Indians in chaos

Okay, maybe the Indians are not so much in chaos. But to me, the world is crumbling. My beloved Casey Blake is about to sign a three-year contract with the Dodgers (he crossed to the Natinoal League–what betrayal!!) and C.C. Sabathia is about to sign a deal with mortal enemy, the Yankees. Of course, we are interested in another closer (we’re always taking on closers) named Kerry Wood. I don’t know much about this guy, but I hope he’s better than the closers we currently have. Now, I wish we could score a few really good pitchers and some sluggers. Let’s trade Haffner–he’s been stinking for the last two years.

I don’t know. After last season, my disposition is pessimistic. I wonder, sometimes, why I continue to love this downtrodden team who never seems to deliver the enchanted dream I have of them. Just one World Series would tickle me pink. I’d never ask for another Cleveland team to win anything again.

It’s just depressing that good players never want to stay in Cleveland because we can’t deliver on the dreams of the players for the World Series and we don’t have the money to keep players interested. We’re a great rookie team every few years. We take on the new up-and-comings, we ween them into the Major League, and when they become really, really good, they take off for more money and bigger fame elsewhere. Who can blame them, really? We’re just a po-dunk city with a depressing economy and the bad reputation we can’t shake of the “mistake by the lake.”

It’s no wonder I always say the name of my hometown to out-of-staters with a little bit of guilt mixed in with defensiveness.

“Yeah, I’m from Cleveland,” I say a little depressedly, already anticipating the grunts and groans and snickers. Some joke always follows. Unless the people I’m talking about live in a more oppressed and less metropolitian area.

Yep. We Clevelanders are a pessimistic lot.

Radical musings

*indicating new Bush countdown widget* Well, I said I wouldn’t talk about politics anymore; subtle and not-so-subtle articles, widgets, signs, and programs do not count.

In baseball news, I’m mighty glad to see that THE TRAITOR and the Chicago White Sox were wiped out of the division series now. Yay!! Take that, Chicago!!

Happily, the Dodgers, featuring my forever Amish love, Casey Blake, have advanced to the national league championship series. I’m rooting for them, even though I had to trade my soul in because Manny Ramierez now plays for the Dodgers. Ah well. I’m behind Casey all the way. Blakes’ Babes won’t be shut down just because he’s no longer on the Cleveland Indians’ roster.

Now… I’m pleading for the Devil Rays to knock out the Boston Red Sox. Sorry, Sox, you can’t go winning another World Series when there are other teams who still don’t own a major league baseball pennant. I’d like to see the Devil Rays v. the Dodgers.

Funny how when Joe Torre gets fired from the Yanks and moves to the Dodgers, the Dodgers now make it to the play-offs. Maybe it isn’t all about the player. So what does that say about Eric Wedge?

Good sportsmanship in MLB!

Jim Thome, if only you had done something as simple as buy a $12K ad in the Cleveland Plain Dealer thanking your fans, as CC Sabathia did, we might not greet you with hisses each time you come to town. Of course, you said you loved Cleveland and Sabathia never made such overtures of affection. However, at least Sabathia realizes that the bread and butter of his early career successes in MLB is due to his fans. We may not have a lot of money in Cleveland to retain the best of the best players, but we sure have heart and fierce devotion. And those are things no large MLB check can give you.

Thank you, CC Sabathia, for being such a good sport, even though we knew you wanted to leave Cleveland. But I guess I can’t blame you when you’re pitching your heart out and your offensive lineup isn’t hitting worth the money we pay them. (What happened to you, Pronk?!?! We had so much promise for you, but your hitting over the last two years has been pathetic!)

May the sports gods bless the Cleveland Indians. This has been a depressing, heart-wrenching, painful year. We lost our beloved Jacobs Field name to Progressive Insurance… our team is in last place… we lost Casey Blake (my eye candy!)… oh, the humanity!

Maybe a bunch of businesses will move into Cleveland (because the cost of living here is so much cheaper), build beautiful headquarters in downtown, bring more jobs to the market, and people will migrate here from other states to bolster our dying economy. Then we’ll have enough money, market share, and TV viewership to buy players instead of constantly farming them from the minor leagues.

Yeah. And maybe I’ll write a best selling novel too. Huh. I’m not holding my breath.

The truth about David and Goliath…

If you believe that everything in the universe is just and fair, you’re a fool. In real life, Goliath will always beat David — even if you believe God is on David’s side (God usually doesn’t take sides, in my experience). The rules of the universe, the way God set it up, is that the best man does not always win. The richer, bigger, “goliath” always triumphs. Nothing proves my theory more than this year’s baseball play-offs. Twice, the little guy got clobbered by the big man, proving ever more that money will get you everything you want or desire. Boston could buy the better players; Boston bought the World Series. Cheer on, happy Boston fans. It’s so hard to be in your shoes. *cough, cough*

My heart was broken twice. First with my beloved Indians. Then, possibility shimmered with the Rockies, who seemed to be on fire with their undefeated sweeps of both the NLDS and the NLCS. I desperately hoped that the Rockies would put Boston in their place, sober their fans up a bit.

The World Series this year reminded me of when I used to play Mike Tyson’s Punchout on my brother’s Nintendo. After much practice, I could defeat all of the boxers the game set me up to challenge. It got to be easy, figuring out the moves that would take out the boxer. But every time I came up against the king — Mike Tyson — the level of the game suddenly turned to an extreme that did not match the slight increase that occurred with each successive boxer I’d challenged previously. No, when you were faced with Mike Tyson, it was like you showed up for your algebra exam and your teacher gave you a calculus test instead. Suddenly, everything is beyond the level of even your most practiced skills.

Boston was the Mike Tyson of baseball this year. When all was said and done, the Rockies’ record in the NLDS and NLCS did not matter one bit. The playing field was drastically altered when the big bad Boston Red Sox stepped onto the field with their Josh Beckett and Hideki Okajima and Jason Varitek and David Ortiz and Mike Lowell (just to name a few and a certain other fielder whose name I purposely omitted because he’s so much of a d**khead that I don’t want to give him more glory by adding his name). A small time expansion team like the Rockies didn’t stand a chance against this all-star line up, bought and paid for by Boston fans with pockets full of gold.

It’s enough to depress even the most optimistic of people. For once, I’d like to see the little man win. Just once. And what depresses me more is that a World Series with the Rockies versus the Indians would have been way more interesting and fun to watch. It quite possibly could have been a real challenge for both sides, an exciting showdown of talent where whoever won was truly the best man. Even if the Rockies defeated the Indians, I wouldn’t have felt as bad because the Rockies needed it badly too. They’ve never been there. When I lived in Colorado, Rockies games reminded me of the Indians in the 1980s. My heart went out to them and I made them my team while I lived there. It’s my lot in life to live in the town of the underdog…

The story of David and Goliath is always a nice thing to tell kids or to give you hope that sometimes justice does prevail in the universe. You’re probably better served in telling your kids to acquire lots of money for success in life, or work in acquiring lots of money. Ignore those things you actually enjoy, but become what society needs — doctors, lawyers, scientists, engineers. If you’re an artist, sell your soul to the big machine (as I have done) because you’ll spend your life starving. The world likes artists and actors, but only in afterthought. Tell someone you’re an artist and people scoff. Don’t open your own business either because Wal-Mart will move in down the street and sell your wares for a lower price without the customer service. Lower prices for bigger quantity always sells. And the big guy makes enough money that he can afford to beat your cost at every turn.

Life doesn’t works the way it does in stories (which is why they are stories). I’ve rarely found proof where the little guy actually prevails in every day life. If you know of any good examples that I’m overlooking, please feel free to comment.

Don’t rip on Cleveland or Clevelanders!

Mars Girl with the Mars Dad during the first ALDS game
in Cleveland, when the hope and promise of a World Series was ripe.

It’s been a rough week.

It all started with the Indians’ nose-dive into oblivion somewhere in the seventh inning of the last ALCS game. I, unlike my father, was still holding out hope that the Indians would manage to beat Boston in the seventh game. My father gave up on our team when they did not defeat Boston on the last night of our home stand. I still believed they could do it. I never give up hope. (I’m pretty stupid.)

At the start of the game, we looked like a team of minor league players. I had to check my channel guide to make sure I wasnt watching a re-run of Major League. Who were these guys? What was wrong with Westbrook? Did anyone know how to hit anymore? What happened to our pitchers? Sabathia? Carmona? Hello, guys, we’re in the playoffs. No joking around now!

It was miserable. Yet, somewhere in the middle of the game, there was a glimmer of hope when Cleveland managed to bring in two runs. You actually thought for a moment — and you could see the same hope in the eyes of the watching players in the Cleveland dugout — that we could pull ourselves out of the deficit.

I think the beginning of the end happened in the top of the seventh inning when the third base coach held Kenny Lofton, preventing him from scoring the tying run. Casey Blake (usually my hero for his game-winning home runs at the bottom of extra innings in the regular season) batted a weak hit that earned Boston a double-play and the inning was over.

I fell asleep for a little bit (hey, these games were starting at 8:21pm and I’m a working girl!) and when I woke up the score was 7-2. I turned off the TV and went to bed. For once, this Tribe fan could not stick it out to the oh-so-bitter end.

I was in and out of sleep all night. When I woke up next morning, I could barely drag myself out of bed. I must say that I was depressed. No, I mean it — I was Depressed with the capital “D” and all.

I swore off baseball. This year alone, I’ve sworn off a lot of unhealthy habits I’ve taken up over the years (excessive drinking, smoking, negative attitudes) in order to thwart my tendence towards depression. It seems my brain decided that it had to find something to be depressed about. And so there I was, Monday morning, just feeling miserable. I drove to work in a dreary haze. When I got into work, the first thing I did was bark at my co-worker. You see, they had been carpeting the office all weekend, but the contractors had not returned our furniture to the desks. A few f-bombs words slipped out of my mouth as I demanded to know where my chair was.

My co-worker, ever cheerful and undaunted by my moodiness, stated, “I know this is a bad day for you. I’m so sorry for your loss.”

Had someone died? It sure felt like someone had… The rest of the day, everyone around me seemed kind of deflated. I felt like some people were tip-toeing around me because they’d seen me there all summer in my Tribe regalia, as I had gone to multiple week night games this year. I thought more people would bring up the game and talk about it, but I was really thankful when they didn’t. The pain was still too fresh. I didn’t want to talk about it. Each word stabbed my gentle heart.

At the end of the day, a project manager for about 2/3rds of the projects I’m working on came by. He was as he always is — jovial. He asked me a work question and I answered him quietly and without additional comment.

“What? Are you depressed about the game?” he asked. When I admitted that I was, he replied, “C’mon! We have a great team. If you’d have asked me in July if we’d make it to the playoffs, I’d have said no way. I’m just happy that they got there this year. And, look, they beat New York. That’s all that matters.”

I let his words sink in. He was right. The taste of victory against the Yankees was ever-so delightfully sweet. When it happened, I remember thinking that even if we didn’t make it all the way to the World Series (even though I desperately hoped we would), the season was worth seeing the Yanks get smacked around by us, especially after our pathetic record against them in the regular season.

I decided to suck it up in true Clevelander fashion and chant our Clevelander matra, “Maybe next year.”

Just one year, though, I’d like a professional Cleveland sports team — especially a sports team I care about (ie, BASEBALL) — win a championship. I am tired of being the butt of all regional jokes in the US. When I lived in Colorado and told people where I was from, not a second delay ever went by before I heard one or all of the following phrases:

– Mistake by/on the Lake!
– Cleveland, where the river burned!
– Oh, Cleveland. *make rude face*
– Cleveland Indians? Didn’t they make a movie with them?

– Drew Carey, right?
– Cleveland Rocks, Dude! *sarcastically said* (Okay, that’s the least insulting of all the snide Cleveland remarks.)

Might I remind everyone that the “burning river” and “mistake by the lake” occurred in 1969 — long before I was even born. I’m sure we no longer have enough industry in Cleveland (thanks to all the plant shut downs and our “booming” economy) to pollute the river enough to burn now. But what ticks me off the most about this comment is that I could stand on a ridge near my house that overlooked downtown Denver and I could see a cloud of smog surrounding the city, trapped by the mountains. You accuse my hometown of being polluted; your city ain’t looking all that pristine itself! He who lives in glass houses… well, you know the rest.

Now, it is true that I spent most of my college years swearing up and down that I was going to get the hell out of Ohio when I graduated. I used to want to live in Arizona (because it looks like Mars). But when Mike took me out to Denver for the first time to meet his dad and step-mom, I fell in love with the Rocky Mountains. And ever since then, it’s been an unrequited and impossible love affair.

I have plenty of complaints about Cleveland. Although, when you boil them all down, it pretty much comes down to two things: the prevailing red-winds of the political climate and the climate itself. I can deal with red states and red attitudes (Colorado was a red state in the last election). I can’t stand the lack of sun — that cloud that smothers the Cleveland sky from November until May. It’s oppressive and pulls me into the undertow of lethargic depression (they call that seasonal affective disorder, but I think everyone in Cleveland has it).

The general lack of healthiness with Clevelanders is a little frustrating. The health food section in Colorado was half a store (it also wasn’t hard to find entire health food stores) whereas in Cleveland, it’s one shelf, if that, unless you’re on the east side of town. Exercise is not as fervent a past-time to Clevelanders. For example, a Coloradoan will brave snow and cold to take a hike up some trail in the middle of January; Ohioans, and particularly Clevelanders, just go outside to get to the car where they drive to another warm building and stay there until they are forced to brave the weather again and leave.

I kind of liked the intrepid nature of Coloradoans. But then, they have sun even when it’s cold. I never saw clouds settle on the sky for longer than a week, if that. It’s funny the things you’ll do in the cold if the sun is shining. Even if the temperature is a chill 20 degrees, you’ll still go out if it looks warm out.

Still, I lived in my Promised Land. And I came home.

Cleveland is home to me, no matter what I think of it. I’m allowed to criticize, though. I was born here. When people from elsewhere comment about my home, I have found myself reacting strangely defensive. I never knew I cared so much.

“Hey,” I would say, somewhat angrily, “Cleveland is not a bad place!”

People always scoffed about it as though it were a third world country, some foreign land where the people were less intelligent and savage. Need I remind my fellow Americans that Cleveland has a nationally renown research hospital — The Cleveland Clinc — to which people from other states send their most hopeless cases. We also have several upstanding universities — Case Western Reserve, John Carroll, Ohio State, just to name a few. We have liberal arts colleges everywhere (Hiram, Oberlin, Baldwin-Wallace, Miami U). A friend from out-of-state who attended Dennison in Ohio once remarked, “Ohio sure has a lot little liberal arts colleges.”
We have a great performing arts facility, as my friend, Colleen, who moved to Colorado herself, has commented to me more than once in the last few days. We get a lot of off-Broadway shows. While living in Denver, I remember thinking that the performing arts selection left a little to be desired. It was all right, but the program was still quite infant.

Of course, someone from New York City would tell me that Cleveland’s performing arts programs were pathetic. I guess it’s all perspective.

Clevelanders are in the habit of complaining. As I’ve stated in other posts, all summer you hear, “It’s too hot!”; all winter, “It’s too cold!” It’s a never-ending cycle of dissatisfaction.

We’re good at self-recrimination too. The whole, “Oh… Cleveland sports teams never get anywhere” remark that overtakes us as another one of our teams teases us almost to climax, and then stops short of completion.

But we have passion and heart, as my friend, Diane, pointed out to me in an e-mail on Monday. We are devoted to our sports teams and we really care. When our team is up, Cleveland is up in ways I can’t even describe to an outsider. The city awakens when one of our teams is in a winning streak. It’s a beautiful thing.

While waiting at a bus stop for the ALDS game we went to, people in passing cars honked their horns for us. We were all dressed in Indians regalia; I had my foam finger, and Jeff, Diane’s husband, had his face painted.

As you walk around the city, everyone is ever-eager to talk about the Indians. People who wouldn’t normally even be in the same social circle will exchange conversation about the game. The city seems to breathe with excitement. For that one moment in time, our political affiliations, our agendas, and our social constraints don’t bar us from seeing one another. For that moment in time, all Clevelanders recognize the one thing we all share: the love of and pride for our sports teams.

It may sound hokey and superficial to the outside world. It may sound like the typical American experience that causes half the world to become disgusted with us (though, I beg to differ as the World Cup causes a lot of ruckus with its fans). But this is how it is. I’m not sure big money teams such as Boston or the Yankees really know the kind of love we have for our teams. It’s easy to be a Yankees fan and, this year, a Boston fan. It’s always easy to back a winner. Especially a winner with a lot of money.

Anyway, I’m just writing to stick up for my town and its downtrodden folk. We walk around feeling a little self-conscious about where we are from. I’ve felt it when in Denver I would reluctantly tell people where I was from. My pathetic, apologetic response always carried the subtext “Forgive me, I’m from Cleveland.”

It shouldn’t be that way. Cleveland is a good place to live. I have good, loyal, and trustworthy friends here (part of the reason I chose to come back). June through October here is absolutely beautiful. Housing prices are fair. I can still find some nasty and challenging hills to climb (though none of them quite as long as those I enjoyed in Colorado).

It’s not so bad. We’ll be okay. The Indians will come back again next year. For better or for worse, I have sworn my loyalty to Cleveland. Like an unfaithful spouse, I left looking for better only to realize what I had was good. Cleveland took me back with open arms, apology accepted. Cleveland forgives (even most of my friends have stopped joking with me about being a traitor).

Clevelanders have heart. I’m proud to be a Clevelander, born of Clevelanders. So make fun of us all you like, but remember that you can always call a Clevelander at 2am when you need someone to drive your drunken butt home from a bar because we’re as loyal to our friends as we are to our sports teams.

I found this great blog that says it all — God Hates Cleveland Sports — about the toils and frustrations of being a Cleveland sports fan. (I did say that if the Indians won the World Series, it would be unequivocal proof to me that there is a god. But maybe them NOT even making it to the World Series is more convincing proof.)

The Tribe scalps the Yanks!

This beautiful “ad” was emailed to me by a friend.
Hail to the creative genius who made this!

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.