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Who needs your grace?

Think for a moment about your favorite sports team. The one you spend too much time watching, too much energy following and if there isn’t already a twelve-step program for them you probably need to start one. Now imagine what it would be like if your team was, well . . . terrible.

How bad? Let’s say they haven’t won a championship in nearly a century—the longest streak of any professional sports franchise in North America. They haven’t qualified to play in a championship in over fifty years. This means their fans had lived their entire lives without ever experiencing the thrill of victory.

All of that sets the scene for a baseball game at Wrigley Field on October 14, 2003. The Chicago Cubs are playing the Florida Marlins in a best-of-seven game series for the National League Championship. If the Cubs win, they will play in the World Series and have the opportunity to wipe away almost one hundred years of frustration. They are ahead in the series three game to two and leading in the game they are playing 3-0. The Marlins are batting in the eighth inning and have one out. If the Cubs can get five more outs, they will win.

Marlin’s second baseman Luis Castillo hits a pop up that drifts into foul territory down the left field line. Moises Alou, the Cub’s left fielder, tracks the ball and reaches out to catch it. As he does, a fan (Steve Bartman) also reaches out to catch the ball. He is unable to make the catch but he does succeed in deflecting it away from Alou so he is unable to make the catch. The Cubs unravel after that and go on to lose 8-3. They lose the next game and the pennant. There will be no World Series for them—no opportunity to rid themselves of the burden they have carried for years.

Meanwhile, Steve Bartman isn’t doing any better. He will later explain that he was so caught up in the moment and the ball heading toward him that her never saw Alou. It doesn’t matter. Some fans immediately begin to shower obscenities on him. He has to be escorted from the ballpark. Messages boards have his name on them before he leaves the park so he has to have police protection for some time. His life becomes miserable.

Most everyone is aware that the Cubs finally got the monkey off their back last year when they beat the Cleveland Indians to win their first World Series in over a century. That touched off a series of celebrations unlike anything Chicago had experienced in quite a while. Then while everyone was reveling in the bliss of the moment, someone in the organization said something about Steve Bartman.

When you win, it’s easy to put your finger in the air, tell everyone you’re number one and look down at everyone who isn’t. In some ways, that has come to be the American way. But that’s not what the Cubs did. They decided to reach down and pick someone up. They awarded Steve Bartman a World Series ring.

They didn’t have to do that. He wasn’t a part of the front office, coaching staff or employed in any way by the Cubs. Like countless others who would be receiving no ring, he was just a fan. But now he is a fan with a World Series ring.

We see people at their absolute best when they act graciously—when they do something not because they have to but because they can. Think about that and ask yourself who needs your grace today.

That’s what makes for champions.

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