To my Cleveland boyfriend who thinks I’m over reacting to President-elect Trump:
Remember that night we watched the Cavs in the Finals? No? Too far back? OK, more recently: remember that last Indians game? You could not believe the day had come (again). You were on the edge of your seat and I sat next to you, anxious by association, honestly excited about your excitement.
First, recognize that your ties to these teams are based solely on your proximate geographic location during one short, albeit formative, decade of your life. Now, instead, try to imagine that you actually are an Indian (as in, the baseball team, not the subcontinent or the misidentified Native American). Or, imagine that you’ve been a Cavalier for your entire career. Which now spans 34 years.
And you’ve spent the last 3 decades being told: “If you just work as hard — OK, just kidding, maybe twice as hard — as the other teams, you can win this!”. So that’s what you have done. Because, in another twist, you can never switch teams — you didn’t choose this one, but you’re a lifer, this is just how it works. So you don’t question it and you keep at it. You excel — by many measures, you advance beyond the other teams — and you do it all in stride: through career moves, relationships, degrees, exams, certificates, scholarships, business trips, always trying to appreciate both the progress and the setbacks. Some people on your team are even managing to raise a baby or three through all this. Many of your teammates are doing it all for far less money than those on the other teams, just to stay in the game. But you keep training.
Then, something big happens. After 34 years — well, 34 years that you’ve been playing, but actually 240 years in real time — one of your own teammates makes it to the finals! He’s older than you, much more seasoned, really knows the ins and outs of the game. Some players mock his voice but you admire his poise, and you envy the ease with which he wears his uniform. He gets paid a boatload like all the other guys, which for some reason confuses them but you’re into it. As with most athletes, you don’t agree with everything he’s done personally but, man, he’s been working at this his whole life, and you cannot deny his credentials and tenacity. You can hardly believe it but you’re finally about to see him win a victory for your team.
They blow the whistle.
And who shows up at the tip-off but… what the F… you squint your eyes…
Is that… is that the FUCKING HARLEM GLOBETROTTERS??
They’re not even in your league!! (Are we even playing basketball in this allegory?) Aren’t they clowns?! Why are they even allowed to compete in this?? Yes, OK, they’re hilarious and crazy coordinated and extremely light on their feet but this can’t be serious, can it?
You’re bewildered because, in an astonishing turn of events, it doesn’t matter how they got on the court. They don’t even have to honestly answer that question — they can pretty much entirely fabricate why it makes sense for them to be there. (You start to wonder why you’ve spent so much time on your resume.) They win over the audience with their magic tricks and soundbites. You’re aghast. Your teammate mastered the game that everyone told him to master, like all the other athletes before him, but now the whole audience is all: “Hell no, wrong game!” (Well maybe not the true majority of the audience, but at least the people in the front row, who matter.)
Some of the most excited hecklers are cheering, “OMG we saw these guys on TV once! We don’t know anything about them but we wanna shake things up and see what happens next!!”. OK, yes, you agree: the game seems to have gotten out of hand but is it merely coincidence that everyone just realized this, as your teammate got possession of the ball? You keep checking your phone and reading messages from other teammates who also can’t believe what’s happening on the court. Your stomach drops.
And, just like that –
Your team loses.
Your teammate is out. He will never get the chance to play in such a high stakes game again. You look around: who else can possibly play next time? Everyone knows that, while the other team is allowed to sub in some guy they just met on the street, your team must, by regulation, draft a “not-too-old, not-too-young, incredibly smart but not even remotely cocky, 110% likable, always smiling, well-dressed but not ostentatious, shiny-eyed with a powdered nose, commanding yet unaggressive M-V-P whose wife has never cheated on him” (don’t ask why that last part matters, it just does).
Off the top of your head, you can think of one or two guys who may fit the bill but actually one of them just cut his hair too short so now no one likes him anymore (remember: “likability” is a prerequisite). Shit — you remember that the other one just started a family and everyone knows that while that’s technically an eligibility requirement, it will also completely take his head out of the game.
So what’s the point when the other team makes up the rules anyway? You’re sick to your stomach and start questioning everything. Have you been kidding yourself all along? Is it even worth it to continue competing?
Well. Yes. Because you look around and notice that the Pee Wee League is also watching (read: learning) in disbelief. They’re your only hope — but they need you as much as you need them. So you get up, exhausted, and drag yourself back on the field.
After all, staying on the sidelines might set your team back decades of training, and that’s exactly how some of your opponents think they can best forge ahead. But you have to appreciate this defeat for what it has made quite clear: The only way to win is to band together with your teammates and change the rules entirely (because, hey, apparently that’s an option!). Your worst opponents had fear in their eyes, and retaliated in the most obscene way, which can only mean one thing: your team was so close. It’s only a matter of time.
And, for real, can we please beat the Indians to a World Series win?