CLEVELAND -- As a Cleveland Indians fan for about 30 years, I've learned to master the art of crushing disappointment. I always joke that it's not a matter of "if" the Indians will let you down, just a matter of when, and just how heartbreaking it will be this time. So while I'm thrilled to see the Tribe in the heat of a pennant race, I'm cautiously optimistic about their postseason chances. I think a lot of other fans may feel the same way, and it could explain the reluctance to pack Progressive Field on a nightly basis.
So when Chris Perez gave up two ninth-inning home runs last night to Dayan Viciedo and Alejandro De Aza, making a 3-2 Indians lead a 4-3 deficit, I immediately thought "Here we go." You suddenly had a vision of just how the wheels were going to fall off this time. I was at the game and fans were booing and jeering Perez. My friend and I just sat quietly in our seats, feeling sick and wondering how another season could come crashing down yet again.
Then something amazing happened. I don't even think amazing is a strong enough adjective to describe what took place at Progressive Field, because it was one of the greatest moments I've ever witnessed in person (and I attended the "bug game" in the 2007 Division Series against the Yankees). Michael Brantley, who was a hero in his own right in the game, was on second base with two outs. Matt Carson, the owner of the walk-off hit last Thursday against the Astros, was due at the plate. We saw Jason Giambi on deck, and had to admit that while we liked the odds of a red-hot Carson (he's hitting .700 since he was brought up a few weeks ago from Columbus for an ailing Ryan Raburn), Giambi has already played hero several times this season. You secretly hope that Giambi can do something, but how often will a 42-year-old hitting .177 really be able to play hero?
We now know that he had at least one more in the tank. This was a game that went from a nail-biter, to disappointing as the White Sox pulled ahead 2-1, to euphoric as Brantley homered to tie the game and Jason Kipnis singled to make it 3-2. After the Perez collapse it went to nauseating, and then beyond euphoric when Giambi hit the home run. After Perez was pulled from the game in the top of the ninth, I saw fans streaming for the exits. This game was the textbook reason of why you should never, ever do that. I know a lot of overly pessimistic Indians fans, and it's not that they don't love the team or don't want to see them succeed, but after you've had your heart broken so many times, how much more can your brain and heart take? If you don't get attached, if you keep them at a distance, then you'll be able to better handle the ensuing disappointment.
About two weeks ago, I agonized over whether or not to purchase potential Indians playoff tickets. I was afraid of jinxing them, and I was also trying to minimize later pain. I still have a PDF of 2007 Indians World Series tickets sitting on the desktop of my old computer. It's been six years and I still haven't had the heart to delete the file. Did I want a full strip of potential unused playoff tickets sitting around my house staring at me all winter? In the end, we decided to purchase the tickets. Because even though there's often disappointment as an Indians fan, there are also moments like last night that makes it all totally worth it. No matter what, you have to dream big.
Stephanie Liscio writes about the Indians at the It's Pronounced "Lajaway" blog.