Last Friday’s celebration of the Chicago Cubs in the Windy City made headlines the following day. The fantastic turnout to celebrate a long-awaited World Series victory – from those lining the parade route to those further south at the rally – was generously estimated at FIVE MILLION people. That’s a serious confluence of baseball fans. But the number really gave me a jolt several days later, when someone ranked the gathering as the seventh largest in human history.
Five million. Hard to picture that many people in one location. The population of Chicago is only half as much so the suburbs must’ve emptied out as well (it was a record day for the Metra commuter rail service). Maybe I should’ve hired a helicopter or the Goodyear blimp and flown overhead, just to see all those human heads from a single vantage point.
Perspective? If you take the combined attendance to Major League Baseball games in the 2016 season – 73,159,044 fans watching 30 teams play 2,424 games – Friday’s crowd was almost 7% of that. If you only consider the attendance to the seven games of the World Series – 299,704 fans watching 2 teams play 7 games, Chicago’s party drew seventeen times that many.
Five million people live in Norway (though I challenge you to see every single Norwegian from one location). Five million people also live in the Russian city of Saint Petersburg, but how would you get them all to stand still while you counted?
I still can’t picture five million, but maybe the following will help. Dunkin’ Donuts just announced its “DD Perks Rewards” program exceeded five million members. Whirlpool just announced a recall of five million tumble dryers in the UK because of “blaze risk” (same technology as the Galaxy Note 7 phone?) A recent census indicated five million people have jobs in Switzerland. By the year 2020, a bunch of new robots will be added to the global workforce, thereby eliminating – you guessed it – five million jobs. Finally, here in Colorado the government’s ‘Project Baseline” built a vault to store all kinds of seeds for future experiments, in response to climate change and environmental degradation. Scientists have been collecting the seeds since 2012 and the vault now contains… five million of the little buggers.
Those are some fun facts but they don’t really paint the picture I’m looking for. Let’s consider five million another way. When someone says “seventh-largest gathering”, you want to know about gatherings one through six, don’t you? What would you guess – religious pilgrimage? Papal mass? State funeral? Correct, correct, and correct. Here are the top ten gatherings in mankind’s recorded history:
- Kumba Mela pilgrimage, India, 2013 – 30 million
- Arbaeen festival, Iraq, 2014 – 17 million
- Funeral of CN Annadurai, India, 1969 – 15 million
- Funeral of Ayatollah Khomeini, Iran, 1989, 10 million
- Papal gathering in the Philippines, 2015 – 6 million
- World Youth Day (also attended by the Pope), Philippines, 5 million
- Chicago Cubs World Series Celebration – 5 million
- Funeral of Gamal Abdel Nasser, 1970 – 5 million
- Rod Stewart concert, Brazil, 1994 – 3.5 million
- Hajj pilgrimage, Mecca, Saudi Arabia – 3 million
Thanks to the Cubs, America finally makes the list. But I’m no closer to picturing five million people than I was at the start of this post, and I’m running out of words. Tell you what. If the Cubs win the World Series next year (meaning the world comes to an end again), I’m heading to Chicago to be a part of the victory celebration. If I can’t picture the number, at least I can say I was “one in a million”. Or five million.