Indians, WWW

While I Was Waiting…for Game 7

Sad Indians Fan
(Credit: AP / David J. Phillip)
Writer’s Note: Faced with the daunting task of writing While We’re Waiting the morning after Game 7, I was overcome with a lot of feelings on Wednesday. As I normally do, I captured my feelings yesterday (and this morning) and put them on paper. Now, I want to share them with you.

Wednesday

8:32 a.m.
I’m still feeling quite grouchy about last night. I hate that we lost. I hate that Aroldis Chapman had something to do with it. I hate feeling like our backs are now against a wall. I hate knowing we have to spend one more night listening to Joe Buck.

It hit me last night that I’m really ready for this World Series to be over. I’ve loved the experience of following my team through tumultuous, exciting postseason, but I’m exhausted. I’m emotional. I’m full of pizza and beer and STRESS. I need a break, an early bedtime and a salad.

But before that, I need one more celebration. I need one more championship parade in our city. I need an all-nighter, high-fiving strangers in the street and smiling, because that’s what you do when you win it all. Can someone pass the coffee—and the positive vibes?

12:36 p.m.
I just finished a very tense lunch with my good friend, anxiety. It seems as though my grouchiness has subsided… and I’m now overcome with nerves.

Throughout the World Series, I’ve had butterflies leading up to every first pitch. You know the kind… the good, antsy-but-excited kind of butterflies. Like you can’t wait for Christmas morning, and you might jump out of your own skin in anticipation before it gets here. Today, I feel like those butterflies have given way to twelve crazed pigeons, frantic and flapping and fighting over a cast-aside French fry. Did I mention those pigeons feel like they’re made of concrete?

I’m trying so hard to be hopeful. We have our ace, Corey Kluber, all weird and loveably stoic, ready to rock. We have a well-rested Andrew Miller, more scraggle than swagger, who cuts the sleeves of his shirts to an awkward length and cuts down batters with nearly unhittable stuff.

This has to be our night. It has to.

1:17 p.m.
Just had a six-minute conversation with a coworker about Chapman’s hideous back-of-the-neck star tattoos. Yep, still hate him.

2:13 p.m.
“I hope the Indians win today, for the sake of your mood,” is an actual thing a coworker just said to me. Awesome.

3:07 p.m.
I’m seven minutes late to a meeting, but I stop in the office kitchen for a quick cup of coffee anyway. I’m trying to mentally prepare myself for this all-nighter. It’s happening.

3:49 p.m.
I’m swapping Game 6 stories with a coworker, whose husband let the expletives fly in front of their two small children after the Naquin-Chisenhall first-inning drop. “I knew in that moment,” she said, “That we were going to lose that game. I knew it. I could feel it.” I can’t say I disagreed.

“This is just so Cleveland,” she said. “We can’t do anything easy. We have to do it the most difficult way possible. It’s Cleveland.” Amen.

4:38 p.m.
Shit. I’m leaving my Hudson office way later than I wanted to, attempting to make my way back to my downtown apartment. I won’t have time to stop and pick up my free Taco Bell, courtesy of Fransico Lindor; traffic awaits.1

4:59 p.m.
My commute home gives me the perfect opportunity to hear Tribe manager Terry Francona’s pregame press conference on the radio. “Terry,” a reporter whose name I don’t catch, “Would you… would you consider this game a must-win?” Terry and the press corps erupt into laughter. He sounds so calm. Light. Like maybe the biggest game of his career isn’t looming three mere hours away. He goes on to tell the media about waking up with peanut butter on his glasses, the result of some infamous late-night snacking, and a dream he had that someone was attempting to break his ribs—only to wake up with TV remote lodged in his rib cage.

Cleveland Indians 2016 AL Central Champs5:25 p.m.
I make it home and immediately dig my “Give Me Cleveland or Give Me Death” T-shirt, via CLE Clothing, out of my hamper. Kind of gross, but sorry not sorry. It was what I was wearing the night of June 19, when the Cavs won the NBA Finals, so it just feels right. We need all the luck we can get.

6:38 p.m.
I make my way on foot across downtown to meet up with friends at Victory Alley, a bar/former strip club that sits on the small side street right behind The Jake’s scoreboard. We have a table staked out and the beers are flowing. We’re ready.

6:46 p.m.
Someone plays “Go Cubs Go” on the bar’s jukebox. Fans start booing, until a “Let’s Go Tribe” chant breaks out, drowning out the offensive sound of our opponent’s fight song, which is immediately replaced by Lil Wayne.

7:15 p.m.
Every time Joe Buck, Bill Murray or any Cubs fan is shown on screen, the entire crowd boos and holds up middle fingers. I take a deep breath. These are my people. Waiting for the first pitch feels like complete agony, so I stress-eat French fries and continue to watch the clock.

7:36 p.m.
The bar continues to fill, a rapidly growing mass of red and blue. Customers’ food orders are being called over the loudspeaker, and it’s not longer before “José, your order is ready,” booms in our ears. The entire bar breaks out into singing “JOSÉ! JOSÉ! JOSÉ! JOSÉ!” There’s still a feeling of angst in the air, but this seems to ease some of the tension. We’re eager. We’re excited. Let’s get this game going!

8:04 p.m.
Just after Game 7’s first pitch, Dexter Fowler unloads a homerun off of Kluber. F. This wasn’t a part of the plan. The crowd in the bar quickly deflates, but rallies immediately. We escape the top of the first with minimal damage—time to get to work.

8:45 p.m.
Carlos Santana rips a single down the line, and Victory Alley erupts. “Let’s Make History” is painted along the wall behind the bar—it’s starting to feel like maybe we will.

9:29 p.m.
A solo shot by second baseman Javier Baez pushes the Cubs further. I’m starting to see it in people’s faces… a combination of doubt and worry.

9:58 P.M.
A passed ball and a stumble by catcher David Ross, and the Tribe takes back two. Victory Alley explodes into celebration again.

10:something
It occurs to me sometime during the 10 o’clock hour that FOX Sports is pretty much only showing the Cubs. The team in the dugout, fans outside Wrigley Field, fans inside our own stadium. It’s like watching the Harlem Globetrotters versus that other team that doesn’t matter. It’s infuriating and it’s frustrating, and my only saving grace is that the bar is so loud, I can’t hear the sound of Joe Buck’s voice. #blessed. Ross eventually homers, and the World Series starts to feel like it’s slipping through our fingers.

11:00 p.m.
Frankie hits into our 354,387,424 ground out of the night, and a girl across the bar wearing Ricky Vaughn glasses starts to cry. I don’t even know her, but I wish I could get to her and give her a hug.

11:07 p.m.
Celebrated domestic abuser Aroldis Chapman takes the mound, and I feel ready to barf. He’s shut us down throughout the series—can we make some magic tonight?

11:14 p.m.

People are in a frenzy, but from our seats we can’t tell why.

We hear the fireworks before it even happens on the bar’s TVs. Brandon “Crazy Eyes” Guyer is on second, and outfielder Rajai Davis is at bat. The cheers start at the end of the bar closest to the street. People are in a frenzy, but from our seats we can’t tell why. The cheer makes it’s way through the crowd slowly, with murmurs of a homerun. Then, we hear the clap of fireworks. The crowd erupts before Chapman has even set and pitched… and then we see it. The shot we were waiting for. A 6-6 game in the bottom of the eighth.

The way that moment felt was worth the whole night. My hands are shaking as I furiously scribble notes, trying to capture the moment and knowing I’ll never be able to do it justice.

11:52 p.m.
The heart of our order fails to capitalize in the bottom of the 9th—and we’re going to extra innings. Commence the concrete pigeons in the pit of my stomach again.

Oh hey, Thursday

12:06 a.m.
Just as quickly as the tarp came out, it’s being taken off the field. Victory Alley blasts Bone Thugs to revive the crowd, and the music fades out as Kyle Schwarber steps in in the top of the 10th.

12:40 a.m.
If you had told me that all of our hopes and dreams would eventually rest on Michael Martinez’s shoulders, I would have laughed in your face. We gave up two excruciating runs in the top of the 10th, and two quick outs have brought us here.

12:54 a.m.
That’s all she wrote, and the completely packed bar empties in mere minutes. That spark in the air is gone. The magic is over. The Cubs are celebrating in our stadium.

Having already made plans to walk home with a friend who was at the game, I’m waiting in the bar. I refuse to watch the Cubs celebrate, so I keep my head down and wait. I can’t look up.

Cleveland Indians 2016 AL Champs

1:30 a.m.


If the way you feel the morning after losing Game 7 were weather, it would be today’s.

We make the trek across downtown in mostly silence. I’m fighting tears and still trying to take it all in. We hosted one of the most epic World Series in modern baseball—and we came up just short. I remember dreaming about this night in June, just after the Cavs had won. It felt like if ever there was a year, this was ours. Turns out, even if we came this close, it was someone else’s turn to celebrate.

“Hey Cleveland!” I hear a man call out as we make our way down West 9th Street. “Keep your chin up! We were great.”

6:31 a.m.
No joke, I dreamt we were heading into Game 6. When my alarm clangs suddenly to life, it takes my brain a solid 10 seconds to distinguish between what I dreamt and the reality that we lost. And, after finally getting to bed around 2:00 a.m.., I don’t think I’ve ever wanted to stay under the covers more than I do right now.

7:08 a.m.
If the way you feel the morning after losing Game 7 were weather, it would be today’s. All storm clouds and rain and dark skies. A long shower and a hot cup of coffee and I’m ready to face the day—and the disappointment I’m still feeling. I sit down to write, and it’s not long before tears are in my eyes.

8:30 a.m.
As I drive by The Jake on my way out of downtown, the stadium is all lit up. I feel an instant pang of disappointment, but a little hope start to creep back in. I’m so proud of our team, and I’m so proud of their fight. We’ll have almost everyone back next year—and we’ll be ready.

We’ll leave the lights on too, Tribe. See you next year.

  1. Editor’s note: I totally forgot about this. Dammit. []

  • Jeremy Humbert

    Thanks Jessica. Truly a gut punch last night, but as my friends keep telling this Cleveland fan in OKC, there is always next year. Go TRIBE!

  • Chris

    I’m going to go all non-sports here for a minute. 2016 has been incredible for this town, everyone here, and everyone elsewhere who used to be here. As the token-Clevelander in my college group of friends (Indiana and Chicago folks mostly), I have seen my town and my teams (and to a lesser extend, my state) be the butt of every joke. We all know the bad rap Cleveland has received for at least the last 20 years, so I don’t need to rehash any of that. It deeply bothered me when I’d get the whole “Haha man, Cleveland sucks dude, can’t believe you’re from there” bullcrap. I’d respond “Sorry to hear that, what didn’t you like about it?” knowing full-well they’ve never even seen Lake Erie before. Invitation after invitation to visit was denied… not worth their time to make a trip, I guess. Maybe I just have boring friends… but I digress.

    2016 changed that. Sports and politics have broadcast Cleveland to the world, and man did we put on a hell of a show. The country has been treated to two unbelievable 7-game series this year. The RNC and these two playoff runs have brought in a mass amount of people, many of whom otherwise would never have set foot in this town. And further, many of these people were the big-city elitist snobs (media, politicians, Red Sox fans, etc) that looked at Cleveland as a cess-pool of foreclosures, pollution, and decrepit industry. They’re the ones that drove those tiring, repetitive, and lazy story lines for decades. And it’s all over**

    Most importantly, I’ve already seen this make a real tangible difference for the city. I can get friends in town now (granted… I’m the A-hole bringing in swarms of visiting fans). I have a young tradition with a Ravens fan… he visited on Ravens/Browns weekend for a third straight year. A Tigers friend made a trip for a weekend series. Two Cubs fans shelled out big bucks for Game 1. Friends-of-friends in media and on political staffs spent two weeks here for RNC. Hell, I’ve met at least 4 couples this year that took long weekends and visited Cleveland for no other reason than to check it out… you read that correctly… I have NEVER seen that… EVER! And almost universally, they loved our stadiums. They loved our restaurants. They loved our architecture. They loved Lake Erie. They loved Cleveland.

    I’m incredibly thankful for 2016. I’m proud to be from Cleveland. We all should be.

    **Reduced, but not gone. But more importantly, 2016 has freed Clevelanders from their crippling insecurities. Now when I hear this garbage, I’m much more comfortable saying “Piss off! I love it here!”. I’m also comfortable saying that I liked Pittsburgh and would recommend a trip to anyone.

  • I’m struggling mightily to figure out my feelings today. When I finally went to sleep, it was with a sense of frustration–both with the outcome and with the “Yay Cubs!” reactions across my social media from folks I’d never once seen or heard mention liking baseball, let alone the Cubs. I get the “lovable loser” thing, and their drought had become a go-to reference for frustration and futility, but I still found it annoying. Woke up feeling better than expected, and heard/read a few stories that made me genuinely happy for Cubs fans, especially with my own joy from the Cavs’ title being so fresh: I can understand and appreciate what those folks are feeling. But I also find myself periodically wanting to just lash out, vent, yell, throw stuff…just a deep angst simmering on the back burner. To be THAT close, AGAIN. Extra innings, AGAIN. It doesn’t feel like ’97 did, because back then it seemed like we’d never win ANYTHING (seriously, how did that team not get out of the 90’s with even one title?), and the Cavs’ success makes it feel less like the universe hates us. And this is a team that, from all appearances, seems to be on the rise, with so many key pieces locked up. But then I get depressed thinking about how there are no guarantees of getting another shot anytime soon, not in a sport where money is so damn central to the plot. So I’m all over the board, while doing my best to just repress all the good and bad and get through the work day. Thankfully, there’s only a few hours to go.

  • BenRM
  • BenRM

    This is how I feel. But I recognize it was a great year for the Indians and for Cleveland generally.

  • mgbode

    Great stuff – both in this post and the comments thus far. Such a season…

  • Julie Clark Robinson

    Loved the recap Jessica. Every single gut punch. Those pigeons must die!

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