Wednesday was the one of the worst days of my life.
I got up early, made the six-hour drive from Philly to Cleveland, took the train downtown with some friends and went to a baseball game.
A lifelong Indians fan, the chance to go to Game 7 of a World Series was absolutely surreal. Then the game started.
It took one at-bat for the Indians to fall behind. They would never lead. From the first inning on, we tried to keep things alive — there were eight of us totally surrounded by the Cubs staff and family section. But Clevelanders long ago developed a sixth sense, a pit in the stomach that forms early when our teams are playing in big games.
We knew what was going to happen. Yet there was no way we were going to take our eyes off the trainwreck.
I had to watch my dad three seats down, looking like he was about to cry from the moment the ball left Dexter Fowler’s bat until we got home five hours later. I had to calm down my old high school baseball coach, sitting next to me and ready to go at it with the Cubs fans around us.
On the other side of me, one of my oldest friends remained convinced the game wasn’t over. Heading into the eighth with the Indians down three, he insisted we’d take the lead.
He was damn close to being right. After Cleveland got one run across, Rajai Davis hit a game-tying, two out, two-run homer that I can honestly describe as the purest moment of joy I have ever experience in my life.
We yelled, we laughed, we hugged, and two innings later, we still lost.
I will never get over that game. It has immediately been labeled an all-time classic. Great. That means for the next fifty years I’ll get to see replays of a game my team lost.
Baseball inspires emotion in me like little else can. It’s probably in the bloodstream — from that last out until we got home, the only words spoken by my dad were just a quiet “I thought we had it.”
In that moment is the heart of the reason that sports matter. My pain was not just my own. It was a shared pain with my dad, with my coach, with my friends, with the 38,000 other people at that game — just as much we shared the sheer elation of the Davis home run.
The game is a form of collective experience that you can’t match in many other places. Yeah, Game 7 hurt. It really hurt. Yet at the same time, I know that I’m feeling the exact same way as every one of my friends, family and neighbors.
Sometimes, it feels like that’s what is missing from Penn. There don’t seem to be those moments of shared experience. I can’t help but think that so much of that is driven by the lack of a real sports culture around campus. Sports, more than just about anything else, serve to unify a community.
It doesn’t take much to buy in. One of my friends messaged me mad after the game because he not only felt compelled to watch game seven since I was there, he started wanting the Indians to win and sat fixated as the game headed into extras. He had no connection to the team or the city, and still he felt that same pain I did.
I could only wish more people would feel that, be it about Penn Athletics or otherwise. We need, perhaps more than ever, things like sports to create these shared experiences.
Nonetheless, I’d still rather have taken a win. This one hurts. But on the bright side, pitchers and catchers report in 98 days.
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