Is Cleveland a good baseball town? This debate has raged on for what seems like years with any number of people weighing in with their two cents. The consensus seems to center around the idea that Clevelanders could care less about baseball and would rather invest their time and money in more worthwhile endeavors. Of course, that “worthwhile endeavor” is typically cited as the Cleveland Browns which in turn raises serious questions about what people consider to be worthwhile endeavors.
All kidding aside, the argument can be considered a sound one. The attendance, or lack their off in the case of the Indians, seemed to support the idea that Clevelanders would rather spend their money elsewhere. The recent lean years following the magical postseason run of 2007 haven’t helped things much either. Rather than build on the momentum of 2007 the Indians tore it all down slowly and painfully.
But here’s the thing. While this and any number of other arguments may present valid points, they don’t present the whole truth. That being, Indians fans have been scarred by years of losing and bad trades. They’ve fallen into the trap of getting behind the team only to watch them fall apart at during the dog days of summer, so excuse them if they are a bit gun-shy to fall in love with this team. Some people can’t and won’t fall in love with a team or stick around “just because.” Some people need a reason to believe.
The 2013 Indians have given fans a reason to believe and the result is what we saw last week’s American League Wild Card game. This may not be a baseball town on the surface, but deep down in its core Cleveland loves baseball. How else do you explain the near chaotic environment the Rays were forced to deal with. The screaming, the yelling, the in unison chanting. It was beautiful, if not magical.
There is also the fact that the game sold out in a matter of minutes despite concerns that the Tribe would play for their playoff lives in front of 13,000 people. Sure seems odd that a city that doesn’t care about baseball would turn the Indians into the hottest ticket in town. Funny how things work out sometimes isn’t it?
The bottom line in all of this is simple. People expect more out of the Indians than most other teams in town. Whether it’s because of the romanticism of the game or the repeated playoff runs of the mid 90’s and early 2000’s, fans expect a certain level of performance from the Indians. Now that they are getting it, they’re starting to show up. Now it’s up to them to make the most of it.
That’s where the real difference lies between the 2007 and 2013 versions of the Cleveland Indians. The 2007 was at its peak with big money contracts and age lurking around the corner. For the 2013 Indians, this is just the beginning. They are a team at the beginning stages of the performance bell curve. In other words, they are a team on the rise. Clevelanders are smart baseball fans that can recognize this. They’ll be prepared to get behind this team for years to come.
If not? Well, there are plenty of good seats still available for the Browns.