Last night, we were cheering in this city. The local boys, for a moment, looked like they might just make good.
No one was decked out in shirts or hats or whatever other gear anyone could get their hands on. It was a bit early for that, but no one would really know where to look for it anyway.
What would it be like if they won? Nothing like this has really happened around here before. We had seen the Bulls and the Bears and the Sox go the distance, and even the lowly Blackhawks and Cubs had come oh-so-close to winning it all in our lifetime.
But we weren't watching any of those teams, because last night at every sports bar in this city we had found a new team to pull for. We were rooting for the little guys. Thirteen of them from Lemont, to be exact.
The Little League World Series was on.
It's strange watching Little League after spending so much time wandering around big-league parks. There were no gaudy billboards along the concourse, no endorsement deals to consider, no individual awards to try for. Suicide squeezes, throwing from the ground, diving catches over the outfield walls. These things were not done for flair. These things were done because they were the right things to do.
No one on the field was wondering which agent could get them the most money, even if it meant leaving the team and city that loved them.
No one worried what the press would write about them if they tried to make a play that was by all measures impossible.
No one's errors were going to get them booed by a stadium full of fans who forgot there's a reason that some of us are on the field and some of us are in the stands.
No one was worried about how giving up an at-bat to help the team would affect their contract incentives.
No one going 0-for-3 would have to worry about their chances of headlining a very unflattering piece on SportsCenter.
The ones who lost cried. The ones who won celebrated. Neither side cared how that looked, because in that moment of the final out they were allowed to experience baseball in its purest sense. Not as a business and not as a career.
But as a game.
Sadly, last night's game marked the end of their run at the title. Some of them may go on in the sport. Some may decide they've had enough. All experienced the kind of athletic rush that so many of us never have known - and probably never will.
They won't be hoisting the trophy in Lemont this year, but for a little while we were all reminded what sports are really about: trying, failing, succeeding, and trying again.
To one side of the TV showing the Little Leaguers was the White Sox game, the one that they had to win or else get absolutely mauled by the sports press this morning.
To the other side was the Cubs game, the one that 40,000 fans inexplicably paid good money to see despite the fact that the Small Bears gave up on the season before it even started.
And there, on that middle screen, was the game that really mattered. The one we fans so badly needed to see at a time like this.
This is why those thirteen kids, despite last night's loss, will all come home as winners.