Forget Hollywood – Cleveland was the place writing a fairytale blockbuster last week.
The incredible, edge-of-the-seat drama unleashed by the Indians rivalled anything Tinsel Town has to offer.
And, although there was an inevitable dose of heartbreak, the adoring crowd rose to their feet and voraciously applauded the superstars of the show.
It was an incredible week of streaks in Major League Baseball. Yet while the once imperious Los Angeles Dodgers – Sports Illustrated’s front page a few weeks ago wondered if they were the best team ever – ended a stomachwrenching run of 11 defeats on the spin, let’s instead focus on the Cleveland Indians.
The way victory against the Detroit Tigers was snatched from the gaping jaws of defeat in the ninth innings was a great story in itself. Yet the fact it helped them score their 22nd consecutive win made it so much sweeter.
Last season’s World Series runners-up haven’t just hit a purple patch recently – they’ve taken permanent residence in one for the last three weeks.
Beating the Tigers on Wednesday helped eclipse the 20-game streak which catapulted the Moneyball Oakland Athletics of 2002 into the history books – and onto the silver screen.
The next target was the record set by the Chicago Cubs all the way back in 1935. That would leave them just four games from the alltime tally of 26 set in 1916 by the then New York Giants. It’s not easy to string so many triumphs together over an energysapping 162 game season.
Such is the never-ending grind of baseball, there won’t be a perfect campaign. Indeed, winning threequarters would be scarcely believable, something Cleveland would have accomplished if their magic stretched from start to finish.
If you need more context, no-one has won more than 16 in row since 1957. That’s 60 whole years so excuse Indians fans for going berserk on Thursday night. This is a team, don’t forget , that isn’t used to wowing the nation.
Their last World Series win came in 1948 and even though it was agonisingly close last year (can it be more heartbreaking than losing in extra innings of Game 7?) before being edged out by a Cubs team hell bent on ending their own hoodo, Cleveland fans aren’t an optimistic bunch.
At the bottom of the ninth, fears were being realised. Down 2-1. One out remaining. But up stepped Francisco Lindor and the scores were level before Jay Bruce (left) showed nerves of steel to steer them home in the bottom of the 10th and spark mayhem in the stands.
“It was like a playoff game,” fan Gary Demshar told me. “And yeah, you could say going on a run like this is a surprise.” “This doesn’t really happen any where,” ackonwledged Bruce, who only arrived from the New York Mets last month.
The 3-2 extra-innings thriller was the first time in this stretch the game hasn’t been finished in nine innings. It finally wasn’t their night when Kansas City turned party poopers, beating the Indians 4-3. The disappointment was tangible.
Yet the players immediately showed their appreciation to a fanbase which has been criticised in parts for not backing their boys with attendances often failing to pack the 35,000 capacity Progressive Field.
There was still plenty of love flying down from the bleachers as they dished out a standing ovation to their finally fallen heroes – and why not?
With a post-season place now guaranteed and the chance of overtaking the 94-52 Dodgers – who remain nicely poised as the No1 team despite as shocking a September as Cleveland’s has been spectacular – to secure home field advantage throughout the playoffs, there’s everything to play for.
Cleveland will undoubtedly push for a World Series return, yet know nothing is guaranteed. Those Oakland As went out in the very first round 15 years ago.
The same could befall the Indians, but their place in history will remain.
They say everything’s bigger in Texas – especially when it comes to the Dallas Cowboys. A franchise which cost owner Jerry Jones a mere $140 million in 1989 is now worth an astonishing $4 billion, according to Forbes’ annual list of team values across all sports.
That also rubberstamped the Cowboys’ place as the most valuable team on the planet. It’s the first time an NFL team has hit this mark – and when news came through, Jones must have fancied hitting the town to celebrate.
Dallas beat Real Madrid ($3.26bn), the New England Patriots ($3.2bn), the New York Yankees ($3.2bn) and Barcelona ($3.16bn) to finish top of the pile.
It’s a graphic illustration of why it’s boom time in the NFL – just four years ago only two teams were in the two billion dollar club. Now there are nine with two more just below.
No wonder Roger Goodell is so desperate to show everyone his game isn’t the life-threatening, walking-concussion machine many fear it has become.
Take a bow Atlanta United. Fresh off a 7-0 thumping of the New England Revolution in midweek, new boys United broke the MLS attendance record as the city’s sparkling new Mercedes-Benz Stadium was fully opened.
The state-of-the-art $1.6 billion arena also tasted NFL action last night with the Falcons making their first appearance there, facing the Green Bay Packers.
That was poised to be an 71,000 sell-out (there’s an option to increase capacity to 83,000 for events like the Super Bowl) though the 70,425 which took in the 3-3 draw with Orlando on Saturday was the highest ever in MLS. Not bad for a new team in its first season.
It eclipsed the previous high of 69,255 set in 1996 for the LA Galaxy’s debut match, though what’s most encouraging for United fans and those who push MLS forward is that the club’s average of 45,000 is on course to beat the previous best held by Seattle two years ago.
In a city where NFL is king, that’s impressive.