In the next 36 hours, one of two things are going to happen. Either the Cleveland Indians are going to win a World Series, or the Chicago Cubs are. I am aware that this is not necessarily news to you: Someone was going to win this Series eventually, after all. But now that the series has returned to Cleveland, reality is starting to set in. This is really going down. Millions of people's lives are about to change. It might happen Tuesday night. It might happen on Wednesday. But it's going to happen.
The Chicago Cubs have been the focus of this series for much of the nation, and it's not just because Bill Murray, Vince Vaughn and Eddie Vedder have more star power than Drew Carey. But we have spent too much time on them already, and besides, they still have to win another game before we have to start truly wrestling with the ramifications of a Cubs championship. Let's talk about Cleveland.
Obviously, until four months ago, the city of Cleveland had not won a championship since 1964. But here's something you might not have realized about that 1964 championship, which the Cleveland Browns won by defeating the Baltimore Colts 27-0: They won it in Cleveland.
Yep, in the pre-Super Bowl days, NFL championship games were played at home stadiums, and the 1964 game was played at Cleveland Municipal Stadium. Check out this footage.
A few notes on that video:
• I know that in the '60s, there as a very different understanding of the value of crowd control and providing a zone of safety for the players on the field than there is today, but still: It will never not blow my mind that players would score touchdowns and then be attacked with atta-boys and back slaps by men wearing fedoras and smoking pipes in the endzone.
• That is as low-key as I can imagine any championship game ever being. It barely looks like they even mowed the grass.
• Afterward, the fans stormed onto the field -- the ones who weren't already on it, anyway -- to tear down the goal post and carry it off the field, like it was your local high school beating its rival on Homecoming.
And, perhaps most noteworthy about that game: It wasn't even on television in the Cleveland area. The NFL had a blackout rule at the time that no matter what, even if it was the NFL Championship Game, no games could be shown within 75 miles of the stadium. Which meant you were listening to the game on the radio and waiting for everybody to stream out of the stadium so you could all go crazy. But you could go crazy. Because Cleveland had just won a championship in Cleveland.
For all the joy that LeBron James and the Cavaliers provided, the one thing they couldn't do was clinch the title at home. (That will happen when your opponent has won 73 games.) Game 7 of the NBA Finals was shown on the Quicken Loans Arena video board, which isn't the same thing as having it happen in Cleveland, not even close. Not that it didn't look awfully fun:
From the Q pic.twitter.com/ul9wusYBlb- Justin Schafer (@JustinSchafer19) June 20, 2016
Much was made of a week ago today, a night in which Cleveland raised the Cavaliers' championship banner and then, a half hour later, hosted Game 1 of the World Series. But now that we're here, that's nothing compared to what could go down Tuesday night. The Cavaliers actually have a game, hosting the Houston Rockets, and the NBA allowed them to move up their start time an hour, to 6 p.m. That, according to owner Dan Gilbert (a noted expert on space and time), should have the game finished around the second inning of the Indians-Cubs game. Quicken Loans Arena will then play the rest of the game on the big screen, but the Cavs players won't be there to watch it: They're heading over to Progressive Field to see Game 6. ("It'll be the experience of a lifetime," Kyrie Irving said.)
And downtown Cleveland has been hopping for the past week, with Progressive Field earning sellout crowds -- with just $5 tickets -- to watch Games 3-5 of the World Series on the massive Jumbotron. Every night was a downtown party, and the pump was even primed enough that the city was ready to spill into the streets on Sunday night, had Cleveland been able to solve Aroldis Chapman.
Downtown Cleveland is the sort of area set up perfectly for a raucous, bacchanalian feast that lasts several days. It's a lovelier downtown than you realize, and everything's within walking distance. It also won't be oppressively overpoliced and cordoned off like Wrigley Field was over the weekend, where it was so exhausting to even navigate the clogged madness in the streets that you didn't dare venture out too far, lest you not be able to make it back. There's more space to roam in downtown Cleveland, but it's still packed with bars and places to get into trouble at all hours of the night if the Indians can pull this off. Here's what it was like in June when the Cavs won, half a continent away:
And on Tuesday night, that party could spill out of Progressive Field and into the streets and then throughout the world. As we've mentioned before, in any other season other than this one, playing against any other team than the one they're playing, the Indians coming within one game of a championship would be the biggest, best story in sports. The Cubs' centuries-long dramas have obscured that. But they won't obscure that on Tuesday. If the Tribe can pull this off on Tuesday, downtown Cleveland will have a night it will never forget. The Cubs are 36 hours from history. But the Indians are a lot closer than that. Cleveland finally broke through in June. But it was one thing to reverse five decades of ineptitude. It's quite another to invite everybody downtown to do it again, together. On Tuesday night, Cleveland can have itself a real party. All it takes is one more win.
Email me at email@example.com; follow me @williamfleitch; or just shout out your window real loud, I'll hear you. Point is, let's talk.