LAST FRIDAY EVENING, as America's copy editors debated whether all the news was really fit to print, nobody at Wrigley Field seemed to care. Donald Trump's comments into a hot mike had left many Americans with a cold feeling—"locker room talk," he called it—but as the Cubs' Jon Lester threw out the first pitch, fans could put the 2016 election on a private email server and forget about it. Sports came to the rescue. They always do.
A few weeks ago, some Trump supporters on Twitter confused Lester with presidential debate moderator Lester Holt and berated the Cubs' ace for asking unfair questions. Perhaps they were confused because, on the mound at least, Jon Lester is a lefty. They should relax and settle into the Wrigley bleachers. Whatever you think about immigration, you can appreciate the smells of Italian beef and American beer on a warm October night.
Hillary Clinton's childhood team is owned by well-known Republican donors, but if she is a true sports fan, she is pulling hard for the Ricketts family's Cubs anyway. This is what sports do. They help us put our differences aside. Oklahoma fans understand that if they attend the Red River Showdown, they must watch it with Texas fans. It's part of the fun. Is there a Republican in this country who wants to watch a debate with a Democrat?
Sports make us cheer, even when nothing else does. And have we ever needed them more than we do now?
Every day of the 2016 election makes me want to push the fast-forward button. Sorry, kids—no Halloween this year. Trust me: It would be worth it. Alas, time-travel technology is at least a few months away. Our only hope, then, is to count on sports to carry us to the finish line.
The parallels between sports and politics are obvious. When a college coach is caught cheating, fans reflexively defend him by saying, "The other guy is worse!" Like Republicans, Ohio State fans would rather be caught dead than in blue. And hasn't every Alabama fan looked over at the Auburn section and seen a basket of deplorables?
And yet, if 2016 has provided any clarity, it is this: Sports d. Politics in straight sets.
Sports make you decide what you believe. Incredibly, you can still find people who are undecided about Trump vs. Clinton, but every basketball fan has an opinion on whether LeBron James is better than Michael Jordan. Fans hold this truth to be self-evident: No men are created equal. In every sport, somebody must be the Greatest of All Time.
Politicians are just discovering that Americans won't believe anything until they see it on video. Sports fans learned that years ago. Ask Ray Rice. Or ask fans who don't believe an upset score until they see the highlights.
Political observers have decided that betting markets are the best way to figure out who will win. Any bookie could have told them that a century ago. And while voters have let lies go unpunished forever, sports fans clamored for instant-replay officials 30 years ago. They are the original fact-checkers. Imagine Clinton throwing a red flag at a debate, sending somebody to a booth to check on what Trump just said. After further review, the statement in the hall is overturned.
Jerry Seinfeld famously noted players getting traded from one team to another, going from hero to enemy in one transaction, and said we are all just cheering for laundry. I say, At least it's clean laundry.
If the Cubs win the World Series, then at least some White Sox fans will be happy for their Cubs-fan friends. They will offer begrudging congratulations in the office and might even buy them a beer. When the presidential scoreboard lights up on the night of Nov. 8, will any losing voters be happy for the winners? I doubt it. In sports, we salute our opponents and vow to get them next year. In presidential politics, we must wait another four. Not that I'm anxious to do this again.
Every day of the 2016 election makes me want to push the fast-forward button. Have we ever needed sports more than we do now?
How do sports rescue you from politics?
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