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The reality of being a die-hard baseball fan

The season was fun, but that doesn't make the end anything but miserable. Being a good sport is overrated.

Ken Blaze-USA TODAY Sports

Before Game Seven of the World Series started, I had some time to kill, and did it watching A League Of Their Own on Showtime. I’d never seen it before to what it turned out to be my extreme shame. It is, as I’m sure most already know, very good. Right before the game started I’d gotten to the famous scene where Tom Hanks’ character berates one of his players to the point of crying, leading to the statement "there’s no crying in baseball". It was brilliant, it was poignant, and also he called the umpire a penis with a little hat on. It’s mostly true too. both the penis and the crying part. I didn’t cry as Michael Martinez made the final out of the 2016 season. But the deep cutting sadness, the surge of despair, that was there.

So as I planned for this, my weekly Saturday piece, I had the inkling to write about the perspective that I’d gained from watching the Indians all year. It may well have been the best season in my lifetime of fandom, better than the surprise 2013 or the ALCS drive in 2007. It was fun, it was exciting and there was rarely a dull moment. Plus the team is so good, and still so young and with so many of the Ben Zobrist-type, do it all kind of player that are so fun to watch, that one would hope this is just a beginning rather than the peaking of ‘07. Between that and my wanting to be at least somewhat objective in all this, since that’s what writing about sports demands so as to allay any bias you might have that could alienate a reader and end up pigeonholing you, I almost decided that I was happy with the outcome, by and large. But I’m not. As Gabriel Cash in Tango and Cash so eloquently stated, this fucking sucks.

It’s not about fairness or unfairness of it all, that’s not a thing. Especially in sports. The rules are set and you do your best within them and to bend them. You have to perform. Nor is it about getting the short shrift when luck was handed out in late September, when Carrasco and Salazar went down. Or Mike Napoli forgetting how to hit baseballs at all. There’s It’s not even about being up 3-1, then blowing the lead and having to absorb ridicule after a summer’s "The Warriors blew a 3-1 lead" jokes. Which they did, by the way, despite having the first ever unanimous MVP and Coach of the Year and best record ever. Sorry. But I’m not even a Cavs fan. I’m happy for people who are, it’s cool to enjoy championships.

None of that matters. It’s because I simply wanted it so badly, and they were so close, and they fought so valiantly. I guess I just feel let down, disappointed. I knew they could do it, so many people did. Even as every national broadcast overlooked the excellence of this Indians squad, instead focusing only on their deficiencies. Of which there were a few, most notably outfield defense. But they’re good, dammit, better than most other teams I saw play this summer. More well-rounded, more fun, just a neat group of guys to watch baseball. And through no fault of their own, they fell just inches short.

Maybe Cody Allen was right though. He had some amazing words after the game, basically that they’d played the best team in the game right to the hilt, and that was nothing to be ashamed of. And it’s not. Nobody who’s in the organization or loves this team should be anything more than proud of where the season ended. They literally played meaningful baseball until the last possible moment that the season could go. That is a successful season. Not everything is championships or failure. Approaching life with that mindset will end up with you feeling broken and empty. There’s just not enough championships to go around for everyone to expect to be a champion. Being happy with where the Indians got is certainly a fine point of view to take. But that doesn’t mean being content, does it. I wouldn’t think anyone even remotely involved with the Royals was content with what happened in 2014. Even as I sit here miserable, I want nothing more than fire and fury from the Tribe come 2017. I believe it will happen.

The Cubs were the favorite from the start of Spring Training, and it all worked out for them so perfectly. Which is fine, you can be happy for them if you want. But one thing I cannot abide is the Indians getting cast aside, viewed as an upstart who through pluck and scrappiness got to face this juggernaut and naturally fell short. One was at near-full strength. One was on fumes. I want a rematch. I also mentioned this in a previous piece, but I cannot get over how the Cubs got that veneer of lovability from the media and the country at large. Everything about them screamed Bad Movie Bad Guy team, like Iceland in the Mighty Ducks 2, or the Dallas Felons in BASEketball. Prettier, richer, more powerful, able to overwhelm their lesser opponents. By nearly any narrative the Indians should have been the sentimental favorite. If not for that damn baby bear. I am very happy for my Chicago friends who have a monkey off their back. But if I could, I’d trade my misery for theirs in a heartbeat.

Baseball teaches patience, and delaying gratification. Next year will be here before we even have a chance to blink and it will all begin again. And the team is very good, probably better than it was this year if the right moves are made. And Tyler Naquin learns how to be a center fielder, of course. Game Six will not stop gutting me, that’s for sure. There's hope in Cleveland though, and as we spin toward the new year, that’s all you can want. Maybe shedding a tear or two should be allowed. But it should be happiness, not sorrow, that fuels those tears. The Indians have a shot at glory, and a chance to bring joy to their fanbase. Let’s see what a new year brings.