cubs do better this postseason than in the past. Despite that fact, and looking at previous years’ doomed hope for postseason success, people still root for North Chicago’s favorite lost cause.
I hail from a town near Cleveland, where lost-cause sports teams are the population’s collective middle name.
Additionally, we go to Loyola University Chicago, where besides men’s volleyball, our sports haven’t been nationally relevant since 1985.
But as strange as this may sound, this isn’t a commentary about how sad Loyola sports can be. Instead, I’m saying Loyola is a benefactor of the danger of hope.
The danger of hope is a theory I’ve developed to explain why people will continue to closely follow, root for and defend teams that realistically have very little hope of succeeding. Cleveland knows this feeling, Cubs fans know this feeling, and Ramblers, who follow Loyola sports to some degree, know this feeling.
Remember when Sheryl Swoopes was named women’s head basketball coach but we still didn’t make the playoffs? Everyone was — and is — so hopeful about the team despite the fact its record was 6-25 last year.
Again, this sounds like I’m disparaging the Ramblers’ good name, but in actuality, I’m impressed. Loyola is on its way to Cleveland-ing and Cubs-ing Loyola’s student body, and there is no better way, besides having a successful team, to garner a fanbase than to garner hope.
Hope is danger, but hope can be the best thing in the world for a sports fan.
I hope the Cubs make the playoffs. I hope Loyola has a good sports year. This hope glues me to the stats boards and the game recaps. We love sports because they keep us guessing. Is this our year for other sports? Is it not? Do we have to wait?
If sports history has taught us anything, it’s that success can come with no warning, and it’s with that hope that we enter into a new year of college sports and (fingers crossed) a postseason with the Cubs. I hope the Ramblers find success, but either way, I will be watching and waiting.