When we root for the Cubs and Sox, we’re not rooting for the players

As I write this, both the Chicago Cubs and Boston Red Sox are one or two wins away from being in this year’s World Series. This is significant because the Cubs have not won the Series since 1908, and the Red Sox since 1918. Most people I’ve talked to, with even a passing interest in baseball, share my preferences: they want to see these teams in the series because it has “been so long for both of them.” After all, if they are both in the World Series, one of them teams *has* to win.

Yet, is this a rational reason to root for the Cubs and Sox? Each team has consisted of the predominately the same players for at most ten years, so why all the fuss? Perhaps there’s a team culture that can be traced back to the last championship team, as surely there are a finite N degrees of separation between the newest member of the current Cubs or Red Sox and the oldest member of their respective World Series winning teams of many years ago. With this connection, teams to some extent inherit attitudes and ways of doing things.

Clearly we are not rooting for individual players. Most of those I’ve talked to who are rooting for the Cubs or Red Sox are, like me, not familiar with the players. For all we know, they Cubs and Red Sox could consist of predominately unsavory people, while their opponents, the Marlins and Yankees players, may be quite admirable.

So what are we rooting for? The idea perhaps, that if we keep on trying, we’ll eventually succeed? We see the Cubs and Sox as symbols of this hope. It’s not a huge leap to conclude (and surely I’m not the first) that we identify with the Cubs and the Red Sox: that we see ourselves in them, and perhaps if they win, each of us can accomplish the personal goals we’ve struggled to accomplish for so long. With that said, go Cubs and Sox!!

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