The way I felt yesterday watching the Indians celebrate in the guts of Target field was overwhelming. I didn’t cry, but I also wouldn’t have dared speak aloud in those moments as the Tribe were bouncing up and down together on the field in celebration. This Indians team has brought me back to much younger days of being a Tribe fan. I’m back to my freshman year dorm in college when the Indians were battling through the playoffs toward an ultimate loss to the Florida Marlins. I’m back in high school as the halls were united in Tribe playoff runs, including girls talking about their crushes on Kenny Lofton and Omar Vizquel that would normally be reserved for cover stars of Tiger Beat magazine. All too recently, I also feel like I’ve been back to the 80’s when I started watching the Tribe as a pitiful club managed by Pat Corrales. But not this Sunday. That brought me back to the good days.
Those same time periods in my life – high school and into college – are lush with memories of music too. Upon entering college in the fall of 1997, I was obsessed with rock bands like Tool and Pearl Jam while also being fiercely protective of my home city and its teams as one of a very few Clevelanders at Boston University. Like most kids who go to college, that was just a jumping off point. You bring your experiences and favorite things in as precious little jewels of who you were before you left the safety of your parents’ house. You have no idea what the experiences are going to spit out at the end.
College is just a more regimented version of that series of events that produce changes in who we are, but they continue to happen time and again throughout life. Whether you’re getting married, having children or suffering through a horrendous streak of rotten sports, we’re constantly being shaped by eras. With regard to sports, as recently as August fifth I didn’t like who and what my sports fandom had spit out of late. I had lost my cool. I had lost my patience. It wasn’t just the Tribe. It was the Browns, the LeBron hangover, and everything else, but whatever mix of events it was, it was ugly.
I had given up on the Tribe after their first game of the Detroit series. Chris Perez surrendered a four run lead in the ninth inning to take the loss while not getting an out. At the time I thought it was the ultimate definition of the 2013 Cleveland Indians and who they were to be. They couldn’t beat good teams. They couldn’t challenge for the division. As I said on Twitter at the time, there was no savior for this team in sight. As it turns out, I was right about there not being a savior. What I hadn’t accounted for was that this Indians club would come together as a team that would take turns stepping up and bailing each other out on their way to ending the season on a ten game winning streak and a Wild Card playoff berth.2 But I had given up on the team in the years since 2007. I had given up on this year’s iteration on August 5th.
At one time I’d given up on Pearl Jam as a band too. They had put out some decidedly lackluster material after Yield came out in 1998. I loved Yield desperately and listened to that one on repeat in my Discman3 walking around Boston University. I just had to hear “Given to Fly” over and over again. But those days were long gone by the time Binaural came out in 2000. Riot Act followed in 2002 and I can scarcely name more than a single tune off of either of those albums. On top of that, my view of the band that I once loved was that they had lost their way into making angry political songs like “Bu$hleaguer.” I don’t begrudge a band their political opinion, but if you’re going to write a song about a political topic, you still have to write a good song. Music over message.
While that was happening with Pearl Jam, the Cleveland Indians were starting to lose their way. For them, the message was overriding the sport too. Mike Hargrove gave way to Charlie Manuel in 2000. Charlie Manuel quit before he could be fired in 2002 and the Eric Wedge era finished the job of making the Indians pretty irrelevant. All the while, Cleveland fans became small market fans instead of pure baseball fans. Just like the message overshadowed the songwriting for Pearl Jam, competing on the field was secondary to the storylines involving economics and team-building as the team failed to achieve. That culminated in the one playoff run amidst a host of late-season collapses and otherwise disappointing baseball. Insert Manny Acta wherever you like as well. Hard to believe he was here for nearly three whole seasons.
But in 2013 nearly from the ashes the Indians have re-appeared. Pearl Jam too have done so with their incredible song “Sirens” from their forthcoming album Lightning Bolt. Yes, Pearl Jam had a pretty good album in 2009 with Backspacer, but even that album didn’t have an anthem that brought me back to my youth the way “Sirens” has.
That’s the way I felt on Sunday as the Indians were bouncing up and down. The lump in my throat wasn’t there because of what the Indians did this year alone. It’s bringing back all those memories of playoff runs in the 90’s. “Sirens” is a great tune, but it only has this level of impact on my 34-year-old self because “Black,” “Corduroy,” “Release,” “Porch,” and “Indifference” shaped my life once upon a time.
I didn’t know how much I’d missed playoff baseball until Sunday. I didn’t know how much I’d missed Pearl Jam until I heard Sirens a couple weeks ago. I’m so happy to have both of them back in my life. It makes me feel young again. It makes me remember happy times from my youth. It’s the “up” that proves there’s something other than “down.”
This Indians team is nothing like the Indians teams from the 90’s. A 48 year-old Eddie Vedder is nothing like the 27-year-old man who sang all those songs on Ten either. Maybe for the Indians it’ll just be one game. Maybe for Pearl Jam it’s just one song. I haven’t listened to the rest of the leaked tracks yet, to be perfectly honest. Right this moment though, I don’t care. The possibility is there. Neither one can set the world on fire for me exactly as they did when I was much younger either, but damnit if I’m not happy as hell to have them both back even for a short time.
I loved this section from “Sirens” by Pearl Jam
It’s a fragile thing, this life we lead, if I think too much, I can get overwhelmed
by the grace by which we live our lives with death over our shoulders
Want you to know, that should I go, I always loved you, held you high above too
I studied your face, the fear goes away. [↩]
Seriously? Matt Carson? He of seven hits that happen to be four more hits than the three that Jason Kubel currently has? [↩]