Israel can learn a great deal from the 2016 Chicago Cubs and Cleveland Indians, who meet tonight for Game One of the World Series.
When this season started, no one expected the Indians to make it to the World Series. This was not simply because the team last won the Series in 1948. Most pre-season predictions did not have them even reaching the playoffs, and some of the most precise formulas like Nate Silver’s fivethirtyeight.com ranked them 17th out of the 30 Major League teams.
Even when the Indians made the playoffs, they were expected to be soundly beaten by the Boston Red Sox in the first round. The team lost starting pitchers Danny Salazar and Carlos Carrasco and starting catcher Yan Gomes to injuries, a certain disaster for a team that wasn’t expected to make the playoffs. After they confounded all the experts and swept the Red Sox, they were supposed to be blown off the field by the high-powered Toronto Blue Jays offense in the American League Championship Series.
But the Indians quieted the experts yet again, shutting down the Blue Jays in five games to make the World Series.
Indians second baseman Jason Kipnis tweeted about the shocked reaction in the baseball world over their making the World Series: “It’s a surprise to a lot of people outside the clubhouse, not really surprising here.” Kipnis went further, saying, “We like being the underdogs. We like guys not believing in us because we love going out and proving people wrong. That’s been our MO for a long time, and we don’t plan on stopping now.”
Not caring what everyone else says, and believing in yourself — that is the first lesson which Israel can learn from the 2016 World Series.
All the “experts,” including the United Nations and many in the European Union, denounce us and our actions. Since Israel’s inception, the world has been doubting us: we should not have declared independence in the first place, we should not have taken preemptive action in 1967, we should not have destroyed the Iraqi nuclear reactor, we should not have been in Lebanon, and we should not have lobbied against the Iranian nuclear deal. The list goes on and on, and will continue to get longer.
Yet, with God’s help, we have defied all the doubters, and have defied all the odds. Why? Because we believed in ourselves. That’s what we learn from the 2016 Cleveland Indians: tune out the doubters and always believe in ourselves, in the justification and legitimacy of Israel, and its rightful place in the international arena.
But belief in ourselves must be coupled with another lesson to be learned from the 2016 World Series, this time from the Chicago Cubs.
The Cubs were last in the World Series in 1945, 71 long years of losing. They last won the World Series in 1908 — that’s 108 excruciating years of losing. But this year everyone expected them to get there, and they are favored to win it. How did this happen? How did a team with such a long record of failure reach the point where they have been the favorites all season long to reach and win the World Series?
The answer lies with the hiring in 2011 of 42-year-old general manager Theo Epstein. One would expect a general manager who is trying to turn around decades of losing to pay a huge sum of money to lure superstars from other teams to join his team in an attempt to turn the Cubs into instant winners. A quick fix. Instant gratification.
But Epstein didn’t do that. He understood that turning around 71 years of failure required a serious, thought-out plan. It required changing a culture. It required setting very specific goals, season by season. Epstein told Cubs fans from the beginning that the team would not be good for a few years, that he was going to draft good players, get rid of older stars in favor of young prospects, and slowly build a winning team and create a championship environment via their minor league system.
The goal was set, and so began the slow, gradual change. He asked fans for patience as the team lost 286 games between 2012 and 2014. Then the turnaround began: the young players developed into stars, and a special bonding and camaraderie was created among them. Last year, they made it to the National League Championship Series, and this year they moved on to the World Series as the favorites.
That is the other lesson to be learned from this year’s World Series — it is not enough to believe in oneself to achieve greatness. One has to know where one is heading, and have a plan how to get there. On the heels of 2,000 years of exile and persecution, Israel can learn that lesson from the Chicago Cubs: we must continue to be strong and believe in ourselves in the face of international doubters, but we must also have a determined direction and a plan to accomplish it.
Now that we have established ourselves and firmly exist on the world stage, Israel’s population and leadership must take the next step: determine what kind of country we want to be, and how we will get there.