In the last nine months, Cleveland sports fans have been sucker-punched, back-stabbed, aggravated and essentially defeated by their own teams. And as spring training begins this week, who could have predicted out of the city’s three franchises it would be the Cleveland Indians who are furthest along?
It’s a scary thought, especially after back-to-back 90-loss seasons.
However, just hearing the words “spring training” should evoke hope in a fan’s heart. It means there’s a light at the end of the tunnel; winter is in its final hour. It almost seems like the whole region exhales with a collective “ahhhhhh!”
Our backs get a much-needed break from busting ice and hauling snow. Our cars return to their original color, free of the ubiquitous salt-stains. And almost magically baseball reappears on the TV and radio, with daily box scores in the paper as an added bonus.
But what kind of baseball will we see in Northeast Ohio?
Maybe I’m alone in this but just watching the game itself, in any form, is enough for me… at least in the beginning. It materializes out of nowhere, looking foreign and strange to fans like me who for the last six months have been watching 22 behemoths collide into each other. And while football maintains a nauseating twelve-month media coverage cycle, baseball disappears, hibernates and then reemerges with the green grass and sunshine.
I know how sappy this sounds but it feels like welcoming back an old friend every year.
After the initial joy wears off, fans are left to spend a long summer with their old friend. For a Cleveland Indians backer, this thought might fill your heart with dread. No rational fan would possibly believe this team is a playoff contender, much less a threat to win it all. So many things have to go right just for the Indians to be competitive in 2011.
We could go into detail about all of those “things”; the questionable starting rotation, multiple players returning from injuries, a mess in the infield, etc… and between now and opening day I hope to cover all of them. But for now, I wanted to focus on that idea of hope.
I realize there are quite a few dejected Indians fans out there. You’ve been put through the ringer, watching your favorite players become trade bait year after year, and maybe there’s no bringing you back. It’s tough to maintain hope in something you have no control over.
Maybe I’ve seen too much Shawshank Redemption lately, one of those movies where if you happen to stumble upon it on TV you almost feel compelled to watch. I keep coming back to that idea of optimism and a line in the movie that always gives me chills: “Hope is a good thing, maybe the best of things. And no good thing ever dies.”
For Indians fans, spring training is a restoration of that hope. It briefly turns me into an unabashed homer, something I fight to contain every year while the Cactus League is in full swing. That optimism is something that only a true baseball fan feels. If you feel it too, don’t be ashamed of it. Embrace it.
I hope to transform my love of writing from a hobby into a career. I hope I’m a good father to my child, who’s ready to enter this world any day now. I hope to live long enough to see the Indians win a World Series. I hope…
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