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Athens, Ohio, United States
"Art and love are the same thing. It's the process of seeing yourself in things that are not you."

Wednesday, February 4, 2009

The Fruit of my (Insufficient) Labor

They never told me about this part of Journalism: you actually have to work.

So while I spend the rest of my day, transcribing two hours worth of interviews, enjoy this essay I wrote for a Cleveland sports blogging website contest. Alas, I did not win. But you know what...I like it. 

Baseball haters, log off now. Indians fans, stick around. This is my early valentine for those Under the Wigwam.

As a demented clown with cracked face-paint once told his cosmic counter part: “You complete me,” so do rivals complete each other in the world of sports. When I say O.S.U, you probably think Michigan, right? When I say Red Sox, I am betting you also think of the Evil Empire in pinstripes, correct? Nothing quite defines a sports team and a fan base like the opposing team that you consistently and completely hate. 

Now, I am an Indians fan and while we have our fair share of traditions: banging John Adam’s drum, reading the Sunday Terry Pluto article and worshipping at the altar of Chief Wahoo, there is not one other team that I can point to and direct all my misguided hate at the world at. This upsets me. If I am going to be dedicating my life to loving one sports team, I need to balance the good vibes out by hating another with every fiber of my being. It is high time that we identify the yin to the Indian’s yang. I have been doing some serious (and hateful) soul searching and I think I have discovered the Indians’ rival. Keep in mind that in order to sustain a rivalry the two organizations must be: close in geography, close in ideology and must have a sustainable and legitimate history of past hatred. So without further ado, I would like to present to you a list of the Tribe’s most plausible rivals in descending order. Enjoy (and more importantly, hate)!

5. Red Sox/Yankees
If constant frustration and heartbreak were enough for a rivalry, the Yankees and Red Sox would be the Tribe’s number one enemy. The problem is: there is too much Goliath here and not enough David. Sure, we Cleveland fans hate both the Red Sox and the Yankees, but can we honestly say that that hatred is reciprocated back against us. There have been times when our beloved Indians have been a thorn in the Yankees and Red Sox’s paw (22-0 in Yankees Stadium comes to mind) but in the end, that is all we have ever been. The Yankees tormented us endlessly through the 90s and the Red Sox stole a World Series berth from us two years ago, but we have never quite paid back the favor, at least not in these past two decades. Also, the Yankees and Red Sox do not need another rival: they have each other. This “rivalry” is a non-starter.

4. Twins
Now this is more like it. The Indians are the Twins are almost identical in there approach to building a team. Both Mark Shapiro and the Terry Ryan-machine in Minnesota are committed to developing their own talent from within through quality drafts and shrewd trades, and then locking down those important pieces to long-term deals. In the new millennium, the Tribe and the Twinkies have often made a run at each other in the standings and have even run at each other physically in the field after many a difficult and trying seasons. But there is a fundamental problem here. First off, the Twin Cities are a far cry from Cleveland both geographically and socio-economically. Good rivalries work because cities close together can poke fun at the similarities and slight difference in each other. Browns fan can tease their cousins from Pittsburgh about how many perogies they consume or Bill Cowher’s dim-witted expression (as I frequently do). What common ground do Cleveland and Minneapolis share? None. And that is why this rivalry doesn’t work.

3. Reds
Yes, you heard me right, the Reds are the Indians’s third biggest rival. If they played in the same League, they would probably be our biggest. First of all, look at this from a financial, off-the-field standpoint. The Indians and Reds occupy the same state, and more importantly the same demographic. Cleveland is the king in the North and Cincinatti is the king in the South, but who does everyone else in-between root for? The Indians and Reds rivalry is a constant battle for attention of the state of Ohio. And the best part is: the Indians may have delivered the killing blow this winter. Paul Dolan and the Indians’s decision-makers wisely scooped up the Columbus Clippers to be their AAA affiliate. Why is this significant? Because that is an entire population of baseball fans who will now swear allegiance to Chief Wahoo and not the pugilist old-timey baseball thing that the Reds worship. While, the Battle of Ohio has been far more intense than just a corny marketing ploy by both teams, a true rivalry just doesn’t work when the combatants occupy different league. And that’s a shame.

2. White Sox
If there is a better representation of good vs. evil in sports, it is certainly hard to find. Take a look at the White Sox, the black and white stripe-wearing punks who have the most obnoxious coach in sports, the most snobby fan-base (I am watching you closely, Barack Obama) and almost tore the very credibility of American sports down with their Black Sox scandal back in 1919. Then you have the young, plucky Cleveland Indians who wear bright, warm colors, have a smiling Native American on their hats and were the subject of the movie Major League. For as unlikeable as the White Sox are, the Indians are just as likeable. Consider this Red Sox and Yankees-Lite. Even Cleveland and Chicago are analogous to Boston and New York. Cleveland is the charming ethnic little port-town like Boston, while Chicago is the Mecca-like Midwestern Empire, similar to New York. The problem is, this rivalry may be a little TOO like the Yankees and Red Sox for my tastes. Also, as anyone who has driven the 6 hours to Chicago can tell you, these cities are a little too far away to effectively invade each other’s stadiums every summer.

1. Tigers
Now this is more like it. If there is anything that is in any self-respecting Ohioans blood, it is a healthy distaste for that state up North. Michiganians look like us, kind of sound like us and go through the same daily struggles as we do, but they just aren’t quite us. Looking at Detroit is kind of like looking at a Bizarro version of Cleveland. The people are the same but instead of punching the clock at the steel mill, they punch the clock at the automotive assembly line. Compatibility between two cities is one thing but can the teams deliver on this potential blood-feud? Oh boy, they can. I will never forget the summer of 2007 in which the Indians and Tigers slugged it out for the AL Central crown. It was vicious, exciting and visceral. There was a real intense atmosphere to those Tigers-Indians games and even last summer when the Indians finished in 3rd and the Tigers finished in 5th, that competitive momentum was sustained. The Indians and Tigers do not quite have the heated history that I would love to see in rivals, but they certainly have the passion. Even 100 some years in, it is not too late to identify one’s enemy.

Well, Tribe fans, to the best of my knowledge, the Tigers represent the best rivals we have. I hope you will take my list to heart. And here is to Happy Hating in 2009. Go Tribe!

1 comment:

Curiousgab said...

Well done, great analysis. I cant let go of my miserable Pirates by thinking, if they were only like their teams of the 70's, they would have been candidates for your rival "hate".