Waking Up from the Tribe’s Game 5 Loss

There are days that are very difficult for sports fans, and while I’m a Cleveland fan by birth (and therefore should be pretty well acclimated to disappointment), little prepared me for Wednesday night.

The heartbreak hangover from the season-ending Game 5 loss by the Indians to the damned New York Yankees in the American League Division Series left me emotionally drained in the hours following the game and in a haze for much of the day Thursday. I fell just short of hanging some sort of a sign on myself during the work day Thursday indicating my complete and utter lack of interest in discussing anything baseball related.

Of course, in just a few short seconds after arriving to work (starting my day with my customary Thursday morning meeting), the conversation was immediately on the Tribe – not by my choosing. Short and succinct answers came out of my mouth as I listened to the other person that I was talking to proclaim that his support went to the Yankees for the rest of the playoffs, which was a statement that left my brain just short of oozing out of every orifice above my neck.

This is what my life had become.

A 12-plus hour work day later, there I was again, trying to momentarily escape baseball, knowing full well that I did not have it in me to write anything supportive for the loyal readers of Did The Tribe Win Last Night because I did not have the words in me to ease the disappointment. Yet still, I found myself sucked right back into the abyss. Spending time with friends after work while in need of a distraction, many gave me similarly brief expressions of confusion and dismay regarding the events of 24 hours earlier, hoping that the chief baseball fan of the bunch would have answers for what transpired. I, of course, lacked an explanation. Half of the TVs at that local watering hole were playing the Thursday night NFL matchup between the Philadelphia Eagles and the Carolina Panthers; of course, the remaining TVs had on Game 5 of the National League Division Series between the Chicago Cubs and the Washington Nationals.

I tried not to watch. But it was baseball. And so I did, at least, periodically. I checked in on the final few innings, each time feeling a bit of a gut punch as a reminder that my Friday off, one that had been set aside for Game 1 of the ALCS from Progressive Field, was instead going to be spent trying to dodge any baseball reminders to ease the pain in my head. Watching the Cubs celebrate, knowing that they had kept alive their hopes of defending their title as champs, did not help that fog lift from my brain.

It’s going to be a rough few weeks.

Being a bit of a social media junkie (although not nearly at the levels that once found me deeply engaged in online ridiculousness until the witching hour), I saw plenty of strong, emotionally-charged comments on Twitter and Facebook in the minutes and hours following the Indians’ choke job failure to live up to their billing as the top seeded club in the American League (and a favorite by more than a handful of national pundits to contend and/or win the World Series). One friend told me that he was done with the Indians, that he just could not take the heartache any more. Many shared that this loss was more painful than the title bout last November 2nd.

That notion felt to me to be just a guttural reaction to the unexpected shock of the situation. Few expected such a lackluster display from the Tribe. And plenty of those people recanted on their opinions, after the tears had dried up and the aches in their chests had subsided.

The 2016 Cleveland Indians were never supposed to make it as far as they did. A team riddled with injuries to key members of the starting rotation should not have been able to waltz through the American League bracket and take the Cubs to seven games, let alone hold a 3-1 lead four games into the thing. That loss hurt, because the team finished just short of fulfilling improbable championship dreams, and Clevelanders had just gotten that first title taste in 52 years (thank you, Cavs) and were hungry for seconds.

As for the 2017 Indians, the ALDS Game 5 loss hurt horribly, but in a different sort of way. The team was still nine wins short of a championship, but the Tribe was a better team than the one that showed up over the last week. The rotation was healthier (although that can be questioned some now, at least in regards to the Tribe’s ace). The lineup was different than a year ago, but presumably stronger. Nearly every member of the team had the postseason experiences of last year to help calm the nerves of chasing down the pennant and the Commissioner’s Trophy.

To lose in five games, in the first round of the playoffs, did not hurt the same way as losing on the doorstep to history in the final game of the World Series with a chance to put to bed a 68-year long nightmare. This loss Wednesday had pain, sure, but it packed a good deal of disappointment and embarrassment that varied greatly from that World Series defeat.

Regardless, both outcomes hurt and the despair of the Cleveland fan lives on to haunt the city once again. Last season, the Indians were playing with house money. No one expected them to reach the heights that they achieved and as the overlooked underdog, they nearly took the pot. This season, the stage somehow appeared too big as the team buckled under the pressure, unable to recreate the emotional surge of Game 2’s win to get the one final win it needed.

This is not intended to be the postmortem of the Tribe’s season. This is not the epitaph for 2017. Those will come in the days that follow, as will the usual offseason coverage. We will once again look back on the year that was, look forward to the years to come, and reflect on yesteryear. The show, as they say, must go on, just as The Show continues despite its noticeable absence of the Indians.

The 2017 season provided fans with a great ride, but it was one that ended tragically too soon.

Photo: Jason Miller/Getty Images

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This Post Has One Comment

  1. Boy those first few paragraphs were a snapshot of my feelings too. I can’t watch tonight’s Yankees-Astros game because it will be filled with details and video clips from the Cleveland series, and Cleveland fans are used to teams that are underdogs, This team wasn’t and if felt odd because the familiar defenses weren’t there. People DID expect victory. The team IS better. But the Yankees put it to the Tribe. And the Yankees, don’t forget, are going to get even better as those young guys get more experience. They will be the American League team to beat next year and beyond So that’s not awful: The Indians can be underdogs for years to come.

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