Wednesday, October 31, 2007


Harvey Pekar wrote in one of his “American Splendor” comics about the futility of being a sports fan, especially if your loyalties lie in Cleveland. With his trademark aura of misery, Pekar tells readers not to get emotionally invested in the local’s just not worth the inevitable heartache, he says.

I always thought Pekar was full of shit on this score. If you love your city and you like sports, then naturally you’re going to follow your teams through their various trials and tribulations. Eventually your investment will pay off with a championship celebration.

Ah, but there are times when I wonder if Pekar was right after all…when it’s 2 a.m. mere hours after ALCS Game 7 and I can’t get to sleep and I feel nearly sick with bitterness and anger. When I wonder, “Is this really worth it?”

The last three games of the ALCS were a slow agony compounded by an unnecessary off day. Four days of thinking about baseball intertwined with the unfortunate legacy of Cleveland sports. 96 hours of hoping for the best but knowing in my secret heart to expect the worst.

The real dread didn’t overtake my brain until after Game 5. Even with Beckett on the mound, I thought the Tribe had a good chance if Sabathia matched Beckett punch for punch and it came down to the bullpens.

We all know how that went.

Friday and Saturday I went about my business with the Indians never far from my thoughts. I kept ping-ponging between two opposite polarities: Positive trumpeted, “We can do this!” Negative grumbled, “We’re fucked.”

Neither feeling was in the driver’s seat until Negative took the wheel and stood on the gas pedal after Drew’s grand slam in Game 6. I crashed emotionally when Boston turned the game into a route. Anxiety melted into that old Cleveland chestnut; resignation.

I viewed Game 7 of the ALCS much the same way as I did Game 7 of Cavs-Pistons in ’06. The Cavs couldn’t close it out that year, and neither could the Indians this time. Game 7 in Fenway was a formality, so I thought on Sunday.

Then the Indians went and made the game competitive…only to find a new and fun way to break our hearts. I didn’t even watch the last out (for that matter I didn’t watch more than two innings of the entire World Series), and actually felt OK until I turned on local radio for the post-game.

All that bitterness, anger and frustration from the callers go to me. Kenny Roda, reporting live from Boston, was at his overblown worst. Callers seemed desperate to name the disaster and add it to the sad lexicon of Cleveland sports futility. I couldn’t take anymore and went to bed, but a full hour passed before I drifted off to sleep. During that seemingly eternal 60 minutes I thought about our long legacy of frustration, and wondered what keeps us coming back to our teams when the rug keeps getting pulled out from under us again and again.

Hope keeps me coming back. Many of you who contribute to this blog think I’m overly optimistic about our teams. In truth, I am not. I’m just hopeful…that maybe this time we won’t get the sharp end…that our investment will pay off…and when we get our hearts pierced we’re left in shock despite a sordid history that should have vaccinated us to disappointment.

Call it the “Charlie Brown Theory.” Stephen King (an avid Red Sox fan) illustrates this theory well in his short story “The End of The Whole Mess.” The story is narrated by Howard Fornoy, whose genius younger brother Bobby discovers a chemical that reduces the aggressive tendencies of humans and other organisms.

The world is in chaos…terrorism is rampant and the international climate is one suggestive of approaching nuclear war. Bobby wants Howard's help to release the chemical and save the planet. Howard decides to help his little bro…but not without reservation.

“I think I knew even then that something was going to go totally wrong,” Howard narrates, “but when I was with Bobby for more than five minutes, he just hypnotized me. He was Lucy holding the football and promising me THIS TIME for sure, and I was Charlie Brown, rushing down the field to kick it.”

That’s a pretty damn good analogy for Cleveland sports fans…when our teams make the playoffs we’re blinded by hope (despite knowing better) that our athletic misery will finally end, so we wear our gear and pay big money for tickets and all the other trappings, only to have that bitch Lucy pull away the football at the last second and we’re flat on our ass once again.