To watch baseball is to hope up until the very last minute. In no other game can your team be losing by five, 10, thousands of points, and can you believe there is a chance, however slim, that they might still come back.
You’re not up against a clock in baseball. You’re up against something far more cruel, grueling, and unpredictable: mental focus and physical stamina, both yours and your opponent’s. You can stay alive for three pitches or for 12. You can rally for a single, or for four home runs to win the damn thing. You can hope the other guys crack first.
Which is why endings in baseball are so shockingly sudden. There is no slow realization that this is the end, there’s just the end. If you win, the high is higher than most other sports-related euphorias. This is because relief is the greatest feeling in the world. A baseball W, a release of the glorious tension that builds through nine innings of waiting, floods your system with relief. It course through your veins. It lifts you up by your ribcage.
And, as much as it pains me to imagine as a Red Sox fan, I guess Yankees fans felt that elation on Wednesday night — or maybe it was early Thursday morning by then (that’s the thing about the whole “no clock” situation, you have to stay up very late). Aroldis Chapman struck out Austin Jackson and that was that. The Indians were out. The Yankees advanced. I felt sick.
But you know how Indians fans probably felt? Gutted. One minute Cleveland Hope was alive, standing on the edge of a cliff, and the next it had fallen off and was lying dead atop a pile of crushed peanuts shells and empty beer cans.
Cleveland Hope isn’t your standard, run-of-the-mill, postseason baseball hope. No, Cleveland Hope is tough. It has somehow hung on since the last time the Indians won a World Series in 1948, and it has seen some shit. It went through an entire season, postseason, and seven-game World Series last year only to suffer a tragic and heartbreaking death at the bats of the Cubs.
Cleveland Hope was resurrected and came back this year anyway, the way it always does: bruised and battered but still looking up. It flapped its wings and soared to new heights in September when the Indians steadily racked up 22 straight wins, more than any other team in the history of baseball.
And then the Yankees, those assholes in pinstripes, those fat cats of baseball, those gloved wolves of Wall Street, those ring-laden New Yorkers, ripped Cleveland Hope out of the sky and twisted its head off, like the bad guy who breaks into Harry and Lloyd’s apartment in Dumb and Dumber and kills their bird.
“OUR PETS HEADS ARE FALLING OFF!”
Did you hear that? That’s the cry of a now-Hopeless Cleveland fan who somehow got trapped in this blog’s metaphor. Poor thing. This guy can’t escape the content management system of this website, just like the rest of Indians fans can’t escape the fact that it’s all over. That they have to wait yet another 12 months for yet another shot at yet another postseason once Cleveland Hope’s broken wings have set.
I went through the painful death of postseason Boston Hope at the hands of the Yankees in 2003. But I didn’t have to do it again a year later. Instead, the Sox won the World Series and I got to experience the relief that comes when decade-old Hope stays alive long enough to become Victory. Cubs fans felt that last season.
Cleveland fans won’t get that this year. That sucks so much. Like, so, so, so much. It seems upsettingly fitting that in 2017, the Evil Empire has trampled a team in five battles and is now marching towards an ever-increasing chance of winning the whole dang war.
So here’s to Cleveland, the City Where Hope Springs Eternal, as the old Ohioan saying goes. Your Indians put up a valiant fight; may your wings heal soon. I’m so sorry it had to end like this. But then again, in baseball, it always does.