I was a sophomore in high school when I first saw a film called Almost Heroes. Starring Chandler from Friends and Tommy Boy, it was the fictional (I think) account of one group's ill-fated attempt to upstage Lewis and Clark and become the first Americans to map the route to the Pacific Ocean. All the ridiculous activity you might expect from Chandler and Tommy Boy ensues. At one point late in the film, the expedition's final remaining canoe takes a disastrous trip through a set of rapids and over a waterfall, destroying the craft and most of the remaining supplies. At this point, a man named Mr. Bidwell - who has to that point been beaten and robbed by the indigenous people, lost an ear to a questionably sane Frenchman, had his leg gnawed off by a bear, and barely hopped free of a burning building before it collapsed - rises to his foot and gives a stirring speech about pressing on because "surely the worst is over."
While Bidwell is wrapping up his speech, he's shot in the arm by a Spaniard who has been tracking the group. Shrugging off the blow with "Surely now the worst is over," he is promptly shot in the other arm. Only then does the resolute explorer heed his compatriots' admonitions to take cover.
As an Indians fan, I can identify with Bidwell - perhaps more than any of the other great cinematic characters in history. I, too, have been beaten and robbed (of my entire childhood, thanks to bad Cleveland teams). I've had my ear gnawed off by David Justice in '95; it hurt, but it wasn't the worst thing ever. I lost my leg to a bear named Edgar Renteria in '97; that was the worst thing ever. I hopped clear of the burning wreckage of the late '90s and watched the whitewater of the early 2000s sweep away what was left of our supplies.
The 2005 team was the first bullet wound. Just when I was hoping the worst was over, that team managed to avoid the playoffs... somehow. Still, we had a great, young, healthy core brimming with talent and drive. We were cheap and good and had prospects in the minors. Like Bidwell before me, I shrugged and assumed that - surely now - the worst was over.
That's what made the second gunshot wound, the 2007 ALCS, that much more painful. It was destiny. Everyone knew that whoever came out of the AL was going to crush the Rockies. We were up 3-1, we had Fausto and CC, we had Grady and Pronk and Victor. It was a question of when, not if. Except it's never "when" and also never "if" in Cleveland. It's just always never.
Now, like Bidwell, I'm standing on that rocky beach. The wreckage of my first whole hopes has long since washed down the river; it seems almost comical now that I thought they wouldn't. I'm down an ear and a leg and leaning on a crudely fashioned crutch, bleeding from both arms. The Pacific is nowhere in sight, and the Spaniard above me (probably Bud Selig) is reloading his pistol while the people who have accompanied me this far warn me to take cover, because the worst isn't over. Not here. Not in Cleveland.
If you've seen the movie - and I'm sure you have, it practically swept the Academy Awards - you know it ends with Bidwell hopping happily down the shore of the ocean. Without that hope that he was always getting closer to his dream, he never would have made it. As for me, I'm not sure the Pacific is out there.