Jackie Robinson West, Thank You from Chicago

Jackie Robinson West, the primarily African-American team from South Side’s Morgan Park neighborhood will play South Korea this afternoon in the Little League World Series, after defeating Las Vegas Saturday 7-5 to take the US title.

By the time you’re reading this, the LLWS may be over. JRW may just be World Champs. On the other hand, the South Side sluggers (and, no, I don’t mean the White Sox) may have fallen to Seoul in a heartbreaking loss.

But none of that matters right now.

What matters, in the grand scheme of life, is not sport– titles are won & lost all the time, with very little lasting impact on the players or fans involved.

No, instead, what matters is that, for a brief moment, a group of boys from an Urban League Initiative-funded ball-club put the South Side of Chicago on the national stage because of their heart and determination and tenacity. Coming into the tournament as underdogs, and after suffering a slaughter-rule shortened matchup earlier in the week against the same Las Vegas team they would meet again in the championship, these kids refused to give up.

It’s inspiring, really– almost like a Disney movie, where you just know the rag-tag group of youngsters will find a way to win; only, in this case, with no scripts, directors, or a big-name lead attached.

Regardless of what happens this afternoon, which I’m sure will be both thrilling to watch & ultimately tear-jerking for one team at the end, for a few weeks in August of 2014, the Jackie Robinson West little league team captivated the hearts and minds of a national audience. In a time of Ferguson and Israel/Palestine and ISIS and Russia/Ukraine, it’s nice to have such a pleasant distraction.

Thank you, Jackie Robinson West: not just from Chicago, but from us all.

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