In the harsh winters of northeast Ohio there are two certainties of life. First, the weather will simply never improve. The winds will continue to blow with somewhat of a deadly force through the fields and towns like a child blowing on his hot chocolate to keep it from burning his tongue. The other, though not quite as tangible, feels perhaps even colder. The Cleveland Indians disappointed us for yet another season, and maybe next year, they won’t come up short.
I have come to view partisanship with the Indians as being reminiscent of the American Dream: you have to be asleep to believe in it.
To be a fan of the Cleveland Indians requires a deep love for baseball and rooting for the home team, or extreme patience which verges on self-denial and ignorance. As ignorant as fans could be, it is undeniable that they have that love for their team.
A season of baseball closely parallels the progression of a full year of life. The game begins in the spring, as the players unite from a long, separated winter, just as the grass resurfaces and the flowers grow again. More importantly, regardless of the preceding season’s results, the new season produces a refreshes sense of optimism.
As the season moves forward into June and July, the climax unfolds and the boys of summer march onward. And when the season progresses towards its later stages into August, fans still cling to their optimism and their joy of summer while the weather gets slowly colder, the days shorter, the nights longer.
Finally, with the play-offs approaching, the cycle of baseball begins its decline, as many fans are left with the bitterness of the September and October air. Even with the celebration of the post-season and the World Series, the season ends and the parabola of baseball once again reaches the bottom level. We’re left with the darkness of the winter night, dreaming of the following spring when the grass will grow once again, counting down to opening day.
The relationship between the Indians and their fans is complex, comprised of disagreement, appreciation, mutual disappointment, and acceptance. Even in August, as their beloved team falls further behind their division’s luckier counterparts, fans believe that with improved play and an “easy schedule ahead,” they still have a chance. They cling themselves, not unlike the outfield mossy wall of Wrigley Field, to the unequivocal belief that the summer is not yet over, the season not quite ready for its descent.
It was therefore natural to believe that when the Indians took a three to one game lead in the American League Championship Series against the dreaded Boston Red Sox that 2007 was finally “the year.” It was the best Indians club in over a decade. One victory would put them in the Series, with a chance to put their past behind them (the Indians haven’t won a championship in over a half-century).
Coming off a three game winning streak, the Indians had three chances to win one game. Just one game. After the first loss, fans became hopeful. After the next, anxious. When the Red Sox won game seven, and subsequently the World Series, Indians fans watched, stunned, heart-broken.
John Updike once wrote that “every true story has an anticlimax.” If baseball is a tragedy, as Updike would say, the Indians are Hamlet.
The Indians represent the very core of the human spirit: to dream, to succeed, to fail, and then continue dreaming. Fundamentally, they have very little three-dimensional to show for it. However, year after year, the Indians are always coming back, from a missed opportunity, from a losing season, from disappointment. There remains a plethora of fans whom still cherish the Indians year after year. And thus, wonder of wonders, the Indians are victorious in their own right.