Last week, I was one of the contributors to ESPN’s Triple Play feature. One of the questions was: “Derek Lowe threw a shutout for the first-place Indians on Tuesday. Are you drinking the Tribe Kool-Aid yet?” My response was:  “As an Indians fan, I’ve been mainlining the Tribe Kool-Aid since birth; it’s tasty but not always satisfying. This is the year the Indians were supposed to contend, and they are. They don’t have a lot of star power, but they have some stars in the making in Carlos Santana, Asdrubal Cabrera and Jason Kipnis. They’re a slightly above-average team that can take two of three from a team like the Rangers by playing smart small ball.”

This weekend, Cleveland closer Chris Perez ripped on Cleveland fans for booing when he had two men on base and for not showing up at the ballpark. He seemed to be asking why the team’s own fans aren’t quenching their thirst with a little Tribe Kool-Aid.

I like Chris Perez. I like his pitching. I like his hair. I appreciate his bluntness. I can’t blame him for being a little ticked off that people didn’t start showing up at the ballpark in large numbers until this past (warm and sunny) weekend. But he’s only been here a few years, and there are some aspects of Indians fandom that he may not know.

Here’s a story: We  used to have this great dog named Poochini. I got him from the APL. He was eight months old and, we were told had been an outside dog. My guess is somebody wanted a tough watch dog and instead they got Poochie. Sweet as pie and gentle as a sleepy kitten. When we first got him, he would shy away every time I picked up a newspaper or a magazine or even a cello bow. It was clear that he had been abused. Indians fans are a lot like Poochie, except he eventually learned to trust people and realized that he wouldn’t be hurt just because somebody picked up a newspaper. Indians fans have continually had their emotions toyed with on a regular basis. Whenever we start to trust, something happens to rip out our hearts.

This makes Tribe fans hesitant. We’ve been drinking the Kool-Aid for years.  The difference between the Kool-Aid at Jonestown and Tribe Kool-Aid is that the Jonestown Kool-Aid killed you, while the Tribe Kool-Aid always seems to end up making you wish you were dead.

At least until next season.

Fear not, Chris Perez. The fans will start showing up, but remember that they may cringe if they think they might be hurt. This fear response typically manifests itself in the form of boo’s and occasionally avoidance. (There might be something in the DSM-R IV about this response.) But we’ll keep drinking the Tribe Kool-Aid. We can’t help it–the stuff is addictive.

19 Comments

  • Norm says:

    I don’t understand, does Chris Perez want more people in the stands so he can hear the boos louder when he goes for the heart attack save?

  • Scott says:

    Um,
    Last year, when we drank the Kool-Aid, it went sour after the All-Star break and we were left with a bad case indigestion. Dolan did not go far enough to shore up the team for the stretch run. That we expect the same this year should not surprise anyone. Dolan will not pay for proper talent if and when the time comes. No amount of Kool-Aid will change that view.
    Forget Dolan’s “if you show up, we will invest” You can’t win with the bank’s money. Dick Jacobs knew that, Dolan does not.

  • Susan Petrone says:

    Norm: Your comment made me snort water on my keyboard and earned me a puzzled look from a co-worker

    Scott: Forget last year, we’ve been drinking the Tribe Kool-Aid for decades. I don’t necessarily buy the “Dolans are cheap” argument. There is some grain of truth in what Perez says about some players not wanting to come here because they want to play on a contender–puts us in a Catch 22 situation. The last time we locked in star players to long-term contracts, they ended up paying Grady Sizemore and Travis Hafner to sit on the DL. They’re making some smart moves. During Derek Lowe’s shutout last week, I kept thinking, “Wow, the Braves are paying $10 million to have him pitch shutout ball for us? Awesome.”

  • Mike says:

    Tribe is doing it with mirrors and will continue to play 550-580 ball until the injuries start to come as the invariably do. Then with no bench, the same thing will happen that happened last year. No surprise, but at least this team has good pitching. We have to be able to buy a bat somewhere right? I hear LaPorta is hitting well in the minors. Casey is a good glove, but he is not hitting anything. Neither is Damon. We just need a few more guys who hit over the Mendoza line.

  • Swift says:

    “Indians fans have continually had their emotions toyed with on a regular basis. Whenever we start to trust, something happens to rip out our hearts.

    This makes Tribe fans hesitant. We’ve been drinking the Kool-Aid for years.

    …Fear not, Chris Perez. The fans will start showing up, but remember that they may cringe if they think they might be hurt.”

    I don’t buy it, neither the bit about why the Indians’ fans don’t show up, nor the bit that the fans will start showing up. The Browns have been as bad, if not worse, for breaking fans’ hearts for years, yet every year they fill the stadium for eight games (or at least buy the tickets, by the last game they stop showing up).

    I’ve only lived in Cleveland since 1986, but here is my take on it… this isn’t a baseball town.

    Northeast Ohio is FOOTBALL, plain and simple. I know people who haven’t had a kid in high school in 30 years and still go to high school games. People around here will do anything for football.

    I don’t know how many people showed up in the old stadium for the Indians in 1982, but I know 86-89 it was pretty quiet.

    Then The Jake was built and was all new and shiny, and Indians were contenders in the newly made AL Central, and it was the perfect storm of good. But that bubble burst, and I’m unconvinced it will come back. Maybe an average attendance of 15,000 was sustainable in 1976, but I don’t think it is today.

    I’m also unconvinced that the Dolans throwing a lot of money at the issue is the answer for either the attendance, nor the Indians’ being contenders. There are just too many examples in baseball, this year in particular, of lousy teams with big payrolls and lots of people in the stands (at higher ticket prices than Cleveland).

    I don’t know what the answer is; I’m not sure there is one. Sorry Chris Perez, but you may be right.

  • Pat says:

    Chris Perez can give me all the heart attacks he wants as long as we’re winning games. If the Tribe can prove they’re legitimate for more than 45 games then I’d gladly buy a ticket. The fact remains that with the exception of the Texas Rangers, the Indians are beating teams they’re supposed to beat. Once they can prove to the fans that they can compete with the better teams in the American League I don’t think much will change with regards to the attendance. With series against Detroit (twice), St. Louis, Cincinnati (twice), New York, and Baltimore in the coming month, I think its safe to say that we will all find out what our Indians are made of…

    I just hope I’ll be investing in Indians tickets by the end of June rather than sitting around and waiting for the college football season to start.

  • David El says:

    Another example that disproves the biggest myth in sports. Cleveland fans are the worst, most pessimistic group America. Until the fan base can learn to root for the team and have faith, you’ll never win shit. Karma is real. And nobody had worse karma than Cleveland fans. You all need to learn positivity

  • Matt W says:

    Doesn’t Cleveland’s attendance so far this year come down to weather? March and the first week of April were really warm. The next three weeks were miserably cold. I know that I won’t go to a spring game if the temperature threatens to be under sixty degrees. It’s windy out there in the bleachers.

    Now, if we are talking October baseball, then the temperature won’t matter one little bit.

    • Kevin says:

      Every team outsold the Indians. Every other team. Yet people continue to make excuses like the weather, economy, past record, owner’s spending, or a damn football oriented town, but NO ONE wants to play in front of a crowd of only 10,000. If as a city Cleveland cannot show up to the games when the team is doing well then they flat out don’t deserve to have a Baseball team. If this is the case then the owners have no duty to stay in town and actually should move. Go prove me wrong and show up to the games, but stop making excuses and setting arbitrary benchmarks, it just makes you look like a terrible fan.

      • Mark says:

        Deserve? Please. The current ownership makes more money off of the fans that do show up (at the very worst, 1.4 million during a 90+ loss season) than most other teams. This is all being done to maximize Larry/Paul Dolan’s take. They have more than double the people showing up to watch than they usually did for the 3 decades pre-dating the 1990s. From 1960 through 1985 they were LUCKY to draw a million people during a time when the games were actually affordable for most people. Terrible fans are the ones to stupid to know when they’re being had. Cleveland’s fans know what’s up and are voting with their wallets.

        Now Kevin, I see some veiled pining for the moving of the team. I regret to inform you that this can’t happen for at least 13 more seasons. I also regret to inform you that whatever city you’re shilling for has a better chance at getting an expansion team than they do the Indians.

        • Kevin says:

          Yes deserve, btw I am an Indians fan, but as someone who grew up in Columbus, I have no ties to the city. Here is the thing, you aren’t entitled to sports teams in your city. The only reason someone can point to why Cleveland has three sports teams is because of the large metropolitan area around, which would indicate attendance. But if the city posts the lowest attendance, compared to worse teams with lower populations, like Kansas City, Pittsburgh, or Oakland, then YES, YOU DON’T DESERVE TO HAVE A TEAM. I can be an Indians fan out of Columbus if they moved to Memphis(not that it will happen) as opposed to Cleveland.

          • Mark says:

            Well, one thing is for sure, you don’t know a whole hell of a lot about what makes the business end of the franchise tick. The Indians make more money than just about any team in Major League Baseball. The Dolans also control the TV revenue as they own STO. Cleveland “deserves” to have the teams we do because we built them all state of the art facilities and support them all the point of profitability.

            By your logic, any city with a team that has the lowest attendance doesn’t “deserve” a team. Well, there’s one of those every year. Do you propose that each team in that position move to a place where they would be more appreciated?

  • Bernie Y says:

    It was only a few years ago that my son (in his Grady Sizemore shirt) and I were at Yankee Stadium watching the Tribe beat the Yanks in the Division Series. God that was great as a Buckeye living in NY area. So sweet. Yanks fans were turning on the team in droves that game. 25% left by the 8th inning. So here I am, a die-hard Indians fan, and now I infected my son with the disease. [He also was/is a Cavs fan watching The Chosen One turn his back on his state.] I can’t see how I could be considered a terrible fan if I am still rooting for the Indians here in Yankee-land. But I can see a lot of lousy fans up here. Every dog has his day; Cleveland almost had their’s that year (remember, up 3-0 on Boston?); we keep rooting because we are the best fans in the world.

  • Nick Tozzi says:

    Great points, Susan and I love the Jonestown analogy. Perez should be reminded that last year’s team started 30-15 and finished 80-82. Tribe fans got excited only to see the club go 50-67 after a great start.

    Note to Perez: I love your passion, Chris and I’m glad that you care. The reality is this: 1948 and in the big picture of Cleveland sports, 1964. If you don’t understand this then you need to ask somebody. Fans in this town have nothing to prove to their teams. The teams have something to prove to us. How about a championship? I was at the Convo to watch the Crunch, an indoor soccer team, win one in 1994 and I fear that will be the only one I witness. By the way, Chris, “witness” is a painful word in this town. Former Browns GM Phil Savage said that Cleveland fans had to give up their “woe is me” attitudes. (Let me add Phil to this note). Hey, Phil which fan base am I talking about:

    A) Most of the teams are terrible or terribly average and the teams which contend for championships lose in the playoffs in the most horrific ways imaginable
    B) Football team moved, came back and is perpetually pathetic…the fans still show up anyway!
    C) The MVP of the NBA, the best player in the world who is playing for his hometown team, quits in the playoffs and then announces on national television that he is “taking his talents to South Beach”

    Here’s a hint: The answers to A-C are the same. All of this happened in the same town! How delightful!!!

    The answer is Cleveland, Chris and Phil, so you’re lucky we still care. The real fans are on The Nortcoast not South Beach.

    -Nick

    • Will says:

      I too was there when the Crunch and the Dynamic Duo won the indoor soccer championship. I still remember the sold out Convo and John Adams beating his drum during that game. As a matter of fact, I was at most Crunch/Force games when indoor soccer was a part of Cleveland and most of Cleveland didn’t even know indoor soccer existed. During the great run the Tribe had in the 90′s, when the team was an offensive powerhouse, I was downtown for every home game. The city and the fans were electric and it was such a great time to be in Cleveland as far as sports go. I still remember how great it was eliminating the Yankees in game 4 of the division series and we, the fans, stayed in the ballpark for over an hour after the game celebrating as if we won the World Series.

      However, I also ‘witnessed’ the Drive, the Fumble, the demolition of Municipal Stadium, Mr. Mesa, the Red Sox debacle, and the Decision. All of which were gut wrenching experiences. Has this soured me on Cleveland sports? NO! Everyday the TV is tuned to STO to watch the Tribe and if a television isn’t available you can be sure the radio is tuned in. Do the fans of Cleveland owe anything to the city’s sports teams? Absolutely not! We are here, we have always been here! Through thick and thin, pain and suffering, joy and excitement, through it all!

      Now with all that being said, is Chris Perez justified in his remarks? Not entirely. The Indians are now a 1st place team yes, but they are not a great team yet. The stats tell the tale, they are an above average team with potential. It is great to see a player that cares though, so kuddos to you Mr. Perez and I like his confidence. But the team this year still needs to gain the confidence of the city after the tremendous break down last year. Yes, injuries played a part but it was still painful after such a great start.

      The best part of all this, and we can attribute this to Chris as well, is the contorversy of it all. By making just a few remarks, Chris has brought more attention to the team and created more interest, than the entire organization has through marketing them.

      • Kevin says:

        “Now with all that being said, is Chris Perez justified in his remarks? Not entirely. The Indians are now a 1st place team yes, but they are not a great team yet. The stats tell the tale, they are an above average team with potential.”

        You are absolutely correct that they are not a great team yet. But shouldn’t an above average team at least have average attendance? No? What about below average attendance, is that still ok? But we don’t have either of those. No, we have LAST PLACE ATTENDANCE. We don’t have a last place team so there is NO reason why we should have last place attendance and that falls on the fans in Cleveland. If the fans in Cleveland don’t want to try to get their attendance to match on field performance then the team should move.

        • Mary Jo says:

          The Tribe is in last place BECAUSE of the time of year!!! Over a season it balances out most years. And someone from Cols has a lot to say about team spirit. (Personal aside here: The very first time I drove into Cols the “Welcome to Columbus” sign along I-71 was immediately followed by a dead pig carcass in the median, although my hubby – proud alum of THE OSU – still calls it a Cow Town.)

          Cols is a college-sport town. How well does the PROF. hockey team do there? Let’s compare them (both sports have 30 teams) against the Tribe since 2001.

          Bluejackets (venue seats 18,144 in a climate-controlled environment) ranked: 2001, 12th; 2002, 8th; 2003, 11th; 2004, 15th; 2005-missing; 2006, 17th; 2008, 28th; 2009 (playoff year), 25th; 2010, 22th, 2011, 27th.

          Tribe (open-air venue built 1994, current capacity 43,429) ranked: 2001 (Central Div. champ), 4h; 2002 (rebuild #1), 12th; 2003, 24th; 2004, 25th; 2005, 24th; 2006, 25th; 2007 (Central Div. champ), 21st; 2008 (CC traded, begin rebuild #2), 22; 2009 (Lee traded), 25th; 2010 (the Fans speak), 30th; 2011, 24th.

          By the time the Tribe was starting to play poorly/trade popular players the bloom was off the rose known as the NEW Jacobs Field. In spite of that the Tribe has had larger average crowds in its worse year (2010, 17,435) than the Bluejackets had just a year after they made the playoffs (2010, 13,658).

          When the Columbus populous can start filling up Nationwide Arena for the majority of the Bluejackets games is the day you can start throwing stones at the Tribe fans and their willingness to pay for venue seating to Tribe games.

  • Norm says:

    Headed to the Jake for the first time today since 1994. (I live out of the area and it is easier to go to away games). So glad I am getting to see Rick Porcello against Ubaldo Jimenez.

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