On the pride of Cleveland sports fandom … While We’re Waiting

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Yesterday was another one of those angsty days for Cleveland Sports Twitter. Amid the rumors of Cavs coaching options, Dan Gilbert’s potential continued middling and the unknown nature of the No. 1 overall pick, some of my friends and close contacts were getting pretty depressed about their Cavs fandom. Perhaps it was mostly tongue-in-cheek, but it got me thinking.

In just less than three months, I’ll be moving out to the University of Oregon for grad school. Unlike my entire life so far in Ohio, I’ll have very few Northeast Ohio friends to commiserate with about Cleveland sports. Out in Eugene, I’ll be the “token Cleveland guy.” It’ll be difficult to watch every single Indians, Cavs and Browns game because of school and TV. And it might be hard to care so much, so passionately anymore.

It’s been a tough year to be a diehard Cleveland sports fan, no doubt. A perfect example might be my memory of February 1st, after the infamous report about Luol Deng in the New York Daily News and before another horrific Cavs loss. That day, I created a little Storify about how all of the madness exemplified the sadness of Cleveland sports.


I then wrote an email to the WFNY gang: “Zach Lowe’s non-fandom is looking mighty appealing right now.” Lowe, the outstanding Grantland writer, had just written an article on the practical end of his diehard Celtics fandom. It was between 2010 and 2011, as he transitioned to the full-time NBA beat and just stopped caring emotionally about the Garnett-Pierce run of the Celtics. Fandom flared up, as it did for the game that sparked his column, but that was that.

WFNY readers might also recall the epic While We’re Waiting from Denny Mayo in March. I really enjoyed reading that. Denny, Brendan Porath and I all joined the WFNY staff in spring 2009 as the first batch of weekend writers. Denny’s been an emeritus guy for a few years now, but that post shared how he’s become disenfranchised a bit with all of the oddities and contradictions of fandom. Now, he just casually enjoys his Buckeyes and that’s mostly it.

For me, I didn’t really watch “that much” sports as an undergrad in Dayton. It was a neat thing to write about and analyze, but it wasn’t that much of an obsession. That’s perhaps what it will be like for me in grad school, too. I’ll always take pride in my hometown and the teams I’ve grown up with. That won’t ever change. But will I need to worry intensely about every Indians score or every man on the Browns roster? Nah, that’s OK.

Terry Pluto’s adage about “never let millionaire athletes ruin your day” fits well here. My main purpose is just to share with you all, the lovely readers of WFNY, a half-concern and half-confession wondering if I’ve found it all that enjoyable to be so intensely concerned about all of these teams so constantly.

This goes back to the Cavs. If they draft Jabari Parker at No. 1, would I be upset? Eh. If I could know with concrete certainty that Parker is clearly worse long-term than Joel Embiid and Andrew Wiggins, then maybe. But I don’t know that necessarily. There’s always going to be uncertainty and possibilities in life that Parker might end up being the best prospect in this draft. Does he have worse odds of being a superstar? Perhaps. I just don’t know with certainty. The Cavs will continue to make their obscure decisions as they do so well.

At the Sloan Conference, I remember being a bit distraught again about the Cavs and their odd roster construction. That article led to my piece on the Cavaliers and analytics, trying to logically explain the team’s philosophy. Why have they taken no centers? Why have them seemed to not like shooters at all? Why did they think any of the things they’ve done were good ideas? Does there have to be answers?

From an analytics and evaluation perspective, that will be always be interesting to me. I’ll always write, here at WFNY and some various other places in the future. I’ll usually be able to find a new and interesting angle. Heck, I’m going to school for a sports business MBA, so sports in general always will remain a gigantic passion of mine. But it’s just difficult to care so wholeheartedly about the constant ups and downs of these teams. I’d just move on, enjoy grad school, enjoy real life things out in Oregon and perhaps analyze more of why we do this to ourselves from a business perspective.

So for me, Cleveland sports is about pride. It’s about being knowledgeable of my hometown teams and their histories. These teams are always going to be the ones I root for. But there’s a difference between rooting and pride, and obsession and sadness. I’ve been so inundated with the details of Cleveland sports for years and here’s a little hopeful maybe goodbye from some of the negatives of that passion. I don’t know exactly what that means yet.


Tweets of the week: As usual, here are then some of my favorite recent tweets from following along on Cleveland Sports Twitter.

  • Harv 21

    Ok Jacob, since you’re doing the periodic (relatively) younger guy why-do-I-obsess rant, I’ll do my regular recovering obsesser response. From a guy who has wasted literally thousands of hours watching bad local pro sports, and has lived elsewhere and seen psyches of different fans.

    It’s just entertainment, man. The burden to entertain is on the team. It’s not up to you to raise the level of entertainment with better support, to be a “real fan.” Contemplete on this, because it’s the truth no matter what mouthbreathers, athletes, or mouthbreathing athletes claim. If they entertain you – by winning, making great plays, showing hints of future greatness – watch. If they don’t, don’t. And let the owner worry about the fall out. You’ll recalibrate your brain and be a way happier fan. Veteran fan tip: if watching from home, multitask, so you can never feel like you just wasted 3 hours you will never get back.

    And duh, having kids is the easiest jump start to getting your mind right. I barely remember the mad man who wifey claims crawled on the carpet, pounding the floor and screaming “nonono!” just because a special teamer lined up in the neutral zone, permitting another FG attempt and almost costing the Browns the game. That guy was ridic.

  • http://waitingfornextyear.com Andrew Schnitkey

    First comment of the day, and you get immediate Featured status, Harv. Well done!

  • Harv 21

    wow. Well, all glory to God and my morning grande dark roast.

  • Harv 21

    also, there’s a typo (contemplete) which this status apparently prevents me from correcting. Not so sanguine about spelling errors and I’m ’bout to go all Jacob Rosen. Yo, pass me that Sleepytime.

  • Ezzie Goldish

    Just a comment on the multi-tasking: During football season, if I’m at home watching the game, I have a few laundry baskets of clothes and I start folding. The better they’re playing, the less I’m able to focus on folding, but that’s fine – I get to enjoy the game. At worst, I’ve folded a few laundry baskets.

  • Ezzie Goldish

    Great post Jacob. [Wrote a whole comment and am leaving it out, let’s just leave it at that.]

  • mgbode

    Your wife must LOVE the Browns as I doubt she has had to do any laundry for 20 years.

  • Ezzie Goldish

    Haha! She hates them because we own season tickets and because I always wait until Sunday to start folding anything. :)

  • BenRM

    Well, that was depressing 😀

  • RGB

    I’ve converted my Savannah born and bred wife over to the Brown Side.
    I’ve successfully replaced “Go Dawgs” with “Stupid Browns!”

  • Harv 21

    laundry is my #1 Browns game go-to, productive but mindless. This time of year yardwork/home repair with Tribe on the radio.

  • http://waitingfornextyear.com Andrew Schnitkey

    Not anymore. Fixed it for you.

  • MrCleaveland

    No, it’s still there, Andrew.

  • Harv 21

    thx. whew

  • mgbode

    Harv’s comment is going to be better because, well, he’s Harv. But, I’m going to write a bit on being a fan away from the Northcoast.

    First, congratulations on getting to go to a great graduate school in beautiful Oregon. I would think that it will be hard to leave the Pacific NW once you live there for a few years.

    Getting outside NEO allows you to mostly escape the cloud of negativity that surrounds the sport teams in general discussions and feelings. Sure, you will get pity/sympathy from fans as you tell them your favorite teams, but it’s a reaction that you will quickly learn to accept gracefully. The greatest thing is that it allows you to follow Cleveland sports on your own terms.

    Find the areas of sport that you are truly love the most, and spend your time there. You may find that you are not as embedded in the wins/losses of each team anymore, but that you enjoy them more overall.

    I would also note that sports serve as a great way to overcome barriers. Whereever I am and whoever I talk to, I can always break that cone of silence by bringing up sports. It is something so meaningless and yet people are so passionate about it that it makes a great conversation starter that can delve into any other number of topics from there (one of my favorite recent discussions was comparing Indian Premiership League cricket pitchers to MLB pitchers and the difficulties of each).

    Following sports is much like anything else you do in life. If it helps you be a better person (happier, more sociable, working on statistical skills), then you should continue it. If it makes you a worse person (belligerent, unsociable), then you should stop. :)

  • mgbode

    Oh, and on how to closely follow Cleveland sports from afar:

    It is possible to watch the Cleveland Browns 5:30am-7am Monday morning without knowing the score if that is what you want to do (what I do most fall mornings through NFL Replay). $40-60 per season.

    It is possible to listen to Indians games in the car or watch them on your phone/tablet throughout the season for $125 (MLB.TV is your friend and far cheaper than going to even a couple games).

    The Cavs will be the hardest to follow because you would have to buy the NBA league pass (pricey) and they are by far the least fan friendly website with it too. That and basketball is especially brutal to watch if the team is out of playoff contention (I stopped watching the Cavs when March Madness started).

  • mgbode

    and, if we ever get good again, then she can go right back to “Go Dawgs”

  • RGB

    Down here, referring to anything other than UGA as the “Dawgs” is a losing battle.

  • http://waitingfornextyear.com/ Scott @ WFNY

    Your thoughts are largely why I endeavor to make the actual games as small a part of the day as possible. On Sundays, show up early, tailgate with friends, have laughs, catch up, tell stories, bust balls. Go to the game, cheer as much as possible, hopefully lifting your team to victory. Win or lose, once that three-hour window has come and gone, head back to the car, have one final laugh, maybe some food and then head home where the work week awaits. Same can be taken to different degrees for the Indians and Cavs as well. It’s sports. It’s supposed to be fun.

  • RGB

    Don’t you hate that? Craft a brilliant, thoughtful response, hit post…then see the dreaded typo…arrrgggg! lol

  • LMK

    good luck at oregon! are you going to study analytics? or what program? i’m a grad student down in TX – just be prepared with some comebacks and +cleveland propaganda for being the token “clevelander”

  • CBI

    If you don’t mind digging through all the spam ads, first row sports streams most of the games at fırstrowsports.eu.

    Or you can do what I did for several years, set up a sling box at a friend’s or your parent’s place and watch that way.

  • Harv 21

    I end up correcting a typo virtually every comment. Just haven’t learned to respect the fraying neurological connections before I hit Post As … and return to work.

  • http://twitter.com/bbo13 B-bo

    I will forever extol the virtues of MLB.tv–$125 for everything (and pretty much everywhere) is a steal on its own, and the features offered make it worth even more.

    Sunday Ticket via the PS3 is an option, but in my time in exile I’ve found NFL Sundays to be the best time for finding a local watering hole showing the game on one of it’s many screens and getting to meet folks. I’ve received more than my share of sympathy rounds after our various “inevitable yet creative” losses in my time here.

  • mgbode

    yeah, my only issue is that with youth sports, Sunday is the one day I have for true family time (or yard-work) and so that is what I spend them doing. Waking up before dawn on Monday’s isn’t so bad :)