America fell in love with a group of young african american men who dazzled the nation and the world in the just concluded Little League World Series. The Jackie Robinson West All-Stars are still the darlings of Chicago, even after a disappointing loss to South Korea in the Little League World Series championship game. The Jackie Robinson West team put up an inspiring effort, including a late rally in the bottom of the sixth inning, but it was not to be.The magic of Cinderella’s glass slipper had worn off as the big bats and excellent pitching of South Korea was too much for even these valiant group of ballers from the windy city. The final score was 8-4 in favor of the South Koreans but there were no losers here.
According to reports the city of Chicago, widely regarded as a hot bed for black on black violence came together if only briefly to support the Jackie Robinson West All Stars. I do not have specific numbers but for a little while in this city gripped with violence and despair , folks were happy, they were cheering and filled with pride. Even though this was an all black team, this team was cheered on by all races. Chants of USA !! USA !! USA !! The beauty of sports and how it can bring us all together was on full display once again. The all-black Jackie Robinson West stars had inspired not only Chicago but the entire nation and the timing of it all could not be more perfect. While these Chi-town boys were making their first appearance in 31 years in the Little League World Series folks in Ferguson, Missouri were preparing to bid farewell to 18 year old Michael Brown, a black unarmed teenager shot dead by police.
Several thousand supporters had gathered at various locations in Chicago to support this team. The rest of us including those in Ferguson were watching and rooting on TV. America needed this feel good story, black america especially needed it. Look at the history of the Little League World Series, when the only other time an all black team made it to the finals, (South Carolina, 1955), they were not allowed to play for the championship because they were black. That is why the race of this team was significant because this time, they PLAYED. They played for all of us.
Folks in New York city still angered by the recent death of Eric Garner at the hands of law enforcement. In Ferguson where the shooting death of Mike Brown was still being protested in the streets and even in Chicago where the problem of young black men killing other young black men has gripped this city in a climate of fear. The Jackie Robinson West All Stars, mere little children from Chicago’s South and Southwest sides gave all of those people a few feel good moments. No one noticed the score of the game, there were no tears just smiles even as the team from Seoul celebrated. We too, had a reason to celebrate. We had won so much more.