11.04.2016

When Will We Be Finally Satisfied?



I sat in my car for what was the longest drive back from Cleveland in my entire life.

This had nothing to do with bridge from Ohio City to downtown being closed (probably for the best) and me having to take an alternate route to get to the highway. And yes, I've had longer drives from downtown to wherever I was going distance and time wise, but you know exactly what I mean.

It felt like an eternity driving back home. It felt like it took me forever to fall asleep even though I had been up since five in the morning and was straight up exhausted from driving back and forth to Cleveland the past few days.

I should have fallen asleep the minute I laid down. But there I was, staring up to the ceiling, feeling like everything is moving incredibly slow, yet my mind racing incredibly fast.

In these days after, I still don't know how I feel. The first song that came on the radio Wednesday night/Thursday morning after I switched off Tom Hamilton and the post-game show was a favorite band of mine, X Ambassadors and a song of theirs that is one of my favorites. I love "Unsteady" because it's one of their better slow-beat songs with a dope rhythm to it. I completely hated that that song was on right then and there, but it also felt like it was completely appropriate. 

Hold onto me right now friends, because I am, in fact, a little unsteady, and I'm not sure where this is going.

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After the ALCS win, I sat there comfortably numb. I relayed my feelings of being completely overwhelmed by the situation, not knowing what to say first or how to feel about what was happening.

The day after, I now try and look back at the wild ride that culminated in one night, with not one moment sticking out more than any other, trying to feel and understand the emotions that I feel right now. 

You surely have left many situations in your life feeling satisfied, have you not? It could be something incredibly small or entirely large. Maybe you put a lot of work into studying for a test, worked really hard to do well and when you got your grade back, the results matched exactly what you expected them to based off your preparation. Maybe you put a lot of work into a project at work, hoping it would lead to a raise or a promotion and it did. Maybe you did something good for someone in need and they thanked you for your kindness. Maybe you ran a half marathon and just really wanted to eat your body weight in Swenson's burgers and when you did, you felt all was right. 

That last one was me, I'm sure you could tell.

Look, we get satisfactions from lots of things in life, big or small, inconsequential in the grand scheme of things or incredibly grandiose. We can get it from and for things that don't really matter or things that should take priority in our lives.

We can most definitely feel satisfied about sports. Yet, it's the hardest thing to feel satisfied about because there's always a next year, win or lose, a team always competes and you will always be there to cheer and put your emotions and feelings into your favorite team. After 108 years, Cubs fans can FINALLY feel satisfied about watching baseball and investing in a team. Most of us probably invest emotionally, whether you invest financially in different levels or physically or in other ways. But if you are a fan of a team, and I really mean, a fan that cares for the outcome for more than just 10 minutes after the game, you invest emotionally. That is damn near 100% of sports fans. It is an emotional investment. It comes at different levels, but it is one thing we relate to.

So, we get it right? 108 years. Lifetimes of emotional investment, young and old, unless you are a 115-year-old Cubs fan that can semi-remember. There's a few of those out there, right?

And now for us, as fans of the Cleveland Indians, emotional investments of our wide-age ranges. Some are around and can remember the last title in 1948. It will grow another year and perhaps, the emotionalism of what we had to go through will only give us a little more grief in the short term and built up our long-term anticipation of emotional relief.

When it actually happens, it will be so satisfying, right? Many of you are Cavaliers fans who got to celebrate a few short months ago. That was awesome, and that was great and the city of Cleveland got themselves a title, which they haven't had in quite some time.

But dare I say this, for all of us who don't happen to be Cavaliers fans, maybe this is short-sighted, but a World Series would mean just a little bit more because this baseball team has been around for a little bit longer. A franchise who was so close in the 90's at several points. A franchise that has gone with, what is now (let that sink in), the longest drought in it's sport without a championship. A franchise that sees it's ownership and front office pummeled over and over again in the modern day by people who don't understand the landscape and economics of baseball. A franchise that gets constantly overlooked in it's own town because they don't throw a brown leather ball and clank orange helmets every Sunday. A franchise that, for all purposes of how they are owned, ran, operated, and how they play, is Cleveland.

I've said this before, but the Cleveland Indians are a perfect embodiment of what the city of Cleveland claims to be. A blue-collar town that prides itself on "earned not given" taglines and working hard and others around it using it as a punchline or an afterthought. And yet, they're overlooked in their own city. They're miscast in a role that is perfect for them because the audience doesn't want them there.

This Cleveland Indians team, and even specifically in 2016, beyond all expectations is one that shattered any sort of frame of believably. They defiantly waved their swagger in the faces of doubters, kicked and pedaled as hard as they could through any sort of challenge or obstacle, and gave us a run to never forget because they played their absolute hearts out. I think many of the players understood that they were playing for more than themselves, even if a lot of those people distrusted them for some time.

It's hard to be satisfied with a losing outcome, but when you take a step back and look at everything your vacuum collected over the past month, you can't help but be satisfied on some level in regards to what was gathered a long the way. I certainly am to have been able to witness some of the things we did. I know that I'm still hungry and ready to tackle a few more Galley Boy's, but I'm pretty content with what I've already had. Maybe get me some potato teezers. Sorry, too many Akron references, but at least it's a shorter drive than Chicago.

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The Chicago Cubs were supposed to win the World Series from the first moment the season started. They ran rampant over their division, one of which was impressive on many fronts, won over 100 games, and assembled an incredible squad of young superstars mixed in with proven winners. They're managed by a cerebral game tactician and the guy who assembled them has a proven track record of delivering incredible moments to historic franchises thanks to the moves he makes. I don't have to tell you that this team was the favorite and anything short of winning it all would be unexpected. You know all this and have been beaten over the head with it for the past few days. It's not an excuse as to why they lost, it's a reason to not be discouraged by the result. Look no further than Keith Olbermann summing it up pretty perfectly in regards to the Cubs. They were supposed to be there at the end and there's no shame for a team like the Indians to have lost to them, especially when they played hard and earned every bit of the position they were in.

And yet despite all of that about how the Cubs are more talented, more hungry, younger, stronger, deeper, and in a more advantageous position, there they sat, down 3-1 to a team decimated by injuries and ravaged by real circumstances that should have put them out in the first round if you played the game on paper (or newspaper). The Cubs were there, but the Indians shouldn't have been and they were the one's threatening to make history, 108 years and the stars aligning be damned.

Nobody said it better than Cody Allen. He hit it perfectly and I think about his words as I reflect back on my night watching the final game of the series. From the fact that they just got beat by a really good team to just wanting next year to start right now. That's where I am at and it's hard to sit here and not only believe that this run is finally over and we can't celebrate and that the opportunity to do so is a full year away, at the very least, because nothing is guaranteed, as we saw for a shining moment with the Cubs.

The opportunity to do this all again is far too draining to think about. This team poured their heart and soul into this run. When I talk about being satisfied, I think about how satisfying it would have been for this team to win the World Series. How I'm ready to take a 100-year nap after that and not have to worry about watching my team try and win it all.

Is it great that we get Michael Brantley and Carlos Carrasco and Danny Salazar and Yan Gomes all back and healthy for a run next year? Of course. Is it great that we still have years left of watching a guy like Francisco Lindor dazzle and amazes us? Of course. It is great that there's players like Jose Ramirez, Trevor Bauer, Cody Allen, and Carlos Santana  and that they will be key pieces to a 2017 team? Of course. Is it great that the Indians still have a few more years of the dangerous bullpen weapon that is Andrew Miller? Hell, yes. I'm certainly okay not having Clint Frazier anymore. Can we trade Bradley Zimmer for a right-handed cloning machine so we can get another one?

But it's so hard to duplicate success in baseball. You play a 162 game season to get to the point the Indians were able to get to: the postseason. And from there, there's a lot of things that have to go your way. We talked about it after the ALDS in what Terry Francona did to push the right buttons. You look at the runs the Royals made the past few years and things went their way a lot of times. The Indians had a lot of things roll their way to get them to Game 7 of the World Series.

It's hard to imagine, even though the Indians have a talented team, of strapping up and doing it again.

But then I look at the team that did beat them and how, as Keith Olbermann put it, talent prevailed.

Talent prevails. And talent will prevail with the Cleveland Indians because they have it in spades and can absolutely get back to the postseason. Of course, as you saw with the Cubs, talent can always get upended by hard-nosed baseball, great decisions, stellar pitching, and unique ways of accomplishing your goals. Things the Indians did to get to that position. That's what makes it scary. The fact that the Indians could have had done it the hard way, but just as could easily be in a situation to lose it the easy way too.

While I'm perfectly okay with the Indians having a stocked and reloaded team ready to go and get a World Series title next year, I can't help but have really wanted this one because it's so hard to be able to get that position in the first place, even when it should be easy like it was for the Cubs.

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Jason Kipnis darting around third without even hesitating, the key reason for him scoring on a wild pitch as the second run. It was memorable and had the Indians been the winners, would go down as just as much of an iconic moment as Kris Bryant's smooth base running earlier in the game.

Rajai Davis, starting presumably because Tyler Naquin's defense inefficiency was not going to cost Tito another game. You knew he was taking defense seriously when he subbed out Coco Crisp late to avoid the possibility of him having to make a throw on a sac fly. Here's Rajai Davis, who would have probably been in the game at this point anyway, hitting no only the game-tying blast off a tired Aroldis Chapman, but bringing his team within one in extras.

Only to bring to the plate, quite possibly, one of the statistically worst hitters in major league history in Michael Martinez, with your season definitively on the line. Really?

Rain, improbably pouring down in extra innings of the seventh game of the World Series, causing a delay that would spur a locker room meeting by the opposing team.

Andrew Miller giving up a home run to David Ross in his last major league game. No, no, really?

Kipnis pulling a ball that very much seemed like it was gone, sending me to my knees in absolute euphoria, only to realize it had not come true. I didn't want to stand back up.

These are moments in time that you will never forget. Ones I won't forget. I mean, this WAS everything we love about baseball between two teams that you would have never thought would be here at the same time. How entertained are you as a baseball fan with no rooting interest? Other than your own team being in that position and coming out on top, was there anything greater to watch as a lover of baseball and sports? It's almost a shame that the Indians and Cubs fans had to go through that because that whole scenario is not even dreamable. Major League Baseball couldn't have tried to rig a more perfect scenario.

What perhaps is the most cruel thing about baseball is that it set up this scenario between the two hungriest franchises and said, hey, only one of you will eat tonight.

Moments that I watched and was glued to the screen for. I stood, surrounding by fellow Cleveland Indians hopefuls, hoping that this team would pull out the unthinkable and the unfathomable. To ride the emotional roller coaster of believing your team was going to win the World Series because they were up 3-1, to the doubt that is creeping into your mind because it's now 3-3 and, well, it would seem the advantages are shifting towards the Cubs direction.

To the doom of falling behind, to the hope of tying it up, to the despair of falling behind yet again. To being given the shot of life of seeing this team rise up and not quit, to give us one more shot at it all. To tying it up and making you believe. Making you feel that this could very well happen and that you could very well be running down the street celebrating one of the greatest moments a sports fan can have.

I don't have strong allegiances to any other team in sports now a days. My alma mater has won a National Championship in soccer and as a devout fan of the Akron Zips and someone who went to games and was emotionally invested in that squad that won it all, that was great.

But this is my childhood and this is my young adult life, and now my adult life's one true emotional connection to sports.

I stood there thinking to myself what this would feel like. Thinking about how we really do invest ourselves into this game and wondering why. Why do we do this? This is a game that can only reward one team a year for being the best. We've witnessed a team in Chicago not win for over a century. That's many lifetimes of many people without being able to see through the reward of being a fan.

I'm not sure why we do it, or why I do it. But we do. And I will stand there next year in 2017 if I get the privilege to. I will be there emotionally and invested in this team. As cruel as baseball is as a sport, it is just as amazing. As cruel as it was to sit there and watch the Indians hopes slip away with each run that they improbably scored, it was just as amazing to sit there and watch them come back. To battle. Cruel to see two teams that want this so bad, with fans that want it so bad for them have to put the other down to get what they want. But amazing to see a franchise starved for 108 years finally break down all the bad and come out on top.

Good for the Cubs, right? They can finally put Bartman, the goat, and all that other crap to rest. They can move on and be a baseball franchise again.

I'm so scattered because now I've reach that overwhelmed feeling yet again. But this is the type of overwhelming feeling you don't want to have. I'm anxious for next year, but completely devastated about this year still. I don't know what to say or how to compartmentalize it because it's just everywhere. I'd be a mess had they won it, but at least I could feel good.

This sucks and I'm sad and I just can't sit here and continue to think about the what if. It's hard to sit here and put it in perspective, even though the Cubs are absolutely the most talented team on the planet and everything that has been said up to this point is true. I don't want to put it into perspective because I just want the Indians to have won.

I sit here and scroll through these damn pictures, looking at the pain and anguish on the faces of these people. Fellow Indians fans who were just as downtrodden as I was last night. I wish there was a camera on me as I left the bar and followed me to my car. To capture the look on my face that was properly showing the emptiness in my heart. The hollow feeling of there being nothing there when you expected it to be.

People around me cursed, cried, and collapsed. I looked down to the ground and put my hands on my head. I am those people in those pictures, we all are, even if there isn't a picture of us that exists. Forget Jordan Crying Meme, slap one of those faces on a picture of me.

To have done this all. To have watched this team battle against everything that was thrown their way. To have turned every excuse upside down and back around. To have it all go their way when it had to and to have played their tails off. To watch it not happen.

I'm not sure how one recovers from this. But we will, because most of us have been living with this most our lives. This team lost Game 7 in the World Series 19 years ago. This certainly isn't the first time this happened. This team lost a 3-1 lead in the playoffs nine years ago. This certainly isn't the first time this happened either.

As painful as it is, we'll go through this offseason and get hungrier and hungrier for the new season until it is finally here. Until we can finally stop saying, "let's just start playing now" and we are actually seeing our team play. When November 2nd, albeit still fresh, is now a distant memory that we will treat as such, a distant memory.

Like Cody Allen, I don't want to wait. I want it to start right now despite the emotional drain that was. This was a team that was so perfectly what our true core fan base is. And I couldn't be more prouder to have my allegiances lie with this team and those players. They make me proud to walk around today with my Block C hat on despite coming up short.

They make me proud and justify the emotion, passion, money, respect, love, time, effort, joy, and frustration that I put into them.

You will never get a run like this again and it is a shame that historically, it won't be as remembered as it could have been and won't be because this team didn't win it all. And this was the Cubs team that did it to boot, the team that broke the drought. The Indians and their run will be an afterthought, and really, that's not a bad thing, it's just a reality of success and winning it all. We'll remember it, but we won't remember it as fondly as we could have.

And that perhaps is the most saddest part of this all. That this run that won't be immortalized is now over and that the one group that could immortalize it regardless of outcome probably doesn't want to because it ended in absolute heartbreak. As drained and exhausted as we all are, this magical moment has now come to a close. Yes, it is crushing that it comes to a close without a chapter of celebration and joy, but it's just straight up sad that it's over period.

When I started writing this, I didn't know what it would end up looking like. To be honest, I don't even know how to end it just as much as how I didn't know how to start it. I'm yet again stuck on how to put these really strange emotions that I don't think I've ever encountered in quite this way into words and it sort of haunts me.

It haunts me because I feel like there's more to it and that I'm missing something. This is where we wake up and today is the real Game 7 right? That was so absurd that it wasn't real and the real game where Corey Kluber goes out and doesn't look completely gassed and gives us six strong innings. Mike Napoli goes out and redeems his terrible postseason with a three-run shot that actually brings to life the Party at Napoli's mantra that has surrounded this team all year. Jose Ramirez slaps a double up the alley to score Kipnis to take a three run lead while Andrew Miller comes in and continues to look like the cyborg he is for two innings. Cody Allen's ball hits Roberto Perez's mitt not soon before they sprint into each other's arms and the team comes flying in to pile on. Michael Martinez trails out of the dugout not to hit, but to be the last one on the dogpile.

That's all going to happen right? We're all going to wake up and the real game will happen.

Or, we're all going to go to bed now, hoping we wake up and April 2017 is here and we can begin this journey all over again, hoping for the outcome that we can't stop ever dreaming of. The one that everyone will remember.

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