In case you missed it, we had a chance encounter with Cleveland Indians owner Paul Dolan yesterday. Given that it’s not every day that I meet a billionaire who happens to own the team which I root for on a nightly basis, I’ve been thinking about it a lot since it happened.
I’d be lying if I didn’t feel a bit strange when we were taking our photo with Paul outside of Progressive Field. I’ve been pretty critical of him and his ownership of the Cleveland Indians. Even as recently as this season, I feel as if I’ve crushed a great portion of the Indians organization. I don’t think I was wrong about many or most of my criticisms, but it still felt a little bit strange to take my picture with the man who had been a subject of many of my critical words for years.
After thinking about it for a while, I’m feeling a lot better, because I know I have always wanted the Indians to do well. I never wanted them to fail so that I could look smarter for being so very critical. And now that they’ve had such a great September and gotten themselves in the hunt, this is when we’re all supposed to get along, right? Isn’t this how these things are supposed to work?
In Cleveland over the last few years, being a sports fan has been like following politics. People measure each other’s stances, dig in and pick sides. Are you pro-Brandon Weeden? Do you think attendance at Tribe games is understandable or embarrassing? Do you like the Trent Richardson trade? Should the Dolans sell the Indians and should they have fired Mark Shapiro and Chris Antonetti? It’s been warfare between the factions of fans as they’ve contributed to their own miserable culture fueled by the fact that the teams haven’t performed well. Tell me how pointless all the “Tribe Town” vs. “Browns Town” bickering was when the Indians started their pre-season marketing?
Now that the Indians made it to the playoffs though, it’s a time to reflect on the fact that, in the end, we’re all Clevelanders who love the Tribe. Even though I’ve been critical of Dolan and suggested that his family isn’t suited to own the franchise, I always wanted the team to achieve. And I have to tell you, even though I felt a little badly about posing for a picture with a guy who I’ve been critical of, I meant every word of it when I congratulated him yesterday.
Even when you disagree with the President, you have to respect the office. It was in that vein yesterday that I was really happy to see Paul Dolan walking by as we were taking a photo. As we were goofing off and enjoying the Tribe’s appearance in the playoffs, standing under a giant sign which praised the team’s accomplishments, how can you not get a little giddy and happy to see the guy who – if you believe my opinions from the last five or so years – bucked the odds and got it done this season?
You can’t be Paul Dolan, Mark Shapiro, Chris Antonetti, Terry Francona or any of the Indians players and not know that criticism comes along with the territory. As long as the criticism is coming from a place of fandom where everyone basically wants the same things, it should be just fine. Maybe I’m justifying it to myself, but I’m feeling alright with it. I am happy for Paul Dolan. I’m happy for us. I’ve thoroughly enjoyed wearing my Tribe shirt today and talking with strangers about the team from elevator patrons who I normally wouldn’t talk to, all the way to the Subway Sandwich Artist who chatted me up while making my lunch.
Now let’s just hope they can win tonight so we can keep these feelings going for a little while longer.
Congratulations, Mr. Dolan. I mean it. Go Tribe.