CINCINNATI -- I've listened with interest and annoyance over the years as people trashed baseball. Too slow, too specialized, too old-fashioned for today's fast-paced world. Not attractive for youth. Just out-of-style and out-of-touch.
Then came Wednesday night. I hope Game 7 and the 2016 World Series turned some of those trashers into baseball fans again.
I'm an Indians fan, and I'm disappointed this morning because my team came up second best. I woke to watch the networks showing Cub celebrations this morning. I turned it off after 30 seconds. Envious? You bet. Discouraged? Not for a second.
I made an early morning run to the bank, the lumber yard and the coffee shop, and last night's game is all people were talking about. I couldn't believe how many stayed up to watch the whole thing. They couldn't shut it off.
It felt to me a lot like 1975 when the Reds and Red Sox played a memorable seven-game series with an unmatched 12-inning Game 6. I was working at an NBC station in Davenport, Iowa, so we were carrying the game. I didn't have a particular favorite, but I loved the way Cincinnati and Boston duked it out and how much they enjoyed the fight. The country in the mid-70s was still reeling from Watergate and Vietnam, and that series was a well-timed diversion.
Baseball during the past week provided a much needed break from the pitiful presidential campaign and the toxic political atmosphere we've been subjected to. Over a nine-day span, we saw seven really good games that demanded our attention. The Indians were overmatched but not outplayed. Think about it. After a long season of 5,000 games, the championship was decided by a single run, and it required an extra inning. That's how close it was.
I was working during the game Wednesday night, but as I glanced at the television, I followed the comments from four of my brothers and sisters. We're scattered all across the map, but the Indians are one of our common bonds and texting is our conversation.
The night didn't start well. The Indians fell behind 1-0, then 5-1 and then 6-3.
"I wish I didn't care about this stuff," one sister wrote. "I feel like I'm being tortured," came a short time later.
It was good to know I wasn't the only person who felt that way.
"These announcers suck," came about the fourth inning. Joe Buck of Fox Sports got battered. "I quit listening to them five games ago," one text read. "Joe Buck is truly a tool for the Cubs," read another.
This is pretty common in Cleveland. Joe Buck appeared to have such an overwhelming man crush on Kyle Schwarber that Cleveland fans established a wedding registry in their name in case they decided to officially become a couple once the series ended.
But there was also criticism of the home team. "Take the ______ bat off your shoulders Nap," shouted one message. And about the men in blue,"Yeah, outside and called a strike. Ump is blind."
Disgruntled, disappointed and then a sense of disaster. "I'm running out of beer," messaged one brother. Not sure which one. Take your pick.
The stress was telling. "I don't think I can go thru (sic) this next year." said one text. "Hair is turning gray each game." That had to come from a sister. All the boys have been gray for years.
In the eighth inning, Rajai Davis delivered a game-tying home run and northeastern Ohio exploded. "Holy ___!" cheered one text. "I can't believe it," came another. "Holy cow, I need more beer," came a third.
But then came the fateful 10th inning when the Cubs rallied to go ahead against Indians reliever Bryan Shaw. One brother relived the Cleveland litany of losses, "the drive, the fumble, the shot, now the Shaw."
The end was near. "My heart," is all one of my sisters had to text. "Rosary time," said another.
Her prayers were nearly answered. The Indians rallied in the bottom of the 10th to get to within a run, but that's the best they could do. An expletive came from a brother. "Wait till next year," came from a sister.
Emotionally, we were spent. "I feel like I played this game, all 10 innings of it," came one text. "Go ice your arm," was the reply. "Good game, good series, great season," concluded another.
I think that's what made this outcome palatable. The Indians played hard and just lost to a better team. And the Cubs just might turn out to be a great team. But I loved the effort and the perseverance. That's all I ask. If I'm investing this much time and emotion, I expect the same from them.
As a family, we managed to reunite one Sunday this past season in Cleveland for a ballgame. It's funny to think back to how the Indians rallied that day with five runs in the late innings to win the game. They rallied the same way right down to the finish line. We promised to gather for more games next season.
"It was one heckuva series," read one of the last texts.
I can't say it any better.