By Ben Ramirez
2016 has been a year filled with underdogs coming out victorious. President-elect Donald Trump defied the odds set forth by a vast majority of election polls across the country to edge out former Secretary of State, Hillary Clinton. The vote for Great Britain to leave the European Union miraculously passed, shocking the world and sending international markets into disarray.
The world of sports was no less shocking this year, Lebron James delivered on his promise to winning a National Basketball Association (NBA) Championship after returning to the Cleveland Cavaliers prior to the 2014-2015 season. The Cavs came back from a 3-1 series deficit against the seemingly unbeatable Golden State Warriors, bringing home the first championship the city of Cleveland has seen since 1964.
Much like the Cavs, the Chicago Cubs, despite being arguably the best team in Major League Baseball (MLB) on paper, had an uphill battle getting to the World Series. Only after falling down in the series three games to one did they pick it up, racking three wins in a row to beat the Cleveland Indians and win the World Series.
While everyone loves an underdog story, 2016 has also been a divisive year as many of those underdog stories have been controversial. In a year that has caused so much division amongst the American people, sports act as way for people to escape the current social climate.
Whether it be playing catch in the backyard, watching Scott Van Pelt talk about the best thing he saw that day on ESPN’s “Sportscenter,” or hanging out with more than 30,000 people at your favorite team’s game, sports can provide an outlet for people to engulf themselves in something authentically happy, despite all the negativity and the hate currently being felt across the country.
As shown by the Cavs and the Cubs’ championship wins, sports have the capability to unite people all across the country, spanning generations, races, and political views.
Not only do the physical sports themselves matter, but the media involved with the various sports can also have a profound impact on their audience.
Legendary Los Angeles Dodgers play-by-play broadcaster Vin Scully was able to touch people throughout his 67 year career. His presence as a titan in the sports world has resonated throughout the country, attracting people as high up as President Barack Obama, who announced on November 16 that Scully is among the 21 recipients of the 2016 Presidential Medal of Freedom, the highest honor an American civilian can receive.
Much like Scully, broadcasters are capable of creating a positive culture around their audience. For instance, during the Cubs 2016 playoff run, the words of Cubs’ broadcaster Harry Caray became the center of a feeling optimism shared between Cubs fans across the country.
“As sure as God made green apples, someday the Chicago Cubs are going to be in the World Series,” Caray said.
This statement was a battle cry for the devoted Cubs fans tired of their team being known as the “Lovable Losers.” As a result, the Harry Caray statue outside of Wrigley Field bore a green apple in its hand throughout this year’s playoffs as a way of staying hopeful that his theory will finally come true.
In a year that has been so against the grain, and a current political climate that has effectively divided the American people, sports are an entity that remains constant throughout everything that is happening. They provide an outlet in which fans and athletes do not need to think about anything else and inadvertently unite people under one team or sport, that may not be connected otherwise. Sports are a way for fans and athletes to associate and dedicate time to something greater than one person and allow a relief from hectic everyday life.