In my Statistics class, we study the “binomial distribution,” in which two outcomes, a “success” or “failure” to an experiment, are examined over the course of multiple trials. I begin my Statistics course each year with a mention of this distribution, and how it affects the probability of two people in my classroom sharing the same birthday, noting that, in a classroom of about twenty-five students, the probability is greater than 50% that there will be a match of birthdays. Indeed, this semester, there was, as usual, a match, making me again believe that this stuff I teach really does describe the way the world works. (Phew!) I found myself thinking of this recently when a Cleveland professional team showed signs of doing something that, up until this summer, no Cleveland professional sports team had done since 1964; win a national championship.
When things started to look good for the Cavaliers basketball team winning the national championship last spring, the city held its breath. No major league professional team had done that since I was a baby, and the long-suffering fans in Cleveland, Ohio slowly came to believe that this could be the end of that drought. We began to call ourselves “Believe-land,” and, game by game, our team worked its way to a national championship. My daughter is still upset that we were out of town on vacation for the victory parade, but insists “next time, mom, we are going.” Yah, sure, honey. Next time.
I never thought that not only could “next time” come in the years in which she would still live in this city, but it might possibly come in LESS than a year. As the city was riveted on basketball, the baseball team quietly began to play its own games, in a season that began for some teams on “square root day,” April 4, 2016. One after another, winning more than losing, our team quickly ran up an excellent record. However, hardly anyone noticed, since we were all too busy with “watch parties” at each other’s homes as the basketball playoffs unfolded. And then, with that win, with the celebrations that took over the city, the ones that my daughter will never forgive me for not being able to attend, attention was still elsewhere. It was only when the summer began to fade into fall that people around me began to notice that our professional baseball team was putting itself in a position to engage in “postseason” games. And that is when the team really showed how amazing it could be.
This past week, I was at a public event with my daughter, when someone broke in on the loudspeaker with the announcement “we wish to interrupt our evening’s event to inform everyone that Cleveland, Ohio will be representing the American League in the World Series.” I knew they were playing a game, but I, unlike many there that night, did not spend the evening with my eyes glued on an ever-updating smartphone. As you may guess, a cheer went out among the crowd.
I grew up in the suburbs of Connecticut, in a city that was (a long) commuting distance from New York City, where it was just assumed that one would root for the Yankees. And so I did, for many of my years there, watching them win championship after championship. I admit that I only switching allegiances when I moved to Boston and began to sit in the bleachers in Fenway Park on summer afternoons. Now a Clevelander for longer than I have lived anywhere else, I my allegiance is to our local baseball team.
Someone told me of a fourth grader they know who is just becoming aware of professional sports. This child has no memory of years spent losing games. Indeed, they seem to think that Cleveland teams, like the Yankees of my youth, ALWAYS go on to championships and win in playoffs. I hope they continue to think like that, at least for a little while.
…Wishing Cleveland, Ohio the best of luck in the World Series…
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