The Cleveland Indians had a chance to win their first World Series title in 68 years Tuesday night, and I did what every staunchly loyal Tribe fan should do: I went to a soccer game.
Not just any soccer game, but a high school soccer game. A girls high school soccer game.
Did I have to go there? No, I didn't. Did I NEED to go there? Yes, I did. As we used to say as kids: I "chickened out" because I knew what was about to happen. I couldn't watch the World Series.
I've written previously about this "thing" I have for the Indians. My summers are spent listening to their games on the radio. It's what I've done all my life. I'm not just a fan during a good year, I'm a fan every year.
While you might think a spot in the World Series is a real kick, it's become more like a direct shot to the solar plexus. It sometimes leaves me breathless and shaky. I think, "Just win this thing and get it over with." I enjoy the journey of a long baseball season, but I get twitchy when that final, shiny marble is left in the circle.
Listening to a game during the regular season is relaxing. Watching a game during the playoffs is a grinding, three-car crash.
I survived Games 1 and 2 and then went to London with the Bengals during Games 3, 4 and 5. It was like a news blackout. Other than American youth, the only people less interested in baseball are the Brits. There were no games on television there. The sports report was a full 10 minutes long with no mention of the World Series.
The five-hour time difference was convenient. I would wake up each morning and find out whether the Indians won or lost. I didn't have to endure it. On Saturday morning, my son Matt called me with the good news from South Carolina. It was 5 a.m. I had no idea he even knew the World Series was being played. I didn't think he listened to a thing I said over the last 30 years.
Then there was my wife. She likes going to baseball games for three reasons: Hot dogs, cold beers and the chance to watch interesting people. She works a shift early in the morning, I work a shift until late at night. So we make a date to have dinner once a week to catch up on life. On Monday, I suggested we meet Tuesday for dinner.
"Tuesday?" she answered. "I can't meet you Tuesday, it's Game 6."
Really? She's obviously tougher than me.
My son and my wife know that I lived all that stuff ESPN talked about in their report on "Believeland." I was in Cleveland for the World Series losses in 1995 and 1997. Photographer Scott Simpson and I were on the sidelines when John Elway immortalized "The Drive" against the Browns. They know how hard I took it when the devious Art Modell moved the Browns to Baltimore.
Being a sports fan is a huge emotional investment. Being a Cleveland sports fan is making that investment with Bernie Madoff. So much promise, so little payoff.
So that's why I went to that soccer game. I knew what was going to happen. When I walked back into the newsroom around 9:15 p.m., the Indians were already trailing 7-0, and everybody was expressing their condolences. As if someone had died. I did notice they had removed all sharp objects from in and around my desk.
No need to be sorry, I know the deal with being a sports fan. It doesn't always feel good. I've always said that sports is genuine reality television, unlike that trash from the networks. There are no guarantees. This isn't based on ratings or likability. You go in knowing you have a chance to win, but you also have a chance to lose. And those chances to lose increase if you're a Cleveland fan.
Back in grade school at St. Nick's in Struthers, I had a great English teacher named Miss Fisher who had us read poetry. I didn't like or understand much of it, but "The Rainy Day" by Longfellow always hit home.
Be still sad heart! and cease repining
Behind the clouds is the sun still shining
Thy fate is the common fate of all
Into each life some rain must fall
Some days must be dark and dreary.
That says it all. And it tells us that Longfellow was a long-suffering Indians fan.
I'm fine with some rain. I'm just hoping to avoid a washout Wednesday night.
By the way, the soccer game I went to was a good one. Loveland beat St. Ursula in overtime to move to the regional finals. The winning team cried. The losing team cried. They shook hands and went about their business. They already know how sports work.
So it's time for Game 7. It's do or die. There's no tomorrow. It's the whole ball of wax. It's for all the marbles. It's the big enchilada. It's every sports cliché you want to dig out.
And it's an event that every sports fan can't miss. Except me.
I will be checking to see if there's a good volleyball game I can go to.