With the holidays now past, many people tend to focus less on what they are thankful for and more on what they would like to improve in their lives. While it’s always a good idea to try to improve your life, it’s also important to appreciate the things you do have. Over the last two weeks, the things I have seen in the rest of the Cleveland sports world have caused me to appreciate the Indians more than I have in years.
I know that it is sometimes easy to lose interest in the Indians. Cleveland, Ohio is many things, but first and foremost it is Browns Town. Football is king, and because of this the Tribe will always take a back seat to some extent. The Cavaliers have also staked their claim to a tremendous amount of local and national interest with the return of LeBron James and the trade for Kevin Love. I’m a DIE-HARD Cavs fan, and despite the team struggling somewhat, it’s nice to know that they will have a winning record and return to the playoffs for the first time in five seasons.
That being said, I’m a sports fan because I enjoy watching sports. This may seem obvious, but far too often, I find myself frustrated with the Browns and Cavs in ways that I never am with the Indians.
With the Browns the issues are fairly obvious. While their record of 7-9 is a big improvement over previous years and Mike Pettine seems like he could be the answer at coach, there’s no denying the team finished poorly, losing its last five games. The bigger issue, to this fan at least, was the immaturity of several players, specifically, Johnny Manziel, Josh Gordon, and Justin Gilbert. As a fan, I care about how my team does and want to be able to root for its players, and in the case of men such as Joe Thomas, Joe Haden, and Donte Whitner, they make that easy. But when several players seem like they could care less about the team, and therefore the fans, it makes rooting for the team as a whole more difficult for me, especially when that team is struggling. In short, I am over the soap opera.
My frustrations with the Cavaliers are a bit more complicated. As I said before I am a huge fan and I’m excited by the team’s return to relevance. I also understood that there would be struggles as a team that turned over more than two-thirds of its roster and had a new coach would take time to jell. I’m not even overly bothered by the team’s current struggles as I know they will make the playoffs and feel that they will have a much more balanced team when everyone is finally healthy. That being said, this season has been an drain. Whether it’s injuries, questions about coaching, worries that Kevin Love or even LeBron James might leave, or just disappointment in the overall record, this roller coaster season has been more emotionally taxing to me than any Cleveland sports season since 2000 (the first year the Indians didn’t win the Central Division, and I was much younger and more temperamental back then.
This brings mean to the Indians. For all the negative things you can say about the Dolans, and I’ve said my share, their biggest strengths are the weaknesses of Dan Gilbert and Jimmy Haslam. They have a stable front office that has had clear line of succession all the way back to when Hank Peters was hired in 1987. They have an elite Manager in Terry Francona who has a great relationship with and the support of the front office, and has the respect of both his current players as well as players who the Indians may be interested in bringing in. In short, they have the stability and infrastructure that should be the envy of Cleveland’s other sports teams.
Another thing the Indians have is a team of players who are easy to root for, particularly since the departure of Chris Perez. Michael Brantley and Corey Kluber are quiet stars who approach the game in a way than anyone can respect. Nick Swisher and Jason Kipnis are heavily invested in the community, and despite their struggles this season seem to be terrific teammates. The overall atmosphere of the team seems to be positive, hard working, and most importantly fun. This isn’t to say that there aren’t some wonderful people playing for the Browns and Cavs, but the atmosphere with the other teams just doesn’t seem as fun. While that may not seem like a big deal for some, it does seem to play a big part in the Indians’ recent success, and they have been much better than the other two teams in recent years.
So rage about the payroll and the lack of excitement compared to the 90’s teams, shrug your shoulders and the Brandon Moss and Gavin Floyd signings, and complain about the health of Nick Swisher and Michael Bourn. But don’t ignore the Indians, or you’ll be ignoring a team that will likely contend for a playoff spot with a group of players that should make this city proud to call their own.