I was at my girlfriends’ last night when her friend JuliAna stopped by. JuliAnna and I began chatting about the Cubs and how even though none of us are baseball fans, we were caught up in the drama of the quest to return as Champions. The saga which came to momentous climax when they won the day before. In fact, I was practicing for my GRE test as game seven was concluding and I would check the score at every break and could hear the bar next door erupt every time they scored and loose all control when they won.
So it was me who said that it is a testament to the hope, even after 108 years and that it eventually does come true. At this point JuliAnna (not Jewish, although she has a Jewish aunt) joked on how similar that is to the Jewish experience. That comparison struck me as so on point and I thought about for an entire day until I realized that Jews are the ultimate Cubs fans. Not only is it in our lore to return to the place of glory, but it has been in our minds for thousands of years. Jews travelled for forty years from Egypt, not loosing hope for forty years! Then in exile in Babylon they did not loose hope. And as final exile that ended less than a hundred years ago, an exile that spanned 2000 years! Every day religious Jews prayed for return of Israel. Every year at Passover Jews around the world say: “Next year in Jerusalem” just as Cubs fans for 108 years would say with optimistic hope “There’s always next year.”
The thing that separates Cubs fans from others is that while many teams have not been to World Series for a long time, it is only the Cubs fans who had their eye on it as part of their story every single year. Most teams hope, but they begin hope only at play offs, when there is a reason to hope: when they have a good team or a good year. Cubs fans, like the Jews, would have the hope as part of their identity. Regardless if it was a good year or a bad year the curse was to blame, good team or bad team the idea that they would and should be at the World Series was there. It wasn’t even about winning, although winning was sweet, because it was about being there, at the World Series where they felt that they belonged. And it was thus for Jews and why Jews wept at Israel’s founding and why Jews weep upon return to Israel just as Cubs fans did when they finally won.
For me, there is no sadder time than when I must go to the Ben Gurion airport and leave the place where I feel at home for a place that I call home. I expect that it is not so different for Cubs fans now that they won. Even though they won, I suspect that this part of their identity will not go away and that they will continue to think about a return to World Series until the next one, be it in ten, 100 or a 1000 years. So just like they will say day after the last game: “There’s always next year,” we, the Jews, the only people to truly understand a Cubs fan, will say “Next Year In Jerusalem.”