By Geoff Stellfox
This article originally appeared in The DePaulia on Oct. 31st, 2016 and has been reposted with permission
In .43 seconds, Google has 3,940,000 hits on a search of why Cleveland sucks.
“This article is going to be a piece of cake,” I think to myself while a broad grin spreads across my face. I just hope I can fit all these jokes I’m about to write in under 1,000 words.
It’s true. I do hate Cleveland. It’s a depressing city in the second worst state in the U.S. (behind Florida). Calling their football team a dumpster fire would be offensive to dumpsters, and all of their sports teams combined have won one title since 1964.
Worse yet, they’re playing the Cubs in the World Series. It’s a perfect storm of sports hatred, but I need more. I need to bury this place.
“I don’t like saying mean things, but I used to drive through Cleveland in college on my way back home to Buffalo,” my mom said. “Honestly, I don’t think I’ve ever seen the sun there.”
Even my mom can get on the ‘I hate Cleveland’ bandwagon.
My family somehow managed to get tickets and we headed to Cleveland for Game 2 of the World Series. As my mom predicted, the streak of grey depression continues – Game 2’s starting time has been moved up an hour to try to get the game in before heavy storms roll through, and the outlook is already pretty bleak. It’s been raining for the better part of the afternoon and there’s a 50 percent chance of precipitation at game time. I look out the window at the scenery and I see cornfields all the way up to the horizon. It’s been this way for two hours across Ohio and another three in Indiana.
“In 2015, Cleveland was the fifth most dangerous City in the USA,” according to the FBI. In 1952, the Cuyahoga River caught on fire due to over pollution. This is just too easy.
The silhouette of buildings eventually breaks up the flat horizon. “Hey, abandoned factories, we must be here,” I quip.
Not even a smirk or a chuckle. Whatever. I think I’m funny, and that’s all that matters.
We’re staying outside the city, hoping to get partway home tonight, so we head straight to Progressive Field. I’m handed my ticket, and just as we hop out of the car, the weather begins to break. Not quite sunlight, but there’s no rain, and I’m assuming this is the best Cleveland gets in terms of weather. Along the two-block walk to the stadium, the streets, businesses and bars are covered with images and the logos of the Indians and Cavaliers.
I’ve experienced the crosstown classic, which has traditionally been rife with parking lot skirmishes and heavy drinking to forget just how bad our respective teams have been. I’ve suffered Cardinals fans, the self-titled “best fans in baseball,” who believe that they are the baseball God’s chosen people and that World Series glory is their divine right – saying we’re merely peasants usurping their throne. Then there’s Brewers fans, most of whom are more passionate about Miller Lite and encased meat than their team (who could blame them), Dodgers fans, whom I’m pretty sure are just a myth, and those random Royals fans, like my editor, who are sprinkled around Chicago, leaving us wondering “how the hell did you get here?” But I’m admittedly inexperienced when it comes to the finer points of Cleveland Indians fans.
I feel a tap on my shoulder.
“Excuse me, but you dropped this.”
I turn around and standing behind me is a little boy, probably around ten years old, holding a grey mitten. It must’ve fallen out of my pocket. His eyes wander up and he notices my royal blue Cubs hat. “Go tribe!” he says as he tosses me my glove and runs off to join his parents. Ok, not all Indians fans can be that polite, right? I’ve still got plenty of reasons to hate them.
The atmosphere around Progressive Field is surprisingly muted, but the stadium is impressive nonetheless. We enter through the outfield and are greeted by a panorama view of the stadium and diamond. Instead of the mayhem that is Wrigleyville on game days, this scene is quiet and orderly. There’s a surprising amount of Cubs fans, but no animosity as of yet. We’re passed by a group of fans wearing headdresses.
“Casual racism everywhere, yet the name of their stadium is Progressive field. I need to write that one down. Classic Cleveland.” I’m so clever.
We wander around the outfield seats, past the Fox Sports World Series broadcast. We see Frank Thomas, A-Rod, Pete Rose, along with the rest of the team and a small group of fans has gathered around the stage. They’re two distinct factions here, and you can tell where each individual falls by what they’re shouting. Half are telling Rose that he should be in the Hall of Fame; the other half are asking him for the betting lines on the game. There is no middle ground.
As we head to our seats, I’m struck by the quality of food available. I saw authentic tacos, steak sandwiches and a grilled cheese called the ‘parmageddon’ which is apparently stuffed with sauerkraut, caramelized onions and pierogi, along with two types of cheese. This, I could get used to. They even have wine glasses with lids on them so you can cheer and not spill.
While in line for tacos, an Indians fan not wearing a headdress strikes up a conversation with me. We don’t support the same team, so this is a foreign concept for me.
“How was the drive? Sorry this is such a rotten day to be out here.”
We continue our small talk, and I ask what he thinks about Cubs fans and their chances in the series. I mentally prepare my comeback for the trash talk that’s inevitably on it’s way. Finally, I get to test out the zingers I’ve been saving up for my article.
Photo credit: Geoff Stellfox/The DePaulia.
“Man, we know what it’s like to wait for so long to win. I feel your pain,” he says, laughing. “I’d hate to break your hearts, but I think we’ve got a great chance to win the Series. At the end of the day though, we’re just happy to have the chance to win two titles in a year.” The worst part is that he says this without an ounce of sting or malice. It’s coming from a place of empathy; this guy has felt the pain of being a Cleveland Sports fan his whole life and knows what failing to live up to expectations feels like. He’s making me feel like a bad person.
When the game finally starts, they don’t even boo our players. Silence.
One run in the first, again, no boos, just silence.
“Please, give me something to hate you for.” In my head I’m trying to figure a way to make this Cleveland sucks piece work out. Even after a three-run fifth inning, there’s very little hate coming from the fans. There’s just mostly silence, despite loud cheers from the surprisingly large Cubs following in the stadium. When the camera pans to the fans between innings, the operator struggles to find shots without any Cubs fans in the background. “Go Tribe Go” chant are constantly getting hijack into becoming pro-Chicago.
By the eighth inning, the stadium has started to empty and the Indians are getting crushed on home turf. Designated hitter Kyle Schwarber has almost completed his hostile takeover of the city and has all but declared himself mayor of Cleveland.
Bottom of the ninth, two outs and Roberto Perez grounds out to short, game over. Suddenly the sea of royal blue still in stadium becomes a mass of white W flags and you can hear faint renditions of “Go Cubs Go.” The Indians fans aren’t putting up much of a fight.
As we make our way down from the nosebleeds, a few fans behind us tell us to have a safe trip home.
“So, do you feel like a jerk yet?” my sister asked.
She obviously doesn’t comprehend my lack of conscience, however I have rethought what I’m going to write. I won’t endorse Cleveland, or say it’s a cool city and I’m definitely not going on vacation there. But the fans were brilliant, the food and stadium are amazing and J.R. Smith is a national treasure. I’m excited to be back in Chicago, but I will say that Cleveland doesn’t suck, too much.