We live in a world in which access to personal details of prominent athletes is always just a click away. Not only can you find every possible playing statistic for the athlete of your choice, chances are you can find any personal statistic you would like as well. Because of our obsession with picking athletes and celebrities apart, negative information is always more easily accessible. Besides the sordid details of their personal lives, fans also have a clearer picture of the ability levels of the players on their favorite teams than ever before, and therefore a solid understanding of the team’s likely record and level of play before the season even starts. So the question is, why do we spend our time watching and supporting a team if we know they won’t be very good? There are so many answers to that question, and as a lifetime fan of all three major Cleveland sports teams, I feel that I can shed some light on those reasons.
Cleveland sports have been a part of my life before I even entered this world. I was born one week early despite no prior signs of my impending arrival. The reason? On June 10, 1978 my father talked my very pregnant mother into going to an Indians game at old Municipal Stadium. Rather than sit close to the field (which you could always do at Muni), he insisted on walking up ramp after ramp to their nosebleed seats. Later that night my mother awoke to her first contractions and that next afternoon she had had her first child (despite horror stories telling otherwise, I must have been the perfect baby as my parents had four more children after me). Growing up, Cleveland sports, particularly the Indians, were a large part of our family bonding. We regularly went to games, watched them on the televison, and wondered if the Indians and Cavs would ever be any good. I remember going to the Richfield Coliseum with my father, his father, and my younger brother to see the Cavaliers take on Michael Jordan, Scottie Pippen, and the Chicago Bulls. I remember sitting so high up I couldn’t tell which player was which, but even then I knew it was special to see Jordan play basketball. Football season was also interesting as there were several Pittsburgh Steelers fans in my extended family, and those on each side of what was then a real rivalry took great pleasure in the pain each football team inflicted upon their fans. Even though I was more concerned with He-Man and Transformers at the time, these are still some of the strongest memories of my childhood.
High School and College were when my allegiances as a fan were really defined. Unlike most Cleveland fans, the Browns are last my list of favorite local teams. The Indians and Cavaliers are constantly battling it out for first place in my heart. While I enjoy the game of basketball more, and am higher on the Cavaliers’ long-term prospects despite the Tribe’s strong season, the 1995 Cleveland Indians were the first team I really loved. The Browns were gone, the Cavs weren’t very good, and the for once the Indians were the darlings of Northeast Ohio. I read everything about them, made a scrap book of articles from the Plain Dealer on their season, listened to sports radio constantly, and watched every game I could. Even now, I can still remember my first game at Jacobs Field, an 8-0 victory over the Detroit Tigers. The 1995 Cleveland Indians were the beginning of my transition from casual fan to Cleveland sports diehard. The 1997 Indians caused me to miss classes the day after they lost the World Series to the Florida Marlins. It was around this time that I began playing fantasy baseball, with fantasy basketball and football soon to follow, increasing my interest in the Cavaliers and Browns.
The two years between my college graduation and the drafting of LeBron James were the time that cemented my bond with the Cavaliers. One of my best friends and I frequently attended Cavalier games. Unlike the LeBron era, or even today, Cavaliers tickets were incredibly affordable. Five dollars and your college ID got you a great seat to some entertaining basketball. Whether it was listening to a female “fan” of Ricky Davis cheering for him from the wives’ section, shouting “put in Langdon!” in support of the “Alaskan Assassin”, or watching Michael Jordan hit a game winning shot for the Washington Wizards, these moments made me fall in love with the Cleveland Cavaliers and NBA basketball. Between these games, frequent visits to Jacobs Field, and my one year as a Browns season ticket holder with another one of my closest friends, my “young and single” years of my career involved a lot of sports, a lot of partying, and a lot of fun.
When my wife and I began dating, sports were a way for us to spend time with each other, as well as our friends. I was lucky to marry a beautiful girl who loves Cleveland sports almost as much as her maniac husband does. We attended the 2007 Browns 51-46 victory over the Bengals, sitting just six rows from the fifty yard line. We went to several Indians regular season and playoff games, including the famous “bug game” against the Yankees in the 2007 playoffs. I remember the two of us sitting on the patio of a local bar with some of our friends while we watched the Cavaliers defeat the Detroit Pistons in Game 6 of the Eastern Conference Finals, earning their first-ever trip to the NBA Finals.
Now my wife and I share our passion for Cleveland sports with our own children and the rest of our family. We took my mother (a big Cavs fan) to Zydrunas Ilgauskas’ first game back at Q since his trade to the Washington Wizards for Antawn Jamison. We were with our nephew for his first Cavaliers and Indians games, and this past Sunday we took my son to his first Indians game. Watching him as he ran the bases after the game was a memory I will never forget, as is him telling us “I got a baseball!” the whole drive home after we made a quick purchase at the team shop.
As I wrote this article, it really hit me as to why I, like so many other fans in so many other cities follow my local sports teams so passionately. Love. We spend time watching and talking about sports with our friends and family, the people we love most. We laugh, we yell, and we spend time together. We use these sports to create memories with the people we love that will last our entire lives. Because of the bonds being a sports fan helps us create, we eventually fall in love with the teams that help us create them. We share their joy and agony the way we do with someone we love. When I think about one of the Cleveland teams one day winning the championship in their respective sports, I think about what it will be like to be with my friends and family when it happens. And I smile, because all of the things that I love in love most in love will have joy and happiness.