Born Miserable: The Life of a Cleveland Fan

Born and raised in Northeast Ohio, you know one thing when it comes to sports, Cleveland.  Unfortunately being associated with Cleveland sports usually comes with a lot of negativity and ridicule.  When was the last time someone started talking down to you because your favorite city hasn’t won since 1964 or getting a big slogan of “mistake by the lake”?  Well being a fan of Cleveland sports, I get to hear it all and that’s why I’m a fan in suffering.

If you want a quick introduction as to whom my favorite teams are in all of sports, it shouldn’t take long to figure out.  Cavs in NBA, Browns in NFL, Indians in MLB, and Buckeyes in CFB.  Unless you never really had any affiliation growing up around North East Ohio and decided to pick the Steelers over the Browns or become a Yankee fan cause it’s the “cool” thing to do; these are the teams you rooted for day in and day out.

At times a part of me really wishes that I never got into sports at all because so much heartbreak and suffering goes into being a Cleveland fan every single year.  But this is also the same reason that I can’t stop rooting and watching.  It’s a bad drug that infected my blood stream early in my life, and it all started around 1995.

I’d love to tell you I was a huge Browns fan growing up but due to the fact I was born around the time the whole John Elway thing happened to the Browns, I can’t really recollect on that experience so mine starts when I really started to get into sports, and that was with the 90s Indians. 

No one really remembers when it happens but something in their brain turns on early in childhood development and all of a sudden sports become relevant.  Same thing happened to me when the Indians were at the peak of their success in 1995, when fans were pouring into newly built Jacobs Field game in and game out.  Some of the fondest memories come from rooting for the Indians in 1995. 

Everyone in grade school had Indians fever as games were turned on in class like it was no big deal.  I mean how you could you not love the makeup of this team; Albert Belle, Manny Ramirez, Jim Thome (at third base), Omar Vizquel, Kenny Lofton, Carlos Baerga, Jose Mesa, and Eddie Murray just to name a few.   I lived and breathed this team every game, all the way to the World Series.  Then the unstoppable force met up with the immovable object.  Turns out the immovable object wins every time when you have three pitchers named Greg Maddux, John Smoltz and Tom Glavine.  It was about this time, when I really learned what it was like to be a fan of Cleveland sports.

 So 1995 came and went and only just a short few years later, the Indians were right back in the thick of things with their 1997 squad.  Same fan love fest, same crazy Indians song being played at school about Indian fever and all that hoopla, and same wonderful memories leading up to the World Series.  The peak of my interest in baseball and the Indians easily came in 1997, especially with such memorable highlights of Sandy Alomar Jr. hitting a HR at the All-Star game in Cleveland to help win it for the AL.  The fans were going absolutely nuts.  And who could ever forget the game-tying bomb Alomar had off of Mariano Rivera to tie the game in the 8th of the ALDS against the Yankees. (Don’t think we’ll live that one down Yankee fans) 

Everything was going our way, this was it, this was the year it finally all made sense.  No more lack of titles since 1964 or in the Indians case, since 1948.  I was beyond prepared to finally accept my spot in history as an avid Indians fan and embrace that World Series title that ached to be in Cleveland.  Long suffering story turned short, Jose Mesa blew the game as only a choking Cleveland team on the verge of winning it all can, Tony Fernandez forgot how to play second base and we lost in extra innings to the Florida Marlins in game seven as cruel reality slaps you in the face.  No World Series celebrating, no Indians fever, no 90s magic anymore.  After 1997, a snowball effect resonated throughout all of Cleveland and Murphy’s Law kicked us all in the gut.  Anything that can go wrong, will go wrong.

Oh, and in case you were curious, I don’t really have fond memories of the Cavs from the early 90s so I can’t really recall any suffering and pain I absorbed from “The Shot”.  Sorry.  I mean what’s one moment of suffering in the history of Cleveland sports compared to the hundreds that occur on a yearly basis?

Oh yeah, the Browns lost their team to Baltimore and re-formed in 1999 as the NEW Cleveland Browns.  But it’s ok, I mean it’s not like Baltimore is going to take our team and win a Super Bowl with it or anything. Wait, that actually happened? Crap.

So enter the 2000s’ when the snowball became a snow boulder and things were just going from bad to worse.  Jim Thome left in a controversial way, saying how his heart is in Cleveland (but apparently his bank account is in Philadelphia).  Manny Ramirez didn’t understand English and his agent forced him into going to Boston. Righhhht.  So being left with a team that was a shell of its former self, the Indians struggled mightily throughout the 2000s, and me right along with it.  And for whatever reason, I still couldn’t get enough.  Yeah there would be times I would turn off the game after the Indians were being blown out, only to convince myself to turn it back on some hours later and find out the Indians came back from 14-2 against the Mariners in 2001. Yeah, I turned it back on; I witnessed the magic and memory of that game and still to this very day get goose bumps when I listen to the call Tom Hamilton made as the Indians tied the game at 14 by scoring five runs in the 9th.  It’s the little things like this that keep me coming back for more.

So why do I do it? Why do I constantly keep putting myself through situations where time and time again ends in the same result?  The Browns are a never ending joke who can’t beat the Steelers when it counts and haven’t had a franchise QB since they came back into the league in 1999.  The Cavs had their shining moment in 2007 when they reached the NBA Finals for the first time in franchise history only to get embarrassed beyond belief against the Spurs in a four game sweep.  Then there were the Indians in 2007 with CY Young C.C. Sabathia and a healthy and a consistent pitcher formally known as Fausto Carmona leading the charge all the way to the ALCS against the Boston Red Sox, being up three games to one and on the verge of a World Series birth.   Then the typical Cleveland reverse magic happened and Sabathia forgot how to pitch and Murphy’s Law showed its ugly face, again.  Seriously, what did we do to deserve such cruel fate?

So here we are, in the year 2012 and I’m still a diehard fan of Cleveland sports.  The Browns are showing signs of improvement and all that crap they want to feed us to make us feel better about an organization whose run by an owner more interested in futbol than football.  The Cavs are trying to improve their team through the draft with Rookie of the Year Uncle Drew behind the wheel after losing King James and his talents to Miami.  And the Indians haven’t reached the playoffs since 2007 and for that matter haven’t even come close. 

In my head I constantly tell myself that this year is the year, when in reality everyone else hears me saying “well there’s always next year”.   But as sad as it sounds, as a suffering Cleveland fan, it’s fun to look forward to next year.  Next year we start fresh and can focus on the new pieces acquired in the off-season.   I mean hell, next year we start out as good as everyone else.  Then once next year runs its course for 2 or 3 months, the same realization comes back; we suck.

So yes, tell me how your team has more championships than the entire city I root for does.  Gloat about how even though your team never won a Super Bowl, you’ve at least made it to one. (I now live in Minnesota so that’s all I hear from Vikings fans.)  As much as I suffer, I won’t jump off this train wreck. I can’t jump off this train wreck.  I was born into this mess and I’ll take it all the way to the grave.   I mean I can’t go my whole life never witnessing a championship in Cleveland…right?