Cubs championship ignites baseball’s beautiful future

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Brian Bauer

Cub fans celebrate the team’s World Series championship at Joe’s Brewery on Wednesday night.

By Matt Silich, Opinions Editor

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Going even one day without hearing a baseball term used in conversation is nearly impossible.

Maybe your friend struck out at the bar or your parents told you to “keep your eye on the ball” when you were having trouble focusing on school. Whatever your favorite phrase, the ubiquitous understanding of the sport makes it easy for fans and haters alike to speak the same language.

And when the Chicago Cubs won the team’s first World Series championship in more than a century Wednesday night, the uniting power of America’s favorite pastime was on full display in Champaign and across the world.

Pundits have been lamenting the slow demise of baseball for years. With other leagues such as the NBA and NFL securing massive new television deals in recent years, many perceive baseball as a sport falling by the wayside.

But this fall classic threw the “baseball is dying” narrative — forgive the pun — a nasty curveball.

Average ratings for this year’s World Series between the Cubs and Cleveland Indians have been the highest since 2004, when the Boston Red Sox famously ended their own championship drought.

Of course, there are reasons for the ratings boom other than a sudden resurgence of interest in the sport — two long-tortured teams fighting for a championship will do that — but the cultural impact of baseball is still hard to deny.

Meanwhile, the bland NFL is experiencing its first ratings drop in years. Perhaps it’s a reaction to the proliferation of RedZone-like content that aggregates only the best plays of the day. When you can watch an entire game in two minutes, there’s little reason to spend three hours on it, including the depressing touchdown-commercial-kickoff-commercial sequences.

Regardless of the reason, the World Series has shone on the national stage this fall. Likely National League MVP and Cubs third baseman Kris Bryant emerged as a hero for the lovable former losers.

Jessica Jutzi
Jessica Jutzi

The sport could certainly use more national faces like Bryant to promote its brand; Los Angeles Angels center fielder Mike Trout has an early argument to become the best baseball player in the history of the sport, yet his national presence is seemingly nonexistent.

Luckily for Major League Baseball, this Cubs team is loaded with stars. Defensive studs like Addison Russell and Javier Baez mix with offensive titans like Kyle Schwarber and Anthony Rizzo — and they’re nearly all young. Chicago alone houses enough superstars to populate half the league’s teams, and the team’s core is locked up through the next several seasons.

After years of statistical decline for hitters following the end of baseball’s steroid era, offense has perked up a bit league-wide over the past season or two. That, combined with MLB’s resurging starpower, provided a clear path back into the hearts of sports fans everywhere.

The scenes in Champaign bars during Cubs playoff games have been heartwarming for the die hard baseball fans who stayed invested even through meager years.

And with the storybook 2016 Cubs season providing the perfect opportunity for local fans to come back to the sport, many students are finding out that baseball never really left them.

The NFL, essentially the extremely commoditized saltine cracker of sports, spends all its time shoving professionalism down your throat. Baseball never fails to just make you feel like a little kid again.

So in the idioms we subconsciously repeat every day, we sustain a sport that has touched so many of our lives in one way or another, until it comes back to us when we want it most.

And now that the Cubs are world champions for the first time since, well, five of our lifetimes ago, it’s clear that baseball’s death has been greatly exaggerated.

Matt is a senior in Media.

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