Cleveland Indians fans of a certain age can still remember most of the words to a peppy little fight song called “Indian Fever,” which the franchise used in the early 1980s. Except for chronic cases, Indians Fever was easy to avoid—at the time, the product on the field acted as its own vaccine. But that was then, and this is, as they say, now. The Streak is now. The effect of the Indians’ current winning streak has crept up slowly, like a fever. The Typhoid Marys among us caught it as soon as the Streak reached double digits. When the Indians matched the franchise record, the fever spread. Last weekend, when the team started nibbling at the edges of the AL winning streak record, the pandemic reached critical mass. At this point, no one is immune to the Fever.
I’ve found myself occasionally belting out “Indians Fever” at odd moments over the past few weeks because it’s difficult to encapsulate the surge of emotion that’s been stirred up by this crazy, improbable, historic winning streak. It’s like living in a musical—you’re so full of emotion that there is no other option but to burst into song.
Let’s just say that Cleveland fans are feeling all the feels right now. Given the sense of excitement and anticipation around the team, it’s as though the playoffs have already started. The difference being that the playoffs have a definable end. There is a sequence: You win the divisional series, you move on to the League Championship. You win the League Championship, you move on to the World Series. You win the World Series, you wake up the next day wondering if it was all a dream and throw a parade for 1.5 million of your closest friends.
A winning streak is different. This Streak is very different.
Statistically, the Indians are in unchartered waters: they’ve outscored their opponents 137–34, hit more home runs (41) than runs allowed, and have a team ERA of 1.58. But more than that, what is so striking, so unusual about the Streak is that there is no foreseeable end to it. The Streak just is. I took my daughter to win #17, a rare Saturday afternoon game, this against the Orioles. It took me a moment just now to remember who the Tribe played that day. It isn’t because I wasn’t paying attention. It’s because this Streak exists out of regular time and space, overlapping cities and teams and series. The goal isn’t to sweep the series or sweep the road trip or the homestand. The goal is merely to win that day’s match-up. Sure you could say that the Streak will eventually end. I mean, the regular season will eventually end and surely the Indians couldn’t possibly win all 15 remaining games, could they? Except we know they can win 15 games in a row because they’ve already won 15 games in a row. That’s the magic of the Streak. It makes you believe, and this is Believeland, after all.
Here and there I’ve read complaints and criticisms about Cleveland fans because every game hasn’t sold out, which might indicate that people don’t care. I’m here to tell you that people care. Folks are strutting around in their Indians gear like Jose Ramirez swaggering back to the dugout after a home run. Social media feeds are clogged with posts that simply read “21” or, now, “22.” Friends who aren’t baseball fans care. People walk around bleary-eyed from staying up to watch the game the night before. Do you remember that old Peanuts cartoon where Charlie Brown asks Linus what he wants to be when he grows up and Linus replies “Outrageously happy?” People are outrageously happy in the Linus van Pelt sense. The Streak is making us happy. Look, I want the Cleveland Indians to win the World Series as much if not more than any fan. Lordy, do I want them to win the World Series. They were close enough to touch but not grab the Championship last season. Perhaps the Streak is kindly recompense from the Baseball Gods for 2016. Perhaps.
I know sometimes a streak is just a streak. I understand that we probably shouldn’t seek out deeper meaning from what is still just a game. Still, it’s difficult to look at the Streak and not be reminded of the value of being in the present moment, of being here, now. In interviews, Indians Manager Terry Francona has expressed in different ways the same idea: that the team is focused only on winning that day’s ballgame. That’s all. Whether you hear it from Tito or read it on a “One Day at a Time” bumper sticker, it’s still good advice.
No one knows when the Streak will end. Tonight? Tomorrow? Next week? Never? It could be never. Maybe I’m just in the throes of Indians Fever but the improbable no longer feels impossible. When and wherever the Streak ends, the Fever will continue.