Come Together

The Beatles released this song in 1969.  Some say John Lennon penned the song for Timothy Leary’s quest to become governor of California, while others insist he’s talking about all four of the Beatles.  Whomever he was talking about the message is clear.  Everyone has bad habits, quirks etc. but it’s time to get a grip and come together.

I thought about this as we prepare for Thanksgiving.  The first big Holiday of the year and the first time many families and friends will be getting together since summer.  It’s also the first time everyone will be around the table after this election cycle.  Holidays bring out the best and worst in us and the larger the family, the more assorted the characters.  This year could be a doozy.  With many Americans divided on several fronts you can guarantee more fireworks than Independence Day—and that’s just for Chicago White Sox and Cub fans!

I’ve been hearing from friends and acquaintances that some of their family members will not be attending Thanksgiving dinner under any circumstances because certain members of the family who will be present supported one presidential candidate and they cannot accept that.  Cannot accept is actually being kind.  The words and adjectives being used are repulsive.  If I can live through a Chicago Cubs World Series you can sit down and break bread with your family.

Here’s a newsflash.  We’ve been deciding the fate of our leader via elections in this country for over 200 years, and in each there was one winner and yes one loser.  In politics everyone doesn’t get a trophy.  If the President is doing a lousy job there are checks and balances in place to keep him or her on the straight and narrow.  For those who are educationally challenged in US government—elections happen every 4 years.  The greatest protest of all is silent and done in the privacy of the voting booth.  Well that’s true unless you live in Chicago and then all bets are off.

I brought up baseball and the World Series for a reason.  Baseball and voting in an election are not the same, although each year it seems like it is.  The fact is voting in an election is not like cheering for your favorite sports team.  In sports the winners get a trophy and lots of money.  Fans get boasting rights and in the case of the World Series, spend a fortune on team paraphernalia.  The country is at the heart of presidential elections.  It’s not my team is better than yours because whether your blue, red, green or in-between we’re all technically on the same team.  Team USA.  Or so I thought.  If Mary Matalin, a prominent Republic consultant, and James Carville, a prominent Democrat consultant, can be married for 23 years1 anyone can get along.

Whether you are a Cub fan or White Sox fan, a Democrat or Republican, this is the time to come together.  Some people will not be able to be home with their families and others are completely alone or hospitalized.  Others have lost a family member and don’t know how to “celebrate”.  I’m sure all these Americans would give anything to celebrate Thanksgiving with their missing or lost loved one.

If you are lucky enough to live in this country you have much to be thankful for.  So please leave your politics at home.  Celebrate that you can spend another Thanksgiving with your family and friends.  Thank God that you live in a country where you can change your leader every 4 years, speak freely for or against it, and it doesn’t lead to bloody revolutions as it does in other countries.

And to my friends who are White Sox fans—sit next to your relative or relatives who happen to be Cub fans and let them gloat.  We did it in 2005.  Give thanks to God for all you’ve received this year.  Everything is better with turkey, sweet potatoes, and pumpkin pie—even a Cubs World Series.  And remember, baseball season starts in just 4 short months!

1 Matalin and Carville were actually married on Thanksgiving Day, 1993



Take Me Out To The Ball Game

I’m not ashamed to say I love baseball. It’s my favorite sport. Turn on any game and I’ll watch it. I’ve been a Chicago White Sox fan since I was old enough to throw a ball. For that I thank my late grandmother. Things I remember most about my grandmother are the delicious aromas that engulfed her kitchen, the radio on in the mornings turned to a station that played “old” music, the amounts of mouth-watering Italian food she cooked, and the kitchen television turned on to Channel 9 during baseball season. It didn’t matter if the White Sox or the Cubs were playing. At that time WGN broadcast both teams. I can still remember Jack Brickhouse yelling “Hey! Hey!”

If you’ve ever lived in Chicago, you know about the White Sox/Cubs rivalry. It can get heated at times and my grandmother was no exception. So why did she watch them? Well, it was baseball. And she loved cheering on the team who played against them. To give you an idea how far she took the rivalry, when the Cubs were in the pursuit of the National League pennant in 1969 my grandmother hung an effigy of Leo Durocher, the Cubs manager, out the front window of her second floor apartment.

The rivalry between Cubs/Sox fans is still alive and kicking. However, as much as we tease each other we still have God, the Bears, Blackhawks, Garrett’s popcorn, deep dish pizza, and genuine interest and care for each other. We have common ground.

One of the best days of my life was when the Chicago White Sox won the World Series in 2005. First, I cheered like mad, and then cried my eyes out just like every other White Sox fan. We cried remembering all our friends and family who didn’t live to see this great day. The first person I thought of was my grandmother.

It’s nine years later and the White Sox are about as far away from the World Series as it gets. Chicago has changed—the whole world has changed since 2005. We now are witness to true hatred. We see it playing out in the Middle East and it’s not a friendly rivalry between baseball fans. It’s deadly and it’s growing and if it’s not taken out it will be right here in the US. Unfortunately we are also seeing hatred here at home. We are allowing ourselves to be labeled and in a bad way. You are different than me in some way or have different ideas then me so I hate you.

Abraham Lincoln said the United States would never be defeated by an outside force. It would be defeated from within. And he was right. Remember September 11th? I remember watching survivors fleeing from the World Trade Towers covered in soot and ash and thinking to myself, I can’t tell if they’re black or white. Remember who we were on September 12th? I remember everyone holding on to each other and nobody cared what political party you liked, how much money you made or what color you were. Churches were full and people turned back to God. We all found common ground and we loved each other. What happened?

Chicago, once noted for its architecture, culture, great restaurants, and sports is now known for being the murder capital of the US. Years ago when I traveled, people would ask me how I could live in Chicago with Al Capone and gangsters running around. I used to laugh. They obviously didn’t know Capone had been dead for years. Now when I travel people ask how I could live in Chicago with all the crime. I tell them the murders and shootings do not represent all of Chicago. But they don’t believe me. There are actually people just a few miles away (I won’t name names) that keep a wide berth from Chicagoans.

But this week I have great hope that Chicago’s image can change and it has everything to do with baseball. Last week Chicago’s own Jackie Robinson West Little League baseball team won the US Championship. This team of 13 boys accomplished what no politician, activist, or community organizer could do. They united this City—Cub fan, White Sox fan, African-American, Hispanic, Asian, Caucasian, Democrat or Republican. Everyone was glued to the television to watch them play. And play they did. They never gave up. And they won with integrity and character. This was not only a win for these boys and their coaches; it was a win for their parents. They raised these boys to love God, be humble, to work hard, to trust in their teammates and coaches, and treat those around them like they would like to be treated.

Last week the City threw them the same victory party as they threw for the 2005 White Sox. I was there. So were all my co-workers and thousands, perhaps millions of Chicagoans. When those trolleys and buses drove by we saw excited young boys who had fulfilled their dream. That’s it. We didn’t see color, we saw champions. At the rally we heard from several pastors who spoke about these boys and credited their parents for raising them right. There were also speeches by countless politicians who did absolutely nothing, except try to capitalize off the boys’ win, and I was thrilled when the crowd started jeering them and yelling “we want the kids!”

This is who Chicago is. The City of Big Shoulders. The City That Works. The largest small town in the Midwest. We are a group of ethnically diverse neighborhoods that make up one metropolis. Together we have accomplished much. We arose from the ashes of the Great Fire and built this architectural gem we call home. We all look forward to the 90 days of summer and have all survived the blizzards from countless winters. We all celebrate Christmas, Cinco de Mayo, Taste of Polonia, Jazz and Gospel Fest, Greek Independence Day, Gay Pride Parade and St. Patrick’s Day to name a few. And we all celebrate the 4th of July – US Independence Day. We work together, play together and genuinely care about each other. We have common ground. We are Chicagoans and we can’t allow politicians, activists, outsiders and “well-meaning” insiders to tell us differently.

It’s one week after the win and there have already been 31 shootings in Chicago. The ball is in our court, Chicago. Do we remember who we were on 9/12? Do we remember who we were just last Tuesday when we cheered for a group of young boys, Jackie Robinson West Little League? I pray we remember when nothing divided us and baseball brought us together as one.