Why I’m Rooting for the Cleveland Indians to Win It All (Then Immediately Change Their Identity)

I suppose I should start this by saying this will be a “political” post. It has nothing to do with politics, but basically anything nowadays that deals with serious matters (such as racism or feminism) is labelled as political because that’s the climate we now live in. Being a decent human has become a polarizing topic. Anyway, I digress. On to baseball.

I can’t quite say I’m a lifelong Indians fan. I was raised in the suburbs of NYC as a Mets fan and a Yankee hater (the latter being how all true baseball fans should be).

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It would be in my later elementary school years that I started rooting for the Tribe as well. It coincided with the movie Major League, but not because of it. After all, it was rated R, and my mother made sure I would never see anything that had a possible exposed boob in it. I wouldn’t even see the un-edited version of that movie until probably the last decade.

Anyway, I latched onto the Indians for the same reason as the fans of Major League did – the team was terrible. I mean, staggeringly so. I was still predominantly a Mets fan, but I was a close second Indians fan because I guess in the 1990 I was glutton for punishment. That only grew and grew as they crept out of their misery and started playing like a true ball club. By their run in ’97, I was a full fledged Indians fan.

I watched the 1997 ALDS in my college dorm room surrounded by Yankers fans, and when the last out was made, I cheered as loud as I could then ran as hard as I could so I didn’t have to face any repercussions. I was full-blown fan.

By their surprising and somewhat miraculous run in 2007, I was more than an Indians fan first and a secondary Mets fan. I was a Tribe enthusiast. I was sick a few days after they blew a 3 game lead against the Red Sox (and even predicted at the time if they didn’t win game 5, they were going to lose the series). I was a true fan.

I remember my wife asking me a few years later how I could like a team that exploited an entire people for financial gain. How I could like THE INDIANS.

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My stance was I didn’t necessarily like the culture, the history, and certainly not the racism. I answered I liked the players. She asked this of me when Asdrubal Cabrera was a fresh-faced rookie that spurred on all sorts of romanticized dreams about a glorious future of multiple World Series rings. And that sentiment is still true today.

You got the infection smile of Lindor – Image result for francisco lindor smile

the charm and grit of Kipnis Image result for jason kipnis silly

the stoic badassery of Klubot – Image result for corey kluber

the future-is-bright-ness of Zimmer –  Image result for bradley zimmer

the Pucket-ness of Jose Ramirez – Image result for jose ramirez helmet

 

the outsider power of Encarnacion – Image result for encarnacion with parrot

My son’s favorites of Chiz and Santana, the REAL bullpen mafia (even Shaw… sometimes). Yeah, these are the players I am pulling for to end the longest drought in the Major Leagues – a 69 year span without a World Championship.

But I can longer ignore that the entire identity of the team is founded on ridiculous notion that Native Americans are in any way “Indians”. Chief Wahoo is a disgrace and needs to go, but he’s only the tip of the iceberg.

I was fortunate enough to go to Game 1 of the World Series last year. And you know what I saw? A whole lot of white people. I mean, I thought I was at a Trump fundraiser it was so white. And sure, it can’t all be attributed to the Indians fan base; the Cubs had a strong presence too. And it could easily be more indicative of the socioeconomic culture rather than a true cross-section of Cleveland baseball fandom. But it was damn near pure white. The owners of the Indians are white. The past ones were white. Most of the upper-brass of the Indians are white.

THESE PEOPLE ARE NOT THE PEOPLE WHO SHOULD GET TO DECIDE WHICH BLATANTLY ETHNIC IDENTITY IS “OKAY” TO USE.

I get it, the Indians as a franchise has been around since the late 19th century, predating many many franchises. Back then, it was not considered racist to name a team the Indians (at least by white men, who were the only voices heard then, as opposed to now, when they’re only the vast majority of voices heard). Somehow it wasn’t racist even when “The Indians” were named that after a Native American player who played for the Spiders in 1899. After all, there’s “history” there. Or at least so say ‘the fans’.

When I went to purchase some schwag for my kids at the World Series, I asked if they had anything without Chief Wahoo or the word Indians on the gear. The guy looked at me and said, “C’mon, it’s history, man!” And I said, “It’s a pretty horrible history, don’t you think?” He did not. Then again, he was paid to sell merchandise with a bright-red-faced Native American sporting feathers that somehow represented a blue-collar American city’s baseball franchise.

Chief Wahoo is bad enough, and this article does a pretty good job of breaking it down, so I won’t rehash that. But seriously, look at him.

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It’s 2017.

Speaking of which, the Indians are the toast of the town in 2017, having just won an AL-record 21 games in a row. The name “Indians” has probably been said more this year than even last year, when they took it to extra innings in game seven of the World Series in one of the greatest games of all time. I can’t help but think that time the name “Indians” is mentioned is somehow NOT causing a systemic cringing reaction, and that’s a problem.

Which is why I want them to win it all this year. Well, I want that because I’m a fan. But here’s my dream scenario. They win it all this year as the Cleveland Indians, as a team that bases its profit on the backs of Native American exploitation. Because they’re not going to change it now, with 20 games left in the season. So let them win it. For “the old timers”. For “history”. For “fans across the world” (although in reality it’s predominantly white people from Ohio).

Then before the 2018 season, they can work out a deal with Major League Baseball (there have already been discussions between the owners and MLB) and to have them totally re-branded as the Cleveland Spiders, a name they used up until 1899.

Fun fact: the Cleveland Spiders hold a record that will never be broken – most road losses (101!).

Hell change it to the franchise name as it was just before it was changed to the Indians, the Naps (after Hall of Famer Nap Lajoie). I am all for a team that promotes healthy daytime sleeping. Don’t want to name it after a player from a century ago? Change the name to the Cleveland Pronks. Still want more recent? The Cleveland Loopstoks. (He’ll make it to the majors one day, I just know it.)

If management is going to be so obstinate as to stay the course (after all, it would be a huge financial hit because blowhard WHITE fans would likely boycott a change away from the Indians moniker), then at least follow the lead of the Chicago Blackhawks. Their mascot isn’t racist, it’s a hawk. They intentionally work WITH native tribes in terms of philanthropic outreach and even branding. They don’t seek to profit off the backs of a misnamed people, they try to grow with them. It’s an imperfect model, and ideally I’d like to see it get away from all of that, but it’s certainly better than where we’re at today.

Let’s move more to this:

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It celebrates a town that has not had much to celebrate before Lebron came back. It celebrates a team that has been built the proper way and is firing on all cylinders. It celebrates a team of diversity (their 40 man roster represents 7 countries, and while they’re all the US or Latin American countries, it’s a start). It does not predominantly feature white people making beaucoup bucks off a racist misnomer. Wait until after the year is done, especially (but not necessarily only if) they win the World Series. They can pump all their extra revenue into a re-branding campaign.

Go Tribe in 2017! And go Spiders in 2018!

The World Series (in picture form)

WORLD SERIES 2016

Game 1: Cleveland, OH

(Time to cue the intro from… well, I’ll just do it…)

If any of you bothered to watch that, you’d be as amused as me that the newspaper headlines are overdubbed in German.

I’m not going to go into great details, I already did that in THIS POST HERE. I will, however, share the pictures that accompanied my once-in-a-lifetime trip. (Full disclosure: I hope this isn’t once in a lifetime, but it’s certainly not gonna happen again next year, even if they make the series again. I’m broke as our electoral system.)

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On our way to Dennys before the game. Jay got a salad. I ordered the seasonal Thanksgiving dinner. This is the first proof that, in any picture we are both in, one of us is not capable of looking good.
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The one and only Jaymar posing before the field. The sign may say Progressive, but it’ll always be The Jake to me.
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Entering the stadium from center field. I agree with Jay, that does seem weird.
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A view from our seats. That is: a fish-eye view from our seats before I realized that my camera inexplicably has a fish-eye setting.
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A better view from our seats. And further proof that, like Highlander, there can be only one (that looks good in a picture of us both).
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We were close enough to see John Adams banging away on his drum. Well, to be more precise, my camera has a good enough zoom lens that… you get the point.
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The unfurling of the obligatory huge flag. “Gets me every time,” says Jaymar.
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Pre-game fireworks. SPOILER ALERT: more of that to come.
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The retiring of 455, the number of consecutive sellout games. In 3926, Sicnarf Loopstok the 95th will be very upset that he can’t pick his high school number of 455.
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First pitch. Like this was ACTUALLY the first pitch of the World Series.
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Frankie Lindor doing what he does best. Smiling. And stealing 2nd base. But mostly smiling. Why? Probably because he knew he was going to win a Gold Glove in his first full season in the majors! Booyah!
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I can’t believe I actually got this on film. It was the massive 30′ dinker that Ramirez hit that opened the scoring of the World series. Given that we were probably at least 250′ away, that makes this shot even luckier.
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I like Nap and love what he did for this team. The Party at Napoli shirts are awesome. That being said, this is what he did an awful lot of in his last two months at the plate. Steeeee-rike.
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Okay, I know this isn’t the at-bat where I famously called Brandon Guyer getting a HBP RBI on an 0-2 count. But screw that, on the very next pitch I PREDICTED HE WOULD GET HIT BY A PITCH TO SCORE A RUN!
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Remember what I said about our inability to both look good in the same picture?
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Napoli proving me wrong with some solid contact. Still an out, but solid contact. I do genuinely hope we can resign him next year. Just not at $17m.
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Mid-game fireworks, these coming after Roberto Perez’ first of TWO homers of the night. It was a career game.
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Proof that Perez can trot.
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The score after Perez’ dinger.
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Slider hugging Santa. Because baseball, that’s why. The Indians scored 3 more times this game, and I somehow attribute it to this action.
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Cody Allen throwing a white cylinder at the Cubs. He fared well this day. As did the Indians.
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Post-game fireworks: the trifecta.
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Post-game glee. Jay’s thumbs up was for the game, his grimace was for my photo-while-walking skills.
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Our glee evaporated when we waited on line for about an hour to go up the only escalator.

All in all, this was a day to remember. Major thanks again to Jaymar and to Ashley who made this happen! We didn’t win it all (came within one run) but it was an epic game and one of the all-time great World Series.

The Indians did steal one thing from the Cubs. We’re now the team who gets to say “There’s always next year.”

Post WS wrap-up

This blog will have no pictures because I have to get home, defrag, and upload some pictures, so that blog will hopefully roll out in the next few days. But until then, some notes on the WORLD SERIES:

  • Our seats were pretty amazing. Front row of the upper deck, halfway between 3rd base and the foul pole. Perfect view of the entire stadium and we got a firsthand look at Perez’ TWO home runs. Plus, with my extra-zoomy camera, I was able to snap pictures of individual players batting. I couldn’t have asked for better seats.
  • The weather – I was truly worried about 50 degrees with wind, but up until about the 8th inning it was downright pleasant. Somehow, even tho the temperature only dropped 2 degrees, it did get chilly at the end. But considering as I was walking into the airport today I saw SNOWFLAKES, I can’t really complain one iota about the weather. It was a perfect night for baseball.
  • Jaymar and I had a sort of contest to predict what the most random jersey we’d see would be. I thought maybe a Paul Byrd or Russell Branyan. I forget Jay’s prediction (it wasn’t Hershiser but it was someone like that). We saw someone rockin’ a Jensen Lewis jersey. That took the cake. Although I realize now we also saw a Joe Smith jersey, which is oddly apropros because he was part of the Bullpen Mafia in the Indians and is currently a member of the Cubs. Oh, and you should definitely click that link and watch that video from the so-bad-its-good vault.
  • The game itself was fantastic and was about as good a start as you could hope for. A dominant start by Kluber (6+ scoreless ball, breaking a record for most strikeouts in the first three innings – 8), scoreless relief from Miller, shutdown by Allen, and 10 hits (8 of which were by Lindor, Ramirez, and the newly crowned stud Perez). It was the sort of declarative statement I think we needed.
  • Speaking of which, the Indians were the definitive underdog in the Red Sox series, which we swept. We were the clear underdogs in Toronto before advancing after winning 4 and only losing one. Now we’re probably the biggest underdogs yet we shut down the  best offense in the majors and chipped away at their great staff. You really don’t hear about overdogs enough, but I like flying under the radar. I think it’s making teams too complacent. We’re sneaky good.
  • I put in more steps than I had in the previous week combined, and most of that was looking for a single place to get booze that wasn’t beer. I eventually found a place that served watered down screwdrivers (she was going to make it with GIN! ughhh) but it was just too much work to keep going back. Plus, it was fun being sober for the game – lots of screaming to be had.
  • I made a prediction that possibly rivals the Babe famously calling his home run. With the bases loaded and two outs, hit-by-pitch magnet Brandon Guyer steps up and gets himself into an 0-2. I turn to Jay and said “Okay, Guyer’s gonna get hit by a pitch here to score a run.” That’s an absurd prediction to make, given that a pitcher won’t throw anywhere near him on an 0-2 count. But Lester did on the next pitch, hitting him on the back of the leg. I can’t say anyone else made that prediction. Also, this exists. 😀

  • This really was a bucket list item. Will I go back to the Series if they make it next year, or in ten years, or fifty? I don’t know, probably not. It was something I wanted to make sure I could do once. If I do save up some money, I’d love to go back some day with the whole family to watch a WS game, but I made sure to grab the opportunity this year while it presented itself.
  • I don’t think I can adequately thank Jay & Ashley enough for making this trip happen. It’ll be something I remember forever, and I think I’m going to owe a few dozen footrubs in the coming weeks. And, I guess… more dinners at Dennys for Jaymar.
  • 3 MORE WINS TO GO!
  • Also, Jay and I are going to hopefully churn out a Dirty Dozen list out of this – Top 12 Things That Will Cause the Cubs to Lose Again This Year