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What Next, Cleveland? Well, How About Our Baseball Team?

Cleveland sports fandom still has meaning with the Curse vanquished, and you needn't search long and hard for where to direct your newfound enthusiasm.

You know, it's very strange. I have been in the revenge business so long, now that it's over, I don't know what to do with the rest of my life.

Right now I’m supposed to be writing about the Cleveland Indians’ enjoyable weekend sweep of the Chicago White Sox—a righting of the ship that’s kept the Tribe (38-30) in first place while sending the reeling Pale Hose (33-36) further out to sea. It’s a pretty good storyline as far as mid-June baseball recaps go. And yet… it seems more than a bit to silly to pretend like anything is business as usual in Cleveland sports at the moment—that the action and analytics swirling inside the lines can hold a candle to the transcendent euphoria going on outside of them. A fan base consisting disproportionately of middle-aged, cynical curmudgeons has suddenly hatched from its cocoon of “could-have-been" thinking, and is now running wild on the streets of the Forest City like little kids on the first day of summer, which Monday June 20 2016 happens to be. In some ways, the Cleveland Cavaliers’ NBA Championship has nothing to do with the Indians of Major League Baseball. In other ways, it has everything to do with it. As our favorite drone enthusiast Trevor Bauer tweeted last night, it seems quite reasonable now for the Tribe faithful to stand up and say, with no amount of sarcasm, that it's "#OurTurn."

The quote at the beginning of this article is from a fictional character I’ve often considered the perfect embodiment of the Cleveland sports fan. Inigo Montoya, the beloved sword-wielding Spaniard of The Princess Bride, is a downtrodden fellow with great heart and determination—and a noble sense of humor—but he’s hopelessly and endlessly in search of one seemingly unattainable goal. In his case, it’s revenge. For Cleveland fans, it’s always been partly revenge (it’s hard to keep track of our enemies at this point), but mostly pride—the good kind—that unique feeling of seeing a mission through to its conclusion… of experiencing triumph on a national stage. Inigo, like many fans from The Land, was also dragged into his long quest by an unwavering devotion to his father.

Hello, sports curse. Our name is Cleveland, you made our dads sad, prepare to die.

Nineteen years ago, I thought about Inigo as the Indians headed into the bottom of the ninth inning with a 2-1 lead in Game 7 of the World Series. I thought specifically about the end of the book/film, when Montoya has finally slain his long sought enemy, the six-fingered man, and achieved his revenge. It’s at that point, suddenly relieved of this all-consuming burden, that Inigo ponders what he’ll do with the rest of his life. His friend, the swashbuckling hero Westley, asks: "Have you ever considered piracy?" For Cleveland fans, I suggest baseball.

While I’m sure a great sense of relief will be the prevailing emotion at the parade on Wednesday, we’d be wise not to rest on that feeling for too long. After the abuse our nerves and hearts have taken through the NBA playoffs, and the 52 years prior, a bit of a rest might sound appealing. But like Inigo, retirement is never really an option for the likes of us. Instead, we have to redirect our passion away from our proverbial six-fingered man—aka, “The Curse”—and begin a new era of our fandom. Our scars are no longer sufficient to motivate us. We don’t need to daydream about a day far away. We’re champions now, and once we’ve had it, we are wise to stay greedy for it.

Which brings us to the Tribe. Is this a flawed team? Yes. The absence of Michael Brantley and struggles of Yan Gomes have left the offense unreliable at best. The backend of the bullpen, too, may not be as solidified as we once thought. But as we approach the midpoint of the season, there should be no hesitation in directing this tsunami of positive energy from the Q to the Prog. The Indians are still worthy of your time, and just maybe, your undying devotion.

Maybe you saw Carlos Santana’s walkoff homer on Friday or Jose Ramirez’s walkoff single on Sunday. Maybe you saw Danny Salazar add another line to his Cy Young resume on Saturday. Cleveland outscored Chicago 19-6 in the three-game series, and the Tribe has returned to their 2016 high water mark at eight games over .500. According to Fangraphs, only the Red Sox have better odds of coming out of the AL to play in the World Series this fall. The Indians have outscored opponents by +53 runs, they’re 21-10 against the Central Division, and they lead the AL with a 3.71 team ERA.

Progressive Field sounded pretty loud on Sunday as the combination of Father’s Day and pre-gaming Cavs fans made for a ‘90s-like atmosphere at the corner of Carnegie and Ontario. The actual attendance figure, however—a little over 25,000—still leaves a lot to be desired. I suppose today I am simply making a humble plea for celebrating Cleveland fans not to forget how much sweeter success feels when you were on board from the beginning. We actually know that now. So, all the more reason to include an Indians game ticket with your celebrations downtown this week.* I’ll be making the trip out from Chicago myself—to celebrate the Cavs, to look back on the rough but memorable road that brought us to our first parade route, and to spread the word that the journey doesn’t end here.

If you can now forget about the “The Drive,” “The Fumble,” and “The Shot,” then for god’s sake, get over Jim Thome, CC Sabathia, and Victor Martinez. Come support a first place team and get greedy. Basically what I am saying is, have you considered piracy? We’d all make wonderful Dread Pirate Robertses.

*There's also a good chance that members of the Cavaliers will be carrying some hardware around Progressive Field, if that motivates you further. Last June, I watched the Chicago Blackhawks parade the Stanley Cup around Wrigley Field before the Indians played the Cubs. The Cavs lost Game Six of the Finals that same night. That feels like a very long time ago now.


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