April 24, 2014

The Tribe – The REAL Lead Sports Story in Town

NumbersI love my city. There is something special about our little community. We are all bound together by our misery. It is no secret that Cleveland is nationally viewed as a dying city, trying desperately to rebound. There are hundreds if not thousands of people here that do their best to promote programs to invigorate the town. The Greater Cleveland Sports Commission is one that comes to mind. But if there is one thing that all born and raised Clevelanders share, its our passion for our local sports teams. No matter where we may live, we represent our teams, perhaps even more loudly if you don’t live here.

That’s one of the many things I love most about Cleveland and its residents, yet it is also one of the things that bothers me the most about them as well. Now before jumping all over me, hear me out.

I am 37 years old, so it is not as if I was born yesterday into this painful culture that is Cleveland sports. If you read this site regularly, you know I get it. I have zero illusions that this is anything other than a “Browns first” town. Anyone who doesn’t believe that notion must not have been paying attention over the last 13 years when the Browns were as close to the bottom of the NFL as you can get. Year after year, they pick in the top 10 and draft day is our Super Bowl.

The Browns have been to exactly one playoff game, which was 10 years ago, and they lost it after leading 33-21 with seven minutes to go against their hated rival, the Pittsburgh Steelers. They have only had two, count ‘em, two winning seasons since the return in 1999. And it is not like either of those seasons were division titles with 12-4, 13-3 records. The 2002 team snuck into the playoffs at 9-7 with a last game goal line stand against Atlanta and received help from two different places to make their “new era” playoff debut. The 2007 Browns, while 10-6, were the beneficiaries of a soft schedule where they beat just one team with a winning record – the Seattle Seahawks, at home, in overtime.

But no matter what happens. No matter how bad they are, no matter how many regime changes they have, no matter how inept the head coach may be (yes, I am singling you out, Pat Shurmur), no matter how sloppy and boring the play on the field may be, everyone comes back for more every single year. I know I do. My cousin Steve, nine years my senior, has been telling me for as long as I can remember, “cut me open, and I bleed brown.” I completely understand. It is important to stick with your teams win or lose.

What I can’t understand is the lengths people go in this town to put the Browns on such an extreme pedestal when you compare them with the city’s longest standing Major League franchise, the Indians.

When the Indians go through a bad stretch, the casual fans turn them off and act as uf they don’t exist. Yet a 2-9 Browns team would still get everyone’s full attention.

You can tell me all you want about the disconnect between the Dolan Family Ownership, the front office, and you as a fan. I’m sure you feel as though they have cheated you since buying the team from Dick Jacobs in 2000. Full disclosure, I have not been their biggest supportes either. It is not as if the product on the field has been that spectacular. But consider the 2005 Indians won 93 games and missed the playoffs thanks to a final week Cleveland-esque collapse. 93 wins at the time were the most for any team in the Wild Card era without advancing to play October baseball. In 2007, they ran away with the division and were up 3-1 in the ALCS, one win away from the World Series. I went to 40-plus games that season and in a pennant race in September, the crowds were in the 20,000′s.

I have no illusions that the mid-90′s are coming back. That was the perfect storm for the Indians. A booming economy, a brand-new stadium, a star-studden, power-hitting club that was the darling of the sport. But this organization deserves more from you, the fans of Cleveland, right now.

The Indians are currently tied atop the AL Central with the Detroit Tigers, who are built like those mid-90′s Tribe teams, except with better starting pitching. They are coming home this weekend for a series with Seattle and the weather is supposed to be perfect. There is absolutely no reason that all three games shouldn’t draw 30,000 each. But they won’t. And last night is a prime example.

Around 6:30 PM, it came across my Twitter timeline that the Browns had signed QB Brian Hoyer to a two-year contract. Hoyer was cut earlier in the week by the Arizona Cardinals. The way the sportstalk radio shows and Twitter reacted, you would have thought this was on the same level as the Indians hiring Terry Francona to be their manager. One tweet after another, one column after another, one mention after another – it was all Hoyer all the time.

I am sure that the former St. Ignatius star is a great guy, but let us be real here. He was undrafted out of Michiagn State, made the New England Patriots as a third string QB, spent three years there as a backup to Tom Brady, then was drafted over and replaced by Ryan Mallett. He failed to make any roster last year and signed mid-season as a street free agent with Pittsburgh, where he stayed for a few weeks until Ben Roethlisberger was able to come back from injury. He was then picked up by the Arizona Cardinals, who were desperate for a QB the last two weeks of the season, again because of injuries. He made one start. The Cardinals thought so highly of him that they traded for Carson Palmer and eventually let him go after the draft.

So the Browns and GM Mike Lombardi, who was said to be high on him, scooped Hoyer up yesterday and added Hoyer to their QB stable.

Yet here we are in Cleveland, talking obsessively about a third string QB signing, dissecting it like it will make any bit of difference, and making it the lead story in town.

I know, I know, this is “Browns Town.” But you know what, it shouldn’t even be more than a blip on the radar because there is a REAL story going on right now, and it is going way too unnoticed for my taste. THE INDIANS ARE IN FIRST PLACE!

Spare me the “they were in first this early the last two years” take. Anyone who watches baseball and this team can tell you that Tito Ball is far superior to Acta Ball. They don’t need to win every game 3-2 anymore. Much maligned GM Chris Antonetti and his boss Mark Shapiro have completely reshaped this roster into something everyone can get excited about.

Michael Bourn and his speed and defense are here, setting the table like Kenny Lofton used to at the top of the order. Nick Swisher is on board to provide that fun-loving, hard-nosed attitiude in the clubhouse while embracing his Ohio roots, crushing baseballs all over the diamond, and playing superb defense at first. Mega Mark Reynolds is destroying pitches like we haven’t seen here years. Asdrubal Cabrera and Jason Kipnis have shaken off their slow starts and have begun to explode at the plate, coinciding with a 12-2 run that vaulted the Tribe to the top of the division. Michael Brantley has taken that next step and has become one of the most clutch hitters on the team.

Justin Masterson has regained his ace form. Their has been a mini-resurgance from Ubaldo Jimenez. Zach McAllister is pitching like a young Jake Westbrook with his ability to take the team deep into games each and every time out. Scott Kazmir has been a big find as a reclamation project. The bullpen depth is once again the envy of the AL. Best of all, the team is managed by the irrepressible Terry Francona, who is as respected as any man in the game.

So please, do yourselves a favor. Come out and support this Indians team. Make THEM your top sports priority right now. They deserve your attention. The signing of a third-string Quarterback in mid-May, doesn’t.

  • Steve

    In regards to the downvotes? Here is the one that got the most: “It’s a concern. Cleveland is becoming the smallest of the three sport towns. Something has to give at some point.”

    I’m not sure what was so incendiary about pointing out that Cleveland is small for a three sport town and its declining population and economy will make it tough to move forward as one. But no one responded as to why they didn’t like that. In fact, someone else responded that completely questioned why I was getting downvoted in the first place. So, you’ll understand why it’s pretty easy for me to disregard the idea of gaining any possibly knowledge from looking at downvotes. And I know Shamrock downvotes whenever I respond to him, though I admit that’s my own fault for responding to his trolling.

  • nj0

    Putting any stock in down votes is beyond ridiculous. I wish there was an easy way to search all my old Disqus posts because I remember a few where I was voted off the island for the most innocuous of comments.

  • nj0

    “with the Cavs and Indians relegated to fighting over which can at least be The Cool Place To Be”…

    Well said. I think this is exactly right.

    Related: In some ways, The Decision was great for the Cavs because, instead of the fans blaming the team for trading/losing their best player, Lebron made himself the scapegoat for all those negative feelings.

  • Steve

    I like this. If anyone is dousing an opinion and burning it in gasoline, its you. Just dismissive of anything I have to say.

  • Tall Jeff

    he does the voiceover for kraft mac and cheese! they just made him clean up his act before giving him a contract.

  • C P

    Wow a great article! I am ugh 53 now. Grew up on east side of Cleveland. I have seen all the ups & downs with Cleveland sports. Was a season ticket holder with Indians during their power successful years. Same with Cav’s. I would never pay a PSL to be able to buy season tickets . That was a joke! I would go to every Browns opener wanting finally a win but not saying “This is the year!” Yes the walk from the tailgating would be so unbelievably positive with so many die hard fans, only to do the long walk back to the car disappointed.
    I have recently moved to FL but read about Cleveland sports everyday. Here in Forida they don’t support their teams because there’s so much other things to do due to warm weather & sun. They also don’t have the great history Cleveland has.
    In Cleveland it is all we have. With bad weather, tough local economy and so many trials & tribulations of missing winning a championship. It is our strong desire to finally prove the world CLEVELAND IS A GREAT CITY & A WINNER.

    Maybe the tide will change soon. I can’t be there but I listen every night to the local broadcast Indians games on MLB.com At Bat. I hope to hear big crowds soon and maybe a very successful season.
    Nice job!

  • Td’s cousin

    I bleed Indian blue as well. I remember opening day 75 like it was yesterday. Gottaa LOVE this tribe team already. They got guts and heart, man. If I lived in ctown I’d be goin to some games. Drink a beer, relax and enjoy some REAL ballsy baseball. GO TRIBE!

  • Vindictive_Pat

    Just towards you… like I said before, if I don’t feel that someone respects me (or the others who comment on this site), then I tend to not respect them. And you may not feel like this defines you, so I might say that I’m biased. When it comes to my comments, I have never received anything but an argument to prove me wrong from you, and I comment around here a lot, so I took it personally. However, I was impressed that you agreed that you could stand to be more pleasant in how you go about disagreeing with others. And I agree with you that it would be refreshing if more people around here came with some facts when presenting an idea… I’ve said the same thing from time to time.

  • Jaker

    I’m 23 as well and I felt the same way for awhile, but I was always a football player, so the Browns eventually took over as my favorite team. But I know where you’re coming from

  • Steve

    So at least you’re admitting that you’re coming in biased and there is a clear double standard.

    I respect the people here plenty. I wouldn’t keep coming back if I didn’t. I wouldn’t disagree with you if I didn’t respect you. But as I’ve said to you, I’m not going to come here and pat people on the back every time they make a comment. If they say something insightful, that’s what the up arrow is for. But stop taking every discussion as a personal attack. Just because someone doesn’t see something the same way doesn’t mean they’re out to get you. And when the data say something that doesn’t go along with what you said, don’t blame the guy presenting the data (note: that last part isn’t directed at you at all, but the general population here, I notice you appreciate the data a lot more than most here)

  • Vindictive_Pat

    If you asked any of the regulars on here, they feel the same way as me… it’s not just shamrock and myself. You can defend yourself all you like, but it’s not about what you think it’s about. It’s not about the data you bring to the table. It’s about your attitude and the way your comments come across. You might very well respect us all, but who can tell?

  • Derek

    34,000 must have caught your article before the game

  • http://twitter.com/bbo13 B-bo

    But this isn’t an Indians post, per se. It’s about the fans, which means busting out the rulers to measure our respective fandoms, plus analysis of the Cleveland sports (and life in general) psychosis. Armchair psychiatry AND the opportunity to show off bona fides? Guaranteed to get the crowd commenting.

  • WAMPUS

    Two points:
    1. The number of games. Because of the volume of games in a baseball season, individual games just don’t mean as much as one of only 16 football games.
    -
    2. If you think baseball fandom is under appreciated or less engaged in Cleveland… try supporting the local soccer team.
    -
    AFC Cleveland’s first season was last year. They not only won the Rust Belt Derby Championship, they also won the Division championship outright to be one of 8 teams out of 50+ to compete in the National Championship tournament. Their next home game is on May 24 at Krenzler Field. Kickoff is at 7:30…let’s get out and SHOW people we’re the best sports fans in the country, support all of our teams. Continually just telling ourselves we are just doesn’t mean as much.

  • Alexander

    Totally agree , im the same age and the browns have been mired in disappointment for basically my whole life , when I’ve had disposable income I always choose Indian and cavs games over going to the browns. I actually find watching redone more enjoyable than browns games

  • EyesAbove

    You can always count on TD to be a Debbie Downer.

  • woofersus

    There are several different reasons they aren’t drawing enough, chief among them that the more casual fans take a little bit of time to buy in when the previous year was really disappointing. However, I’d also posit that the 9 April games where the weather was generally miserable had quite a bit to do with it.

    Even in their better attendance years of the last decade attendance has started slow and we have this discussion over and over. Yet it took until 2009 for the Indians to actually finish last in attendance. In fact, the 2009-2010 stretch represented the first time the Indians finished last in attendance since 1987. You simply can’t judge attendance after 5 weeks. (I know we’re past that now, but the Indians just came off a road trip and this week’s two home crowds so far were 23,000 and 34,000 respectively)

    Last year attendance started even slower than this year but they ended up drawing 1.84 million even though attendance fell off precipitously in the last 20 games or so with the team in free fall. That was better than six other teams and within 150,000 of the next five. This year we are well behind #29 right now, but our attendance has been trending up since about the middle of their epic homestand earlier this month, (with 34,000 showing up to the first weekend home game since May 4th when team was floundering and the weather was still cold) and the attendance of some of those teams ahead of us has been steadily falling with those teams playing terrible. I didn’t look them all up, but Miami and Houston are bad teams with falling attendance. Unless something catastrophic happens we’ll be ahead of them in average and total draw in a couple of weeks. If the team continues to be competitive enough to induce some optimism it’s fully reasonable to expect attendance to better last year’s total.

    The bottom line though is that attendance mirrors performance in almost every market in MLB. There are a few exceptions, but then in those big markets it’s rare to have multiple consecutive years with poor performance. You are correct that attendance is statistically bad right now, and because of 2009-2010 it’s easy to point to recent history and say that Indians fans don’t support the team, but that doesn’t tell the whole story and the end result is a generalization that isn’t completely fair. In most of the past decade their attendance has been firmly middle of the pack.

  • nj0

    I’d like to think that I’m a regular and I have never had a problem with the way Steve handles himself. Yes, some of his comments come across as terse, but I think that’s a matter of the medium than any intent on his part.

  • andrew

    amen

  • Hypno_Toad

    Same here. I’m 22. I remember having assemblies in elementary school just to watch Indians opening day. Man that 90′s team was a once in a lifetime baseball team.

  • Garry_Owen

    Wow. Thought I would just check back to see if anything substantive was added to the conversation. I had no idea I would find myself being lectured about the “real world” by an Internet tough guy.

    Let me guess, you’ve been out of college for 4, maybe 5, years? You’ve had a job? Maybe a small dose of responsibility? And this gives you the authority to lecture people you’ve never met about a world you don’t know?

    A little “real world” advice: Don’t do that. It makes you look dumb, and small, and petty.

  • george

    It’s easy to like football more if your a simpleton who does not have the intelligence to understand the game of baseball. the browns have been perennial losers since… forever. as far as I’m concerned, these football obsessed moronic browns fans who would rather beat off to a pathetic third string signing for a losing foot ball team than enjoy a winning exciting baseball team are losers as well. rant over.

  • http://www.facebook.com/jeremy.campbell.9026 Jeremy Campbell

    I haven’t seen one shred of data.

  • JK

    What they’ve done over the last 5 or so years has already made their bed for June/July of 2013. What’s up w that crowd on Friday though? Guess nobody cares about baseball in Cleveland.