Wednesday, March 10, 2010

Why I Will Never Forgive CJ; How One Man Single Handedly Doomed a Baseball Franchise

They say to forgive is divine.  Piss on that, says I.

Back in the fall of 1997, the Indians and the Florida Marlins were locked in an epic, seven-game struggle for baseball dominance.  The Tribe had beaten the highly favored New York Yankees in the division series, and then, against all odds, took out the powerhouse Baltimore Orioles to win the pennant.

Over in the National League, the wild card Florida Marlins emerged triumphant.  The stage was set for the battle of underdogs.  After spending two playoff rounds developing bleeding ulcers, I was bracing for a full fledged gastrointestinal rupture. 

On the mound for the Indians was rookie-hero Jaret Wright, who throughout the playoffs had been asserting himself as a budding superstar by mowing down opponents in increasingly high pressure games.  Now his number was being called in game seven of the World Series.  Florida countered with Al Leiter, touched in his last start for seven runs.  By all appearances, the Tribe was poised to end Cleveland's then 35-year championship drought.  I was confident, yes, but cautiously so.  I knew the steep price a Cleveland fan pays for hubris. 

I had planned on watching game seven alone and in the comfort of my own home.  I bought a 14 ounce strip steak, to be seasoned, grilled and devoured in the event of a victory.  I had enough beer to drink myself back into the Stone Age in case they lost.

The phone rang about an hour before game time.  My buddy Brad invited me over to watch with him; beer was in plentiful supply and he would even grill the steak for me.  I wasn't sure.  As a registered atheist, I'm not prone to superstition.  When it comes to sports, however, I'm as superstitious as they come.  I live in fear of the sports gods.  The Tribe had been doing quite well with me watching from my sofa.  Why upset things?

Brad persisted and, finally, lured by good company and a big TV, I conceded.  Good move.  Things were going great on this October night.  The Indians had built a modest two-nothing lead.  Wright was in top form; the Marlins couldn't touch him.  On the whole, the Tribe was playing good, crisp, efficient ball.  As the game progressed, it looked more and more as though I would finally be able to remove the jagged bit of metal that Cleveland sports had been twisting beneath my ribcage for 22 years.

Then doom came knocking at the door.

In popped our mutual friend, and native Chicagoan, CJ, and at once I could see a sort of bad luck, shit-colored aura of defeat surrounding him.   Brad, in spite of my protestations, let him in.  Two seconds after the door shut, Bobby Bonilla launched a home run off Wright.  The Marlins had cut the lead in half, but I knew what the score was.

When Jose Mesa started throwing 55 foot curveballs in the 9th inning in his hopelessly jinxed attempt to save the game, I looked at CJ, the countanance of Belial smeared across his face.  In a panic, I demanded that he leave at once.  Threats followed but I was paralyzed by delirium.  Old CJ just smirked as he scooped gobs of French onion dip with his finger.  "They're gonna lose," he casually announced, and, oh, I can smell them still, words carried upon a noxious vapor--onion and sulfur, burning, burning.  My nasal hairs curled.  A thousand worm-ridden carcasses would have been like nutmeg and cinnamon next to this unholiness.

The Marlins tied the game, but the gods were too cruel to end it there.  They twisted the metal, let the agony endure for eleven innings, until old stalwart Charlie Nagy was called on to keep the score even.  Tony Fernandez booted a routine grounder.  By the time Edgar Renteria singled and Craig Counsell crossed home plate with his fists raised in victory, I was on the floor, reduced to a tears and contemplating the most torturous murder I could devise for my "friend."  His arrival had upset the scales, and the gods, watching from celestial box seats, were angry.

And not just angry--vengeful.  Jaret Wright, future hall of famer, saw his mighty arm reduced to overcooked rotini.  Dick Jacobs sold the team and died.  The Indians have not made the World Series since, and now find themselves sinking into the festering, putrid bog that is Dolan ownership.  The highlight in 13 subsequent years?  A 2007 ALCS meltdown against the Red Sox after building a 3-1 lead.  When does it end?

It ends now.  Are you listening, CJ?  I place the blame for all of this squarely on you.  That's right.  I love you, but I will never forgive you, and I'm not putting up with your goddam hex anymore.  That's why, tonight, I'm going to burn your image in effigy.  I offer this up to the sports gods, in the small hope that our teams may be freed of your pox.

nwb

4 comments:

C.J. said...

Oh, Nate... rather than redeem yourself with the sports gods, I think you may have reached a new low in utter desperation of hoping for anything good to happen sport-wise to Cleveland during the days of summer and fall. I mean, does getting off the Forbes list of worst cities really mean that much to you?! I thought you were above all that...

Ahhhh, game seven. I remember it well. Just perhaps not as well as you. You see, regardless of how much pain you feel, you will never understand what a 100-year drought feels like... unless medicine can turn you into a living miracle. Based on the agony you feel over sports, however, I'm just hoping you make it to see another Indians ALCS or, for that matter, the Cavs in the finals.

I find it petty that you find this sports coincidence and others more than just that. Lest I remind you that Herr Huffman was present for this and others as well, yet you have nothing but good things to say about him. "Good company," you say. BAH! The last time I checked, the devil was the sexiest, most inviting, and least pronounced person in the room. Sounds like a big screen TV, schnitzel and some french onion dip to me!

Get a grip, man!

Need the man with the shit-faced grin, who was obviously rooting for the underdog and not-so-secretly rooting for a train wreck, really need to explain such simplicity to you?

OF COURSE, the Indians loss had NOTHING to do with Jose Mesa, who had resembled Mitch Williams for the entire season. Bah! Pure coincidence, you say.

Question: What's the easiest pitch to hit?

Answer: A hanging curve ball. Thanks!

Coincidences are billy goats and Bartmans, not friends rooting for train wrecks. (Muahhhhahahahaha!)

Do you think that I enjoy knowing that you and I will probably never see a meaningful sports game in the same room ever again? Christ Allemaechtige, Mensch! You're so bad right now that if I were to offer you series tickets to game seven Indians vs. Cubs at Wrigley, you'd turn 'em down, just because they were my tickets!

"Oh, the humanity!"

If my jinx is so bad, what the hell are you doing living in Chicago's backyard?! Don't you know my jinx spans the Midwest?!

Oh, brother... I think we need to get you on some pills and take away the sharp objects before opening day.

I pray for Alex that she or, worse yet, your future children are never coincidentally somewhere when something awful happens to one of your sports teams. I fear for your next new low.

"Akron-born man ostracizes his family after their mere presence jinxes Cavaliers and Indians championship hopes in the same year."

But just in case, though, I think I'll Google alert your name just in case I need to grab Huffman and a straight-jacket and perform an intervention.

I love you, Nate. I hope one day that you will be able to forgive me for being a part of... coincidences.

Kid Shay said...

I can feel how painful this must have been to recount.

McBone said...

Siege, believe it or not, this is only the SECOND longest reply to one of my posts. I love it. The pills sound good!

Josh, I live with this memory every day. Seriously.

nwb

C.J. said...

I'm happy to hear that you think of me each and every day, Nate. Let me pause to wipe those tears from my eyes. I am touched.

I'm glad to hear that you might also be considering Mr. Huffman as the crux of the Ohio jinx. (You didn't *say* that but I'm reading between the lines there... about you loving it, that is.)

Of course, I am certain that my suggestion of you coming up for the 4th of July series against the Reds has nothing to do with why you haven't responded to my e-mail yet or, for that matter, is the impetus for this enraged article. Nope, not at all.

"I guarantee!" (Justin Wilson- RIP)