A frustrated Austin Jackson returns to the dugout after striking out in the seventh inning of Game 5 of the ALDS.
This has taken me well over a month to write. Every time I open the document, I get filled with sadness and the same emotions from the Game 5 loss.
I have a lot to say on the Tribe, but do not know how I want to format this, so bear with me on the flow.
I am not an emotional person. I am incredibly fortunate not to have suffered a major loss in the family in the last seven years. I have not cried from any movie, television show, tough breakup or anything of the sort. I have cried for two reasons in the last seven years: The Cavs title and the Indians.
June 19, 2016 was a day I will never forget. Being able to watch LeBron break the curse was surreal. I cried about seven times since that day watching the final few minutes. I did not cry when it happened, though. Basketball to me is fun but will never get close to rivaling what I have invested in the Indians.
Wednesday night (Game 5) was really tough. Thursday, too. I did not say a word to anybody for almost 24 hours after Gardner hit that grind-it-out single. I tried very hard to contain my emotions but ended up crying around seven times in that span. I could not speak. I had so much on my mind but nobody I wanted to talk to.
After Game 7 of the 2016 World Series, the feeling was much different. I called my dad after I came home from watching at a Cleveland-themed sports bar in the nation’s capital. I did not call him right away, but around 2:30 a.m. after I could not sleep. We just talked for a little bit about how neither of us could sleep. He knew the gravity of it better than I did.
He had seen it before. The team had caught the hearts of the city and made a magical run, but this was new to me. I was so caught up in it and did not appreciate it at the time. I am still young, going to be 20 in January, but I am starting to feel like him as a fan.
That loss, to the Yankees, up 2-0, at home, with C.C. as the opposing pitcher…man, that really really hurt. Like, bad. Many of my friends texted me offering condolences and saying things to the extent of, “Man, I’ve been there. I know what you are going through.”
No. No, you don’t. You have no idea.
“The Indians are the Yankees farm system.”
Hearing that quote as a kid from my dad was just a dagger. I remember nearly quivering asking my parents if Travis Hafner, C.C. Sabathia, Victor Martinez, Cliff Lee and Grady Sizemore were all going to be Yankees.
And my worst childhood fear came true. A player that the dreaded Yankees bought from the Indians came back to beat the Tribe in Cleveland, to end what we thought was our time. This was when the Tribe was supposed to not be little brother anymore.
It has hit me a few times in my life. It hit me how much the Tribe means to Clevelanders one time in line at CVS. I recently passed my driving test and walked into the pharmacy with a flat-brim Indians cap, standing next to an elderly couple who noticed my hat. The three of us proceeded to talk some Indians, forgetting about the ever-so-slow line that was in front us, getting lost in what we wanted to see in our beloved ball club.
It hits me every day with my father. So many people have a special father-son connection when it comes to baseball, and it is something to cherish. We always text or call each other talking about the most recent heartbreak or triumph for the Indians. Baseball is different for us and so many in the region.
This passion has brought me some of the most exciting and heartbreaking moments in my life. Never will I, or any fan, forget the Rajai home run. Arguably the greatest moment of my life though, was the inning after. Bottom of the ninth, Game 7. I saw the arrow pointing down and the digit ‘9’ next to it and got chills.
I vividly remember being alone in my backyard fantasizing that Travis Hafner would be able to hit a walk-off in Game 7 of the World Series. I never thought the Tribe would actually have the opportunity. Kipnis hit a foul ball that inning. It was maybe 230 feet and not even close to being fair. Off the bat I thought it was out, as did he whole bar I was in. I turned to my friend I was with and screamed an inaudible, “WE WON THE F***ING SERIES.” Who knows if that was the only time I, or tons of Tribe fans would feel that.
This was supposed to be it. Now that core group is maybe gone. The Indians could realistically have no Santana, Kipnis and others next year. Hearing that Brantley went around and hugged everyone after Game 5, knowing it might be his last…that stung. The team that grew up before our eyes may have a serious new-look next year.
A lot of the intrigue with this team was the team itself. They were so fun to watch. Frankie and Jose. The bromance of all bromances. Lonnie and Kipnis are best buds. The rotation is filled with personalities. Edwin’s parrot. Every player that comes in just falls in love with the atmosphere and just adds to the clubhouse chemistry.
That team that we love lost to the evil empire. At home. And everyone says they choked. Logic says they will be back next year with the potential to be stronger. The heart though, is scared that is the closest the team will get. If this group, which is set up perfectly to have sustained excellence, does not win one, what team would?
I just want to write down what has been consuming my mind. When the Tribe finally wins one. When those fans that have been watching four times as long as I have finally see it happen…man.
I want to be a sports journalist and often hear of professionals in that industry that lose their fandom after covering a team. That used to scare me, but not anymore. Indians fandom is something I won’t shed, even if I try.
Look, I do not really know what the theme of this article is supposed to be. I needed to talk about my first love. This team is fun as hell. Nobody knows if they will end up winning a title or breaking our hearts. What I know is that this is better than watching the team that loses 100 games. Let’s enjoy this, guys. It’s not like winning 22 in a row, winning the division in back-to-back years and having the biggest smile in the bigs manning shortstop every game is something to sneeze at. Roll damn Tribe.