Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Look what I've become

Before I dive into this topic, let me preface it with a little background info from my most formative years - those being my time in college between 1994 and 1998. I was just a fresh-faced kid from Strongsville, still very Cleveland-centric in all my sports views, and hadn't really spent a lot of time around fans from other cities. That changed when I decided to continue my education two hours west of Cleveland in Bowling Green, OH.

First, you have to understand something about Bowling Green. Although it is pretty much in the middle of nowhere, windy ALL the time, and spring doesn't seem to arrive sometime around June, most people that attend BGSU love their time in that town. There's just something about it that you can only understand if you live there for a significant amount of time. I can't even put my finger on it and I lived there for the better part of those four years.

What I did notice during that time period is most that students in BG seemed to hail from the following six general locations: 1) greater Cleveland (I'm including Akron, even if LeBron won't ever acknowledge that it is Cleveland), 2) Columbus, 3) Toledo/Michigan, 4) Dayton/Cincinnati, 5) Buffalo, and 6) other small Ohio towns (Wapakoneta, Marion, and many other nondescript places like those that just need a category). I was always confused by the Buffalo dynamic. Maybe I just hung around a small group of people from there and I'm remembering it wrong, but it seemed weird to me that people from there would choose Bowling Green.

Anyway, as a rabid Browns/Cavs/Indians fan, my college years were a strange time to be away from home. At the end of my freshman year Art Modell decided to yank the Browns out of Cleveland and take them in Baltimore. They didn't return until a year after I graduated and was already a productive working member of society... or at least pretending to be one. And in hindsight, their "return" to the NFL has brought us nothing but embarrassment for the better part of the last decade. The Cavs were also an afterthought between 1994 and 1998. It was a bad mix of the defensive era in the NBA (routine Mike Fratello coached wins came with scores like 73-70), a team stuck in an undefinable time period (post-Price/Ehlo/Nance/Daugherty and pre-LeBron), some hideous uniforms and court design (who the hell designed that anyway?), and years of playoff failure. So we were left with the Indians...

After 41 years of futility the 1995 Tribe was a team like no other. A 100-win wrecking ball - in a strike-shortened 144-game schedule, no less. They provided some of the best sports memories I've had in my life, most coming during my sophomore year while living in Rodgers Hall in Bowling Green. Which finally brings me to my point... after decades of failure I was of the naive opinion that sports fans from other cities with no real rooting interest would also get behind the Tribe - a feel-good story for baseball after the strike. A city that was able to re-invent itself with Jacobs Field, Gateway, and the Flats. Almost the real-life Major League.

But I was wrong. I quickly found out that fans of the Reds and Tigers were definitely rooting against the Tribe. They couldn't stand the success that Cleveland fans were finally experiencing and hated our late-night screams of joy when Tony Pena gave us our first playoff win in 41 years. The trend continued over the next two years when the Tribe was shocked by the Orioles in the 1996 ALDS, and then by the Marlins in the 1997 World Series. Reds fans that lived in the apartments below us could openly be heard cheering against the Tribe in the 1997 ALDS vs. New York and the ALCS when we got revenge against Baltimore. And a neighbor from Buffalo across the hall was praying the Marlins would stop the Tribe. The goddamn Florida Marlins!?!

I never understood it at the time, but I do now. I've become those bitter fans. The 2010 MLB playoffs have allowed me to come full-circle. Now I'm the one praying the Yankees don't win. I'm the one with the look of smug satisfaction after seeing the Reds get swept by the Phillies. I've come to a cold realization: I can't stand seeing you succeed. If my team can't win then I sure as hell can root against the others that I don't want to win. It's what we've been reduced to as fans of Cleveland teams. So here's to you John Elway, Michael Jordan, Jose Mesa, Edgar Renteria, and LeBron. Thanks for turning me into something I used to hate. Go Rangers!

(I'm chuckling to myself that my previous post had "hope" in the title and centered around the Browns. LOL.)

1 comment:

Ryan Moeller said...

I'm with you bud. Cleveland and the Buckeyes are my favorite teams. My 2nd favorites are whoever is playing the Yankees, Steelers, USC and now the Heat.