Despite loss, Cleveland in a good place

Despite loss, Cleveland in a good place

Two games, 19 years apart.

Different opponent. Different players.

Same ending. Same bitter disappointment.

When the Indians lost, 8-7, to the Cubs in Game 7, so much was different.

And so much was the same.

Last time, the Indians held a 2-1 lead over the then-Florida Marlins going to the ninth inning.

They didn’t hold it, and lost in extra innings.

As a junior in high school, I was borderline obsessed with the ’97 team. And because I was in high school and my only real responsibilities were keeping my grades respectable (OK, passable), it was easy to focus, analyze and just think about the Indians.

So when the Marlins rallied to win that World Series, it was crushing for me, and most baseball fans in Cleveland.

This time, the circumstances are different.

In 1997 the Indians were, for all practical purposes, the only game in town. The Browns had moved to Baltimore two years earlier. The Cavs, under coach Mike Fratello, were decent. But any team with Shawn Kemp as its leader wasn’t going past the first round.

By 1997, Cleveland’s major sports drought had stretched to 33 years. The Indians had been one of the American League’s best for four seasons. But they already had lost a World Series two years earlier, and the Yankees were simultaneously building a dynasty.

When Edgar Renteria’s RBI single hit the center field grass in Miami, even the most positive Indians fans had to wonder if the team would ever get that close again.

It turns out, the Indians did. Almost two decades later.

Cleveland’s sports scene is much different now.

The Cavaliers are NBA champions. The Browns are playing some substandard version of pro football, but at least they’re playing.

There’s more going on than just the Indians.

Other things are different, too. In ’97, the Indians sold out every home game. This year, they had the third-worst attendance in baseball. In ’97, the Tribe lost to the Marlins, whose local fan base was apathetic at best. This year, the team lost to a most deserving team with rabid, international and loyal support.

But the loss still stings.

Maybe it’s because the Indians led the series 3 games to 1. Maybe it’s because Rajai Davis’ stunning home run should have been one of the most wonderful moments in Cleveland sports history, a catalyst to a championship. Instead it merely prolonged the inevitable.

Maybe it hurts because they lost to the Cubs –the Cubs! — ensuring the deciding plays will live on and be narrated by Bill Murray.

Or maybe it’s because, no matter how much winning your teams do, you always want more.

I wish the Indians had won. I wish my mom — who watched the Indians play everyone from Tony Horton to Charlie Spikes to Rich Yett to Billy Traber to Lonnie Chisenhall over the years — could finally be rewarded for her loyalty.

I wish Cleveland could have celebrated two titles in less than four months, an exclamation point that the loser label days are over.

But instead, we’ll continue to wait.

And like 1997, the sting, and the disappointment, remains.