Red Right 88

Cleveland sports fan and sports writer

Location: Cleveland, Ohio, United States

quit my job decided to drive west

Sunday, June 14, 2009

Tempting fate

So the last two weeks I haven't watched much ESPN. You never know when they might start talking about an NBA final that I have no interest in. I have been getting my baseball news from MLB network.

Baseball is such a long season, it seems a little redundant to write something about every game. If the Indians are to climb out of it and get into a division pennant chase, it will be a slow build.

Tonight I went to the game at the Jake. It was my first night game of the season although the home opener did end around midnight. My last three games were all noon weekday starts and because of that there was no batting practice.

I have soft spot for batting practice. Watching towering shots. Watching kids scatter after them. The constant crack of the bat. The sense that anything can happen tonight.

When I was a kid, the Indians never had any chance of making the playoffs. But for any one game anything could happen. The Tribe could win. Someone could hit three or even four home runs. A triple play was possible, an inside the park home run or even a no hitter.

At every game I have ever attended, I have been aware there was a no hitter going until it wasn't. Sometimes the dream ended after just one pitch. But the dream was always there.

The Indians last no-hitter of course was a perfect game from Lenny Barker in May 1981. Unlike the 100,000 Clevelanders who claim to have attended the game, I missed it. In fact I didn't even watch the game. Even since I was a young child I have listened to or watched 98 percent of all Indians game I have been in town for. But I missed the perfect game because my mother and my sister wanted to watch the Gilligan Island reunion movie. I know the Globetrotters were in the movie and I will never forget when the bottom line scroll typed out -- Cleveland Indians pitcher Len Barker has just pitched a perfect game. I screamed. Even at eight year old, I knew my life would be defined by what I missed.

Now I have seen in person a no hitter. Well I watched most of it. In high school I worked as a vendor at Cleveland Stadium. And one game I noticed early what was happening and it was a slow business day so I quit early and found a seat. So I witnessed Dave Stieb of the Toronto Blue Jays finish off his no hitter against the Tribe.

But I have always yearned for one for the good guys.

The start of the game was right out of a Hitchcock movie. Dude those gulls are scary. I watched seats to my right, to my left and right in front of me all accept bird protein. I have never in my life wanted the National Anthem to start and finish. I needed a firework and fast. Those birds were fearless before the game. You had to keep a hand on your beer at all times. I get the birds weren't on the field yet but the Indians need to protect the fans before the game as well.

And then the game started. I had a feeling before the game but like I said I have had a feeling before every game. But I went to this game specifically because of the pitching match-up. And this time that feeling built and built some more.

My friend asked me if I was aware in third and I told him to shut up. Of course I was aware. Dude, Cliff Lee was dealing. He was getting ahead. He was being efficient. The game flew by and the chance got very real.

I handled myself well. I resisted calling my brother. I stayed calm. One batter at a time. When Choo made that nice catch to end the seventh. I believed it was going to happen.

And then I looked to the giant scoreboard and like always they had some game for some random guy pulled from the stands. This time it was a trivia question. And the woman wearing some kind of 80s costume and wig asked this dude, "Who was the last Indians pitcher to throw a perfect game?"

And my jaw dropped. You could hear guys scattered across the park mumbling, "Whythehellwouldtheytemptfateandaskthatquestionwhentheycouldaskanyotherquestion?"

I asked my buddy if he thought they picked that question at random before the game because it was an 80s weekend. He was frustrated and answered, "Does it matter? Cliff Lee had to hear that?"

And sure enough the next batter leading off the top of the eight was a weak hitting catcher who promptly ripped one down the line for a double.

I have lived here long enough to know the Cleveland Curse is just in my head. But it is also in the head of every Clevelander who pays attention to sports. Why do we feel the need to tempt fate?

Before the NBA finals, Joe Posnanski -- who is a native Clevelander and most likely the best sports columnist alive-- wrote an Sports Illustrated cover story about the Cavs. Now Joe is a great writer but this column was a gimmie. He just wrote what we have all lived. He made our story accessible for everyone else. Now Joe is a true talent but thousands of us could have written that column. And many of us have. But at the end of the story he tempted fate. He did not have to but he did. He acknowledged some people may believe in curses then he asked in his story for this to be on the cover. He has taken some abuse for the aftermath. It has also allowed people from across the country to rag on Clevelanders because some of us were stupid enough to blame Joe.

Well Joe asked for it. Sure there is no curse. But everyone knows if you taunt a curse -real or not-- and your team fails you accept the ribbings of your buddies. My only problem with Joe is I felt like this is a personal thing for us Clevelanders and he talked out of school. Which is his job of course. But when you spit in the wind, you can't get upset when it lands on you. And you certainly don't tell the whole world hey spit landed on me and play the victim.

So did the scoreboard ruin Cliff Lee's no hitter tonight? Of course not. That is completely irrational. Cliff hung a pitch and well compensated professional hitter ripped it.

But for the love of God, QUIT TEMPTING FATE!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

In other words, words are just words. Sticks and bones break bones but words can never hurt you. But at the same time there is no reason to be a dick. There are times to talk and there are times to keep your mouth shut.

In my lifetime that other city now has 10 titles. I have none. The reasons for this are varied and well-documented. But at the same time I can only handle what I can handle. My psyche is fragile. There is no reason ever to taunt fate. Curse or no curse.

But the good news is the Tribe plays again tomorrow and you never know. In the week before Barker's perfect game, Burt Blyleven lost a no hitter late. The beauty of baseball is you never know what might happen that game. There is always a chance for history.