Connie Schultz: Cleveland wins, no matter what happened
By Connie Schultz
Dateline: Tampa, Fla., Oct. 2, 2013, four hours before game time in Cleveland
Oh, my gosh.
So there I was, in the middle of a flight from Cleveland to Tampa, reading a New York Times story about the remarkable Chirlane McCray, whose husband is the front-runner to become the next mayor of New York, when I came upon this passage:
“She yearns to restore New York’s reputation as what she called ‘a progressive capital,’ worrying it has trailed behind cities like San Francisco, Seattle, even Cleveland.”
Forget the “even” insult. I focused on two words:
As in: Progressive Field, home of the Cleveland Indians.
It’s a sign! We are so going to beat the Tampa Bay Rays in tonight’s wild-card game.
I realize it’s likely that by the time you read this column — wedged between the opinions of conservative guys on an editorial page somewhere in America — this game already will be history.
Further, I’m aware there’s a chance that our beloved Indians have lost and that you are feeling either A) smug that I was wrong or B) sad for pathetic dashed-hopes me.
No matter how the Indians do tonight, I am grateful for the chance to once again continue the Cleveland sports fan’s legacy of hope for no reason, fueled by a loyalty that defies explanation. Proud to be part of the magic in the town that LeBron James dumped. I’m so over that, by the way.
After I landed in Tampa on Wednesday — of all places, Tampa, right? — I posted a query on my public Facebook page for fellow Cleveland die-hards:
“Why do we refuse to give up no matter how many times our hopes are hurled on the rocks?”
Within hours, nearly 200 had responded in the comments thread. Another hundred or so others sent private messages. (Shy Clevelanders, the outliers.) Fans posted lots of references to the rough winters that toughen our resolve, to fathers and grandfathers who instilled a love for the game and to ballplayers who still have a relationship with humility.
“Our teams are like the people of Cleveland: no high-paying, high-demanding players, just hard-working, dedicated professionals who play with grit and determination,” Kay Babuder Van Ho wrote.
Kailen Akers tied our loyalty to an American history lesson.
“I think it also goes deeper to some of America’s core values: loyalty, dedication, and perseverance in the face of insurmountable odds. America was founded on a hope and a prayer, and by no means should we have won the Revolutionary War. But we never gave up, even after the war when the colonies were a mess and our ‘country’ was in shambles. Sounds like every team the Browns have fielded since I was born.”
Hope is in our roots, Bruce Kosar wrote. “It means the factories are going and the paycheck will come in. What’s 60 years in the wilderness compared to that? What’s better than listening to your steelworker uncle tell you they can’t stay bad forever as you watch Cory Snyder strike out and he grabs another Schaefer light with those big callused hands?”
Trade that Schaefer for a Stroh’s or a Schlitz and you’re talking about my utility worker dad. By game time, all of us kids were ordered to be quiet as he pushed back on the La-Z-Boy, his stocking feet framing the TV screen.
“As a 41-year-old Browns season ticket holder and lifelong Cleveland sports fan, these teams are our escape,” Rick Ray wrote. “The wins make the winters a little less cold, the springs newer and fresher. Everyone is nicer and in a better mood. No matter the disappointment Clevelanders will always rebound knowing there will be a day to rejoice. That’s why we persevere.”
For years, my friend Sue Klein’s cellphone ring tone was a clip from Tribe announcer Tom Hamilton: “A swing and drive, deep left. Wa-a-a-a-a-y back! Gone!” Her father taught her to love the game and the men who played it. He is still alive, but his memory is gone, and these have been poignant days for Sue as she watches the team shock everyone but her.
I talked to her just before I filed this column. She can get a little carried away — I mean that in a good way, as long as I can still manage to duck — but she promised not to be discouraged if her Indians lose tonight.
“We’re building a team, and this is just the beginning,” she said.
That’s what we do with dreams in Cleveland. We start from scratch, and we build ’em big.