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It’s all fun and games for Michael Martinez and the Indians right now. (AP/Gene J. Piskar)

Championship City? Really, Cleveland? Tribe has long way to go

SHARE Championship City? Really, Cleveland? Tribe has long way to go
SHARE Championship City? Really, Cleveland? Tribe has long way to go

CLEVELAND — Went to the store to buy a Diet Pepsi here Monday, and you know what that means.

What else? A spirited conversation about the World Series broke out.

“Got big plans for Halloween?” a young clerk in a red cape with pretend blood spilling from the corners of her mouth inquired of the travel-weary lug standing before her.

Nah. Just in town for the baseball games.

“Games?” offered the next man in line, who appeared to be roughly half the age of the aforementioned lug. “You mean game.”

You sure about that?

“This is our year, dude.”

OK, bro.

The clerk piled in: “We’re trying to do something here.”

Do tell.

“Championship City!”

Well, that’s nice. It truly is. It’s nice to be fresh-faced (vampire drool notwithstanding) and dialed up to a confident 10, to be blissfully unencumbered by a city’s cruel sports history. It’s even nice enough to vaingloriously believe that what LeBron James and the NBA Cavaliers accomplished in June — Cleveland’s first major professional sports championship in 52 years — has anything whatsoever to do with what the MLB Indians will try to get done at the onset of November.

The Indians, who lead the World Series three games to two, might leave their opponents in tears in Tuesday’s Game 6 or, if not then, in Wednesday’s Game 7. They are a terrific team. They have earned every inch of their way to the precipice of their first championship since 1948.

Yet the Cubs are trying to do something here, too. Perhaps the good folks of Cleveland are unaware that the Cubs’ World Series drought has persisted even longer than the Tribe’s. Clevelanders might be surprised to learn that the 11 championships claimed by the Bulls, Blackhawks, Bears and White Sox over the last 31 years alone really didn’t aid the Cubs’ cause all that much.

The best news of all for the Cubs is that they’re still good enough to beat anyone, anywhere, anytime. The next-best news is that this still is Cleveland — a sports market so bereft of glory on the whole, we’d be shirking our duty not to re-examine the details therein.

Such as “Red Right 88,” the interception thrown by the Browns in the 1981 playoffs while they were positioned at the Oakland Raiders’ 13-yard-line for what should’ve been a game-winning field goal.

Or “the Drive” in the 1986 AFC Championship Game, when John Elway marchedthe Denver Broncos 98 yards to force overtime and eventually killed Cleveland’s dream of a Super Bowl. Of course, “the Fumble” followed a year later, the Browns coughing up another golden Super Bowl opportunity.

Have we mentioned “the Shot” in 1989, when Michael Jordan tore out Cleveland’s heart in the playoffs — the first of five times Cavs teams of that era were dispatched from the postseason by the Bulls? Or closer Jose Mesa’s blown save against the Florida Marlins in Game 7 of the 1997 World Series?

Not for nothing, the Indians also blew a three-games-to-one lead to the Terry Francona-managed Boston Red Sox in the 2007 ALCS.

There’s still a pretty good chance that Cleveland’s past will rear its ugly head once more.

Yet the Indians’ Game 6 starting pitcher, Josh Tomlin, was talking Monday about championship parades.

“It would be an honor for us to be able to have another parade here and to see that support that the Cavs got as well,” Tomlin said. “But our main focus right now is to try to win this thing so we can have a parade.”

Championship City? We’ll see about that.

Follow me on Twitter @slgreenberg.

Email: sgreenberg@suntimes.com

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