More than 25 years ago, a struggling Iowa farmer—compelled by a mysterious, ethereal voice—razed his crops, built a baseball field for ghosts and, in the end, welcomed awestruck visitors from far and wide to his “Field of Dreams.” A place that was at once deeply personal and universally understood, drawn by … what? A game? Spirits?
The opportunity to bask in a phenomenon they couldn't fully understand? The film leaves us, the viewers, to decide the answer. And that's what makes its closing scene—headlights snaking over the horizon, toward a homemade baseball diamond nestled amid the corn—so powerful.
"If you build it, they will come."
A story written long ago
The sensation dates back far longer than a quarter-century, though—and even well before the birth of baseball. You'd have to return to jousting in Middle Ages Europe, to hurling in prehistoric Ireland, to Japanese sumo wrestlers, Roman gladiators and Greek Olympians dozens of centuries ago, to find the origins of our fascination with sports. And our fervor bleeds over the lines of competition. For millennia, one of the few activities human beings have reveled in as religiously as athletic participation has been the zealous spectatorship of those same games.
It still holds a power over us: the thrill of expectancy, a rush of pride in our bone-deep allegiances, an irresistible pull toward a visceral shared experience. But why, exactly? What force attracts us, overthrowing our rational thought and thrusting us into a moment to pump adrenaline into our collective id? Why, when the barons of sports put on their games—when they “build it”—do we come?
It's simple, really: We're huge fans.
It's more than just sports. More than just a game.
We come to wave the banner. To let our voices be heard and our loyalties be known. To stand shoulder to shoulder with our city. To wear our colors on our backs and our hearts on our sleeves. To step forward and line up behind our champions.
We come to bear witness. To immerse ourselves in the moment. To hear the crack of the bat and the whoosh of silence washed away by deafening pandemonium. To see heroes rise above, to see an arena electrified as tens of thousands leap to their feet and rejoice as one. To feel the air swell, the ground shake beneath your feet and the hairs on your arms tingle and lift. To say I was there when it happened.
We come for community. To be present at a flashpoint with our family, friends and those who share in our traditions. To climb nearly to the rafters, hand in hand with our little ones, to the place where we were led as little ones ourselves, where we first felt the magic all those years ago. To rekindle old memories, to build knew ones for the next generation and to weave them into a shared experience that spans eras.
We come because … well, why wouldn't we? “You can't beat fun at the old ballpark” was the mantra of legendary Chicago Cubs broadcaster Harry Caray. No one ever argued the point. And baseball fans aren't alone. Whether it's tickets on the 50-yard line in Foxborough, seats along the boards at Madison Square Garden or a nosebleed view for the Lakers, the monuments that are homes to our games have the ability to transport us to another place. The sights, sounds and sheer spectacle are etched into our memories, stirring emotions and returning us to moments in time that we couldn't forget if we tried.
Which is why we'll continue to come, and to create more moments. Because the moments connect us—to each other, to the past and to a present that is blissfully elevated from the everyday. When we arrive through the doors of these towering shrines to sports, we are engaged, uplifted. We are where we're supposed to be.
So even on those occasions when the games themselves fall somewhere short of transcendent, the time we spend together as they unfold—inside our Palaces, Coliseums and Centers—is undeniably sacred. For thousands of years, that truth has been constant. And for as long as the games are played, it will remain unchanged.
We will come. We will most definitely come.
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