The week baseball showed us our politics -- and our power
Posted October 31, 2019 4:26 p.m. EDT
CNN — This week, baseball became a blueprint, pointing out what America can be.
On Sunday night, during Game 5 of the World Series between the juggernaut Houston Astros and the underdog Washington Nationals in the District, President Donald Trump received what for him has been the rarest of things: public comeuppance. When the Nationals Park videoboard showed him in his box, the crowd came together to boo him. In an ironic twist, some began chanting: "Lock him up!" Others unfurled a banner that read: "Impeach Trump."
Fast-forward to Wednesday night for an entirely different vibe. Playing at Houston's Minute Maid Park, the Nationals defeated the Astros to win Game 7 of the World Series. But it wasn't only their didn't-see-it-coming victory -- which, crucially, was also their first title in franchise history -- that was remarkable. The post-game images, too, were astonishing, capturing a moment of rapturous unity at a time that so often feels defined by the exact opposite.
Taken together, these two episodes offer a reminder of what America is capable of.
In a sense, the former was an instance of the governed refusing to bow to the government. For all the largely conservative bleating over safe spaces in recent years, Trump, since assuming office in 2017, has perhaps been the biggest exponent of them. By routinely exposing himself mostly to handpicked members of his base, the President has often spared himself the kind of rebuke that would make clear that he's hardly as admired and adored as he believes.
Game 5, then, was a corrective. It became, for those few seconds of booing, its own sort of democratic reckoning -- a jumbotron-sized nod to the fact that, despite so much evidence to the contrary, it's still possible to have a voice of opposition -- literally -- heard.
The Nationals' triumph on Wednesday night was also a bracing show of American kinship. In particular, the images of the team's diverse members in the immediate aftermath of securing the championship -- ecstatic, unbridled -- felt radical. In the midst of a political season rife with division, these snapshots were a breath of fresh air. They showed that, even as Americans continue to fight for their country's future, there's enough room in the narrative for joy.
Even Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell agreed that the Nationals' World Series win created a "small miracle" because "they gave us something Washington, DC, could unite around," which is "something we could use around here these days."
It's not surprising, though, that the Nationals would be the ones to evoke these emotions. After all, this is a team that seems fully aware of its own powers, that has, fascinatingly, embraced the beloved children's song "Baby Shark" as an anthem.
"It's amazing, the energy the fans bring to me and to my teammates," the Nationals' Gerardo Parra told The Washington Post. "But I think the more important (thing) is all the kids jumping, clapping, enjoy that. It's great when I see other guys do that." (In addition, the Nationals have unusually great chemistry with one another.)
Notably, these baseball highlights added soft lighting to American sports more broadly.
Earlier this month, after the National Basketball Association -- including the Los Angeles Lakers star LeBron James -- seemed to buckle to China's backlash over a Twitter message in support of pro-democracy protests in Hong Kong, fans and pundits criticized the historically progressive league for its apparent lack of moral resolve.
This week's baseball events, in their own way, came as a rejoinder, illustrating the urgency of speaking up and remaining faithful to one's convictions.
Of course, this all leads to a cliffhanger: Will Trump invite the Nationals, whom he's already congratulated on Twitter, to the White House -- and, more to the point, will the team show up? If the past few days are any indication, we already know the answer.