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Bob Costas On Baseball, Family, And Memories

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Before the Cubs paraded through Chicago Friday, Morning Shift spoke with NBC sportscaster and baseball scholar Bob Costas about the game’s powerful nostalgic quality.

On What It Is About Baseball that Captures our Emotion

“I’ll preface it by saying this, sometimes it can be overdone, and it causes people who aren’t baseball fans or people who are skeptical to scoff at it, because sometimes it goes too far. Baseball is not a metaphor for everything in life in every situation. People shouldn’t dissolve into tears at the reading of the infield fly rule. But on the other hand, you have to be a real hardened cynic not to realize that it is a generational link.

“Baseball can be one of the things that you carry through your entire life, that is among your earliest memories… and it can be a link with your parents, your grandparents -- where you might otherwise have less and less in common as the years go by -- that can be something that connects you. And it isn’t something that happens once a year like Thanksgiving or Christmas. It renews itself every spring and it happens every day.

“When you link that to the history of the Cubs and that long, long stretch of time that spans not just generations but lifetimes, multiple lifetimes between World Series wins -- and all that history builds and builds and finally pays off -- of course that’s a tremendous emotional reaction at the end.”

On How Ritual and Tradition Make Baseball Unique

“Other sports, all of which I enjoy to one extent or another, have more of a feeling of spectacle. They rely upon excitement and moment-to-moment energy. Baseball has a different pace. Historically it has a leisurely pace that allows for conversation, and not every game -- until you get 'til the very end -- seems like a matter of life and death or some kind of passion play. 

“You hear words connected to baseball that you don’t often hear in association with other sports. Words like ‘fondness’ and ‘affection’. You might be interested in and excited about other sports, but people feel fondness about baseball, even about teams that were futile that they might have rooted for. That includes many Cub teams of the past. “

On Where the Cubs Championship Ranks in the Broader History of Baseball

“I think it ranks very, very high. Not just because the history of the Cubs and the passion of their fanbase and Wrigley Field and the 108 years... but the fact that this was a great World Series. 

“Had this been the seventh game of a World Series between two teams that played in a dome stadium without much history, it still would’ve been one of the great seventh games. Then, when you combine it with the backstories of both the Indians and the Cubs, this has to rank among the greatest baseball games -- in terms of significance and drama -- among the greatest baseball games ever played, and that’s not an overstatement.”

On the Moments from this Game 7 that will Stick in our Memories

“A great game always has texture to it, and it always has little moments that add up. You change any one of them and things would’ve been different. 

“So of course people are going to remember the last out with Kris Bryant fielding that ball, they’re going to remember Ben Zobrist slicing that opposite field hit, they’re going to remember David Ross hitting a home run almost poetically in his final game, they’re going to remember the anxiety that they felt when Rajai Davis hit that home run and people wondered if Aroldis Chapman had even one more pitch left in that arm…

“But there are all these other things: Kris Bryant early in the game tagging up. Bold play… Bryant scoring from first on double by [Kyle] Schwarber… [Albert] Almora tagging at first base on a fly ball to center field by Bryant and advancing to second…

“There are always little things that happen during the course of a game that help to build toward the payoff.” 

This interview has been edited for brevity and clarity. Click the ‘Play’ button above to listen to the entire segment.

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