Obviously, this post is not about chess and it is much more heartfelt than a typical Campfire Chess post. Before chess was such an important part of my life, there was the Cleveland Indians and Major League Baseball, yes…in that order. As a longtime fan of the Tribe, I have lived on the razor’s edge with countless other fans watching a team move to the brink of victory only to watch that achievement slip away in the final moments. It happened in the 1997 World Series when the Indians lost to the Florida Marlins in an 11 inning Game 7, much like what happened last week in Game 7 of the 2016 World Series against the Chicago Cubs. Suffice to say that when the final out was recorded at Progressive Field on November 2nd, yours truly immediately switched off the television and sunk into a deep depression. Really? you might ask? Yes, my answer is yes…a depression.
A Deep Passion, a Passionate Love
Sports fans are generally maligned by much of society because sports are often seen as a waste of time, but there is much to be gained from cheering for a team or a sport that speaks to the essence of your being. Baseball has always spoken to me because there is a beautiful perfection in its obsession with numbers, stats, measurements, and finesse. What might seem slow and boring to some people is very powerful for me and for the many fans of the game I have met throughout the years. Just as it is with chess, it is the elegance and intricacies of the game that open up the true beauty and meaning for those of us who have committed our hearts to it. I committed my heart to the scruffy Tribe in their home on Lake Eerie many years ago and have endured countless heartbreaks, but nothing has come close to what I experienced on that November 2nd night when the Chicago Cubs celebrated their first World Series victory in 108 years on the grass at our home, Progressive Field.
Anyone who has experienced a relationship loss or gone through hard times with a loved one knows that people react differently to these kinds of situations. Some people are able to cope with them much more effectively than others. Some shut down, and others never fully recover. For me, losing Game 7 was like having a close lover break some of the worst news imaginable to me, which caused me to shut down. I removed many of the baseball feeds from my Twitter and Facebook accounts while also limiting the news I read related to baseball in general. I was not angry with the Tribe, just incredibly disappointed. Yet, that feeling of disappointment was only part of the more complex picture. What did the Indians have to be ashamed of in this World Series? Absolutely nothing! Game 7 was one of the most incredible baseball games I have ever witnessed and it seems that both Indians and Cubs fans agree. After a day or so I realized that what I was dealing with is much like what happens when someone close to us hurts us and we are unsure of how to deal with it. I realized that my love for the Indians was as strong as ever, but they had hurt me and it would take time to recover, but I would recover. Both of us would recover.
Little Kisses from God
My wife taught me a phrase a few years ago: little kisses from God. It’s when things are going badly, but God puts people or situations into our lives that help to reinvigorate us or to remind us that he is still there. A day after the World Series ended, I received my Indians 2016 American League Championship t-shirt in the mail; that felt like a punch in the gut. Yet, a few days later I started receiving other memorabilia I ordered from the MLB Shop including a mixture of items with the World Series and American League Championship emblems on them. None of these spoke to me as much as my limited edition ALCS Championship photograph with a piece of a ball used in Game 1 at Progressive Field. I realized when that photo arrived that God was using these things to show me that there is much good in what happened despite the hurt.
“Losing can be tough, but if I told you on February 12, 2016 that we would be playing Game 7 of the World Series at Progressive Field here in Cleveland, you would not have believed me.” – Tom Hamilton (Indians radio announcer)
The recovery process is ongoing and this entry is a big part of that recovery process. But, Spring Training is right around the corner and a rested Indians team will arrive ready to try again. The triumphs, pain, and sorrows of 2016 will be replaced with the blank scorecards of 2017 as all 30 MLB teams begin the quest to fulfill their dreams of being on the world’s biggest stage. I congratulate the Chicago Cubs, who had a lifelong devoted fan in my wife’s grandmother. Both teams fought incredibly hard and no loss or victory was unearned. There will be complete healing eventually, but this is the kind of heartbreak that leaves a scar. I only pray that it is a scar that allows me to cultivate gratitude for the good things that have happened and will happen in the future.