There is no victory sweeter than that of the Indians–the national “underdogs”–beating the New York Yankees–the rich “big guys” who have bought all the best players. It’s the classic theme of the little guy taking down what would seem to be, at first glance, the guaranteed winner. It’s like all the epic legends: David and Goliath, the Rebel Alliance and the Empire. Victory!
It was especially sweet after having to endure the snide comments of the obviously NY-biased commentators. During all the TBS televised games, I cringed as the commentators said things as, “Cleveland is doing quite well despite [insert some disparaging remark about being a young ball team].” It’s as if our entire year and the huge increase in heat we put on at the end of the season meant nothing. Need I remind everyone that NY was the wild card team; Cleveland made it into the ALDS by having the best record in the Central Division. So there! :P
I am not ashamed to admit that I enjoyed watching the emotional faces of the NY crowd as the camera panned on them at the end of the game as the Indians jumped into a huge jubilant pile of players. Anger, depression, confusion — the NY fans actually thought their team would turn around and destroy the Indians. Admittedly, I had my own doubts. With the exception of the first game win of 13-2, the games were very close. The series was well-played. A little too exciting for my own health, but just the sort of baseball that is fun to watch. I’d rather watch a tit-for-tat scoring game than a complete pulverization any day. I like to see the losing team at least fight back. Especially since it’s usually the Indians fighting back. But not anymore — my team is hot! If they can keep up this intensity, they may make it to the World Series.
I especially gloried in the Yanks’ loss because that team’s fans are so arrogant. I spent two years traveling every other week to the Long Island office of my former company. Long Islanders generally like the Mets, but there were enough people who gloried in the victories of the over-priced Yankees for me to develop a dislike of the mentality. It’s really hard to pity a team who has made it to World Series multiple times since I’ve been alive and watching baseball. The team is bought because the market allows for an endless pool of funds. It’s really not hard to be a Yankees fan. Sorry, but I pity you not. The Indians have not won a World Series since 1948. That’s before my dad was alive. He’s been a fan his whole life, even when they sucked enough to have a movie made for them mocking their ineptitude (Major League).
As a devoted Tribe fan, I swore I’d never set foot in Yankees stadium and I kept true to that. My coworkers in NY twice offered me the opportunity to see a Yankees game while I was there. I refused both times. I’d seen enough of the fans while talking to them at work. One coworker remarked to me once in jest, “The Cleveland Indians? Is that a minor league team?”
Ha ha. It’s hard not to take that jibe personally. To me, it represents the general attitude of people across the nation towards Cleveland. When I lived in Denver, I heard more remarks about the “mistake on the lake” and “the river that burned” and the occasional other quip I’d never heard that I found I actually did love my hometown in a weird dysfunctional sort of way. I learned that I had boundaries: It was okay for me to make disgusted pot-shots at my home town to another Clevelander. However, hell hath no fury like the one that welled within me when someone from the “outside” made a comment. Cleveland is my home. The Indians are my team. I’m more of a sap than I ever imagined I was.
Clevelanders have a general self-deprecating personality. We walk around complaining about how much we suck or how crappy the weather is. We have a pessimistic attitude about our sports teams, thinking, “Oh, they’re going to lose it all eventually. Cleveland always blows it.” It’s the curse of Ohio.
But, man, when one of our sports teams is winning, it’s the one moment in time when we all band together as one people. Strangers will discuss scores with strangers. In 1998 when the Indians were in the play-offs, I was riding the Rapid (our rail system) to work in downtown. The radio was tuned to the game over the intercom system. Usually on the Rapid, people kept to themselves, reading or listening to walkmans (this was before iPods), or just staring at the floor so not as to be disturbed by the mumbling homeless who walked the isles. This day, I remember, the Rapid was filled with the chatter of people discussing the game and their predictions for the outcome. As each play unfolded, grunts of displeasure or cheers appropriately filled the bus. It gave me goosebumps (I told you I was a sap). I didn’t know any of these people, but we all had one thing in common: We loved the Indians and we wanted them to win.
It doesn’t matter to me what bands us together — even for this brief period of time. At that moment in time, all Clevelanders were hopeful. As we are again, today. I keep thinking if one of our sports teams wins an ultimate championship — and I’m hoping it’s in baseball because that’s my favorite spectator sport — it would do so much to lift the generally pessimistic attitude of my fellow towns-people. At least we could say, “Remember 2007 when the Indians broke their losing streak.”
We loyal fans have earned this year. We’ve come so close before (1997 *sigh*). It’s Tribe time now. I truly believe that. I want to believe that.