Don’t Hate the Player, Kiddo, Hate the Game

Claes Oldenburg's "Free Stamp"--It's totally in Cleveland, look it up.

Many people now have asked whether I’m going to raise my infant son as a Cleveland sports fan. Bitter legacy and all that. Why not let him fall into the warm, smelly, corrupt embrace of New York fandom, or pick a frontrunner of his own, or devise some random association (like my Cleveland-born-and-raised cousin who lives and dies by the Seattle Seahawks and Kansas Jayhawks basketball—something about the hawks? I never asked him)? Notably, no one who asked me this question is from Cleveland. They’d never even think to ask it, just as I’d never even consider letting this little kid think for himself. He’s going down with the ship, riding on his father’s shoulders, cursing Art Modell, Jose Mesa, and LeFraud James.

Lots of people leave Cleveland, probably more than stay. A few more years and I’ll have been in New York longer than I ever lived in the Midwest. But I’ve observed that people who leave the town (different, in a way, than even the most prideful who still live there), love the place unreasonably. Ask Michael Symon, Drew Carey, or Bone Thugs-N-Harmony (our best and brightest?). People who come from Cleveland wear that shit on their sleeves, man. Maybe it’s an overreaction to the overdiscussed “Mistake by the Lake” days, or because it was a nice place to grow up, or the world-class art museum and symphony (right, that’s totally it). Nah, it’s because of the Browns, Cavs, and Indians. I don’t need to go over the sources of this pain—shit, I will anyway in this space, over time—but no other town claims “Most Tortured Sports City” more vociferously than the Metropolis of the Western Reserve. Stop arguing. We’re winning that shit in a walk. No one knows what it’s like to be us, and dammit if shared pain isn’t the greatest engine of solidarity.

So yeah, the kid is going to grow up with this. It’ll build character and teach him patience for things that may never come. I’ll cross my fingers that it won’t set him to tears like it once did me, pray that he can lay claim to the ground floor when Cleveland has a multiple title–decade like stupid Boston just had, and hope that he doesn’t one day hate me for it. I salute you, little man. Here’s a helmet.

If they ever tell my story, let them say that I rooted for giants. Men rise and fall like the winter wheat, but these names will never die. Let them say I lived in the time of Omar Vizquel, Mark Price, and Ernest Byner. Let them say I lived in the time of Kosar.

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