Five years ago, a trip to Progressive Field transformed my life. On that day, I became an Indians fan. Call it a blessing or a curse (I’m not sure which). Maybe baseball is an unlikely source, but I have learned from the teachings of the Indians school of fandom.
Here are the eight most important lessons I have learned since that fateful day, courtesy of the Cleveland Indians.
I was born too late.
I was only two years old when the Indians made it to the World Series in 1995. No matter how much I wish I could say that I remember that ride to the playoffs and the one in 1997, I can’t. I know that the end was heartbreaking for the fans, but I consider those the glory years of being a Tribe fan.
From videos I’ve seen and stories I’ve heard, the Jake was the place to be. There was an atmosphere around the ballpark that can’t match any day during this current era of being a Tribe fan. I don’t know what it will take to make that happen again in my lifetime, but I want to see it. I was too young the first time around.
- Hope is fragile.
As an Indians fan, you must be guarded with your emotions. It will take great restraint, but you cannot let yourself entertain playoff dreams in April no matter how good the team looks. It might be tempting, but you just can’t do it. It will crush your soul when things aren’t working out in August. When becoming an Indians fan, you must proceed through the levels of fandom—from slight interest to hardcore season ticket holder—with caution.
- The future somehow always seems brighter than the present.
Why else would we say “There’s always next year” every day of every season? We know that not much will change between this year and next, yet we let ourselves buy into the idea of next year. I guess “next year” has become an elusive phrase to mean, “some year, probably in the distant future, but I’ll be optimistic and have hope for next year.”
Mark my words: the Indians will have a winning season (perhaps a playoff berth and dare I say it, a World Series victory) sometime in my lifetime. I’m young, right? I believe in the future. The future always looks good.
You never know what to expect.
The Indians never seem to be short of surprises. I think last year is a good testament to this. All of those walkoffs were something special. Travis Hafner had a walk-off grand slam against the Blue Jays on July 7, 2011 in a 5-4 win. The Indians needed every single one of those runs to win. I can honestly say that when Hafner came up to bat, I was skeptical that the Indians still had a chance at winning the game.
Maybe a good majority of the time, the Indians will lose in a situation like that, but never count them out. No matter how bleak the season has become, you never know what will happen. That’s what’s great about the sport of baseball.
- Sports can make you crazy.
You wouldn’t continue going back to a person that repeatedly broke your heart, day after day, year after year, when they only let you down and crushed your spirit in new and demoralizing ways each time, would you? When it comes to the Indians, and certain other Cleveland sports (cough, cough, Browns), we do. Every. Single. Time.
Sometimes, we doubt ourselves. In the midst of the Indians 11-game losing streak this year, I couldn’t help but wonder why I subject myself to so much pain. Then I realized, that no matter what, I couldn’t turn my back on my team. I guess it’s a loyalty thing. Once the Indians are part of who you are and you develop a passion for the team, it sticks with you for life.
- The sports fans of Cleveland have suffered—a lot.
No wonder the fans of Cleveland have such a hard time getting behind an unproven team. It seems that there’s no such thing as a sure thing as far as Cleveland teams go. Even when things look good and like there’s a chance, somehow it always ends in heartbreak. I think the city is cursed. Fans of any Cleveland team should keep a locked chain around their hearts. It’s not easy. It’s a struggle, but remember, it has made us stronger.
The day-to-day struggle of being a Cleveland sports fan is not lost on me. My heart sinks every time I get a notification on my phone that they Indians have lost again. However, I know that one day, we will know what it’s like to see our teams win championships, and when we do, it will feel better than any other feeling. Success is a lot sweeter when you’ve never won.
It’s important to take joy in the little things.
In the grand scheme of things, a winning September series against the Detroit Tigers in the midst of a losing season won’t mean much, but it still can somehow make you feel good inside. Last season had to mean something, even if the end result was depressing. We have to look at that and be somewhat happy. I think we all knew, deep down, that it wouldn’t last, but at least they didn’t lose every game. They gave us something to cheer for through a good portion of the season.
I believed last season and I was excited, regardless of the outcome. I took joy in each of those wins. Sometimes you have to look behind the imperfections of the final product and focus on the glittering details. The Indians do offer that from time to time, we just have to be selective on what we dwell on.
- November through March are the worst months of the year.
I guess if you’re a big football or basketball fan, you might disagree, but for baseball fans, the offseason is a dreaded experience. The countdown to Opening Day begins the day the season ends. I try to make it to the final home stand of the season each year. There’s always a unique feeling around the ballpark as everyone comes to terms with the idea that Progressive Field, for the most part, will stand vacant until April. During those long, cold months, the stadium stands as a silent, looming reminder that baseball will return—and hope will be reborn once again.
There are more lessons to come. This is just the beginning of my plight as an Indians fan. It’s a rollercoaster of emotions, that’s for sure, but just remember, we shall unite as fans and share in the sadness and delights.