Replicated from the efforts of Eleven Warriors and EDSBS, WFNY continues to bring you our confessions. Rick started us off. Denny went multimedia. Scott put some baseball cards in the spokes. And I copied him a little. So, now, here are mine…
1. I was a Cubs fan first and an Indians fan second up until about age 16. My first experiences with cable TV were in the summers before I was old enough to have a summer job, and every afternoon the Chicago Cubs were always on WGN. Couple that in with my odd decision to make 1B Mark Grace my favorite player growing up (which stems from the 1989 NLCS, actually), and I was hooked. I still have about 50 Mark Grace baseball cards in a binder at home, and not far behind him are the Ryne Sandberg and Andre Dawson cards. Since I was 11 or 12 when I really, really started watching baseball, and it was during the day when I was home, the Cubs were a natural team for me, and remain my NL team to this day.
2. I rooted for Ohio State up until about 4th or 5th grade, and then pulled an Anakin Skywalker and switched allegiances to Michigan. Most of you know I root for Michigan (and have plenty of fun at my expense because of it), but many of you may not know that I was once like you. I went to Chris Spielman’s first collegiate game against West Virginia with my parents; my folks actually have a picture of me and my brother as lads wearing matching OSU jersey t-shirts. And they have no qualms about trotting those out as needed. I’ve touched on why I switched in the past here, but I really did it just to tick my folks off initially. It was the 1990 team with Elvis Grbac and Desmond Howard that hooked me. I’ve never looked back.
3. I was once the biggest bandwagon Cavs fan alive. I doubt I watched more than two or three Cavs games a year between the nadir of the Price/Ehlo/Daugherty/Hot Rod/Nance teams and LeBron. I totally jumped back on the bandwagon when they got LeBron. And, much like my Indians’ allegiance blossomed in 1994 when the team was good and now hangs like an albatross around my neck, I started paying attention to the Cavs a little more in 2003, and am now stuck for good or ill going forward.
4. Ever since I’ve “followed” NFL football at all, I’ve been a Browns fan. But, when I was very, very little, we used to make family football picks each Sunday. My dad and step-mother always picked the Browns (even though most of the time my step-mother admitted that her picks centered around which team had cooler looking helmets to her). And, I would almost always pick against the Browns, just to be funny. Or something. I mean, even when they played Pittsburgh, which I would consider blasphemy. I pray to the Good Lord each night that should I be blessed with children they don’t pass the same “humor” along to me to get even. Granted, in those days (late Sam Rutigliano era) they were B-A-D bad, so it wasn’t always a bad move to pick against them. I’m talking Paul McDonald bad. But that’s not why I was doing it. I didn’t really follow much football at that early age. Once I really started to watch football I was a Browns fan through thick and thin. I was just fortunate that they were more often than not good from age 7 until I graduated from high school.
5. I was a Detroit Red Wings fan for a long, long time. I rooted for them in the playoffs as recently as up until Steve Yzerman retired. The reason is that before Columbus had a team I picked up the Red Wings as my team (I sure as heck wasn’t picking up Pittsburgh). I followed them fairly heavily, always played as them when playing video hockey, and even after Columbus got a team I followed Detroit into the playoffs each year because I knew most of the players and the Blue Jackets were—OK, OK, are—not very good. Now that I know all of the Jackets players and don’t pay attention to the Wings’ roster anymore, I’ve come to hate them like any good Jackets fan should. But, man, for awhile there I was a total sports bigamist. And this isn’t like being a fan of an NL team; this is a division rival… the Yankees of hockey. Hey, hey… I’m not proud, people.
6. All of this having been said, I think it’s easy to say that as a younger man I was susceptible to tuning out when my teams weren’t very good. Again, I’m not proud of these things, people. But, the one team I never turned my back on was the Browns. Even now I sit there and force myself to watch every snap that I can, even during last year’s 1-11 start. I can remember as a kid living in Wooster being the son of a minister, and always having to worry that we wouldn’t make it home from church in time for the start. When the games were blacked out, we’d put Nev Chandler and Doug Dieken on the radio over whatever game was on NBC during the 1:00 slot. Sometimes the local cable provider in Wooster would sneakily show the feed on their local access channel. It would be static-y, but you could see it. And that was all that mattered.
I thank my parents for that. To this day, we watch games together when I’m home visiting. I assume that the loss of the team from 1996-1998 solidified it, as I have this insane mindset that each week—even if the Browns are being pounded into the turf—I have to watch the whole game because you just never know when the team might not be around anymore. I’m sure my wife wishes I’d grow out of this stage, as she probably gets tired of me yelling at the TV during each flaming train wreck of a loss, but it is what it is. Plus, she yells at the Buckeyes just as much (sorry, dear!).
7. This is not to say that I would ever consciously want my team to lose to improve their draft position. I feel I’ve been very clear on this, and I second Rick’s assertion from last week: “I don’t cheer or root for my teams to lose games in order to secure better draft picks. I’m like Herm on that front- you play to win the game.” I can amend that, however, to say that I am able to see that silver lining AFTER the fact; for example, when the Jackets sputtered over the last week of the season, at least after each game I could say, “well, they’re still alive for the first pick!” But during the games? All about the business of winning, son.
8. Though this may contradict what I’ve just said in #6, I have one last confession to make. With certain exceptions, I just don’t take the losing all that hard anymore. With the Cavs, perhaps it’s been the anticlimactic series losses the past two seasons in which the elimination game was a bit of a foregone conclusion, but aside from Game 7 for the 2007 Tribe and the 2003 Browns loss to Pittsburgh I’ve managed to grow out of being pissy for the ensuing several hours and days after a big loss.
I’ve seen enough other things and realized enough other blessings in my life that, while I’m still passionate about my teams—probably abnormally so—there’s so little I can control about the outcomes of these games that I just don’t allow myself to be miserable anymore. Yes, the past is littered with our collective sports heartbreaks. I still remember fondly listening to my step-father cuss and yell how Pro Football Is FIXED!! after Rich Karlis’s (possibly no good) field goal sailed through the uprights and Ernest Byner fumbled at the two yard line. I remember feeling most of the life drain out of me when the Red Sox broke it open late in Game 7 in ‘07. I even remember taking a call in January of 2003 from a friend who was a Raiders fan who was getting an early start on the smack talk for the presumed Browns/Raiders matchup, only to think how stupid I was for even answering that phone while there was still time on the clock against the Steelers.
Shoot, I remember getting into a couple of huge fights with the girl I was dating in September of 2000: once for not picking up the phone when she called during Bartolo Colon’s no-hit bid in Yankee stadium (she didn’t seem to “get” that I couldn’t get up from my seat to answer the phone and certainly couldn’t spend a half-inning talking to her lest I inadvertently jinx Colon), and another time for snapping at her because the Indians were blowing one of the games they had to have against Boston during that stretch of five-games-in-three-days that Bud Selig forced them to play. I also remember coming in to work each and every day in October and November of 2000 reading every possible news source to see what Manny Ramirez had had for breakfast and whether or not he was going to come back to the Tribe. Which leads me to:
9. And, while once upon a time I would have been doing the exact same thing with respect to LeBron James and his impending free agency, my last confession is that I haven’t really spent any time thinking about it to this point. I mean, I know that’s a bit of an exaggeration, as I’ve even written a post or two about it. But let me summarize with a line from the first link: If LeBron leaves, it’s purely because he wants to go somewhere else just to go somewhere else. Therefore, I’m not going to sweat it. 99% of this decision for him is going to be about the circus. I’m sure when it comes time for him to make his decision, he will put all of the requisite thought into it that it requires, but up until then it’s going to be about being in the spotlight and getting as much attention as possible. And that’s fine; it’s his prerogative. But for me, I’m not going to worry about it. If he stays, I’ll be happy and the Cavs will be at least a playoff team next year. If he leaves, I’ll be sad to see him go, but the team will move on.
And so will all of us.