At a Halloween shindig back on the night of October 29th, I committed the party foul of spending way too much of the night in front of a TV. A few of the other guests were doing the same, though. It was an understandable transgression. The Indians were in the process of going up 3-1 in the World Series over the Cubs. Jason Kipnis launched a three-run homer into the Wrigley Field stands and we pumped our fists and exalted.
That feeling, coasting to a win in Game 4, might have been the height of the elation. It might have been too much. A couple of the other guests watching shared the sentiment that they kind of didn't want the Indians to win Game 5 just so that they could come home and clinch the championship here in Cleveland. No, no, no, no, I thought. There's no room for hubris. The job wasn't done. Don't say those things.
Two losses later and Game 7 loomed, a reminder that nothing's ever guaranteed. I didn't go to any big watch parties for this one. I didn't drive downtown just to soak in the ambiance of a possible Indians championship like I thought I might. No, life had reared its head up just ahead of the climax, as it is often to do. One of my best friends had some sudden and drastic personal unrest. Another reminder that the arcs in our life are never full of only one emotion.
That friend joined my father and me for a low key viewing of Game 7. The game itself did not disappoint, if the aim was pure excitement. My mind went through the roller coaster of acceptance (when the Cubs got to a healthy lead early) to hopeful ecstasy (thanks to Rajai Davis) and then finally, the numbness of barely losing, with an added dose of uneasy suspense thanks to a late rain delay. My buddy left and I wasn't certain whether the back-and-forth game had added weight onto his mind or had offered him a needed escape for a few hours.
It was a weird mentality for me as I tried to go to sleep that night. We had just lost in extra innings, but I don't remember it being the same feeling as I had in 1997. That year's loss was debilitating. This year, I didn't have any disappointment or anger. There wasn't any spite or malice. Just that sort of malaise that the mind enters when nothing actually bad happens, but the best possible thing slips through the fingers, too.
Time heals. In a few days, the numbness was gone. I maintain that, even though they came up short in the World Series, the Indians still had one of the best seasons I've ever seen as a fan. They took huge strides forward, looked like they genuinely had fun with each other, and represented the city well. This last season was a reminder that when your favorite team looks like they want to be there, you want to be there, too. I've tried to be my best self, as well. Tried to be a friend that my friends could depend on in hard times. Perspective, I think they call it. It's important to keep that, as a sports fan.
2016 has been a tense year on a lot of fronts. A lot of dying legends, a lot of political fighting, a lot of personal strife. Even in a year where the Browns are moping along on the bottom of the barrel, Cleveland sports have had a great showing.
The Indians don't look to be losing that fun edge. Terry Francona will be back at the helm come 2017, and the dynamic doesn't look like it'll take a hit, even if guys like Mike Napoli and Rajai Davis can't be re-signed. The pitching returns in force, fielders like Francisco Lindor and Jose Ramirez will be working to improve already promising young careers, and hey, Michael Brantley might be ready to play.
For a lot of reasons, I'm ready for the calendar to turn to 2017. In sports, as in life, no feeling lasts forever. That's why I try never to take these things for granted. The Indians are great right now. I want that to last. It may, or it may not.