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.