This feels different than I thought it would.
Without any context, if you would have told me at the beginning of the year the Indians would lose in extra innings in Game 7 of the World Series, this is not how I would have imagined I’d feel.
You think about all those pictures and memes of losing teams fans with their heads in their hands, tears in their eyes. Staring out into the abyss, trying to process the heartbreak they just witnessed play out over an agonizing 4+ hours. Walking out of the stadium staring at the shoes they’re barely managing to drag across the ground.
We were going to lose the biggest event in our sport, a do-or-die Game 7, by 1 run, at home, in 10 innings? Basically the most soul crushing loss a professional baseball team can possibly endure? That was gonna be us?
Hello darkness, my old friend.
I will admit, I did some staring and dragging myself last night. Like rubbing your thigh after getting hit with a pitch, you know you’re not supposed to do it, but it helps with the pain and that’s all you care about in the moment.
Like it was queued up on a playlist, I was almost immediately surrounded by a raucus chorus of Go Cubs Go in the bleachers following the final out. I stood there a while and listened. And watched. And waited.
I wasn’t anything at that point. I wasn’t mad, sad, depressed, angry, anything. I was simply there, existing in my body, watching a team and a fanbase celebrate the most crushing defeat I can remember experiencing as a fan. I was waiting for that darkness that I expected I would feel.
Funny thing – it never came.
Of course I was sad we lost. If I could choose between winning and losing Game 7 of the World Series, I’d obviously pick the former. But I didn’t feel that crippling depression that I thought I would. It was a weird feeling of vindicaton, that we did the best we could with the hand we were dealt.
We were without two of our top three starting pitchers and our left fielder. We weren’t supposed to win the ALDS. We swept the Red Sox. We weren’t supposed to win the ALCS. We did, on the shoulders of a 24-year-old rookie pitcher with 11 major league innings under his belt. We weren’t supposed to compete with the Cubs. We went up 3-1 and won two games at Wrigley Field. We had one of the best pitchers in baseball throwing for us in Game 7, with a fully rested bullpen. Our veteran platoon outfielder who led the league in stolen bases, tied the game with a two run homer in the 8th inning off the hardest thrower in baseball.
Then it rained.
Then we lost.
I love baseball.
I felt a lot of things immedately after the game, and I feel a lot of things now. Misery isn’t one of them.
Also I certainly didn’t feel embarassed, like some people are trying to tell us we should feel because we let Cubs fans into our stadium. This is a team with one of the largest fanbases in baseball, from the third largest city in the country, with the richest suburbs in the Midwest, playing for their first World Series in 108 years.
This series could have been played on fucking Mars and it would have been impossible to find a hotel room. I have a hard time imaginging it would have been any different had 4 games been played in Toronto or Arlington or Baltimore.
(I had mostly good experiences with Cubs fans during this whole thing. There were some jackasses, sure (comes with the territory – season tickets in the bleachers), but for the most part they were cordial and respectful. I shook hands with the old men sitting in front of us last night and told them to enjoy it when I left. I don’t think I’ve ever shook hands with an opposing fan after a game, especially not after his team just beat mine to win a championship.)
So why then, these feelings of completion and finality instead of depression and sadness?
It’s like in Fantasy Football when you’re strugging to decide who to play that week. You set a lineup with some regret, the games play out, and you lose. But even if you had played the guys you decided to bench, you would have lost anyway. There’s literally nothing else you could have done. There’s a weird sense of acceptance after those types of weeks. Not so much the weeks when you leave a guy on your bench that puts up 30 points.
The Indians didn’t leave any 30 point scorers on their bench.
They exhaused all options. The over-worked starting pitching staff and, consequentially, the over-worked bullpen finally caught up to them at the worst possible time. Corey Kluber and Andrew Miller gave up 6 runs. David Ross hit a homer off Andrew Miller. That’s when you know it’s not your night.
You had your ace taking the mound or Game 7 of the World Series at home, with your bullpen fully rested. Previous events caused that matchup to not turn out the way we wanted. Nothing more we could have done.
Tito did the abosolute best he could with the hand we were dealt. He got the most out of every single player. He almost pulled off the impossibe. But the impossible is called the impossible for a reason.
Looking towards next year helps quite a bit too. It’s not like we pulled off some blockbuster trades at the deadline to pick up rentals to “go for it” like so many teams do. We went for it, but on our terms. Our core is locked up. Our pitching staff will be healthy. Anything you get out of Michael Brantley is a bonus. Young guys have another year under their belts, and everybody has the experience of a deep postseason run. You have no glaring holes to fill. Next year has a chance to be what this year could have been. And the year after that. And the year after that.
I’m excited to watch a team next year that knows they can get to the World Series.
We all knew the 3-1 jokes would come early and often if we ended up losing to the Cubs. So far, spot on. They don’t really phase me for two reasons.
One, they’re not accurate. I understand the people slinging the jokes aren’t necessarily worried about accuracy, but when you say the Indians blew a 3-1 lead, that’s just not right. The Indians operated at capacity for all 7 games. That’s all they had. The Cubs came back from a 3-1 deficit. That’s accurate. Not all comebacks by one team are blown opportunities by the other.
And two, if they really do believe the Tribe blew a 3-1 lead, that’s actually a huge compliment to the Cavs. If you’re gonna say the situations are the same, than you’re comparing our basketball team to a baseball team that just put together one of the greatest seasons in baseball history. And they’re poised to do it again and again for, oh, about a decade.
I’ll take that as a Cavs fan.
Maybe I’m still numb, and this loss will hit me in the coming days or weeks. It’s possible. But I’m enjoying this little bit of clarity and optimism while it lasts.
Gonna go sleep for three straight weeks and rev up the Cavs engine.
Hell of a season.
KEEP THE CHIEF