Thursday, June 07, 2007

Are you truly a Cleveland Sports fan?

Well, here we go. The first time a team from Cleveland has been involved in a Championship Series since 1997. Is that what this means? That every ten years we have to be ready as a fanbase to support our teams in the Championships? Personally, I would rather see the Cavs get swept than have to deal with what happened to the Indians in '97. If Larry Hughes proves to be the 2007 version of the 1997 Joe Table, I will not be a happy human being. That being said, it's a new decade, and another chance for the city with the best fans in the United States to end thier championship drought.

First of all, let's get something abundantly clear. There are bandwagon Cavs fans, then there are those, like myself and Paul Teeple who when you say "Wilkens" we think Gerald, not Dominique. We remember when in the Cavs pre-game show, Mark Price would teach us how to shoot free throws by "finding the nail" on the free throw stripe. We remember seing Mark Price in an Orlando Magic uniform and hating it almost as much as when Carlos Baerga was playing for the Mets. I'm not saying that these fans that are Lebron lovers aren't welcome to root for the Cavs, but I don't remember them being at the GUND Arena watching Ricky Davis and Darius Miles lead the team to a 17 win season. These bandwagonners have no idea of the sense of irony having David Wesley on the team, probably couldn't pick Chris Mills out of a lineup of one, and have no idea when Sports Illustrated called Terrell Brandon the besat point guard in the game (it was just before we traded him to Minnesota). Paul referenced Joe Tait eariler this week, and I can remember listening to his classic lines that accompanied every Cavs radio broadcast.

My generation (ages 20-28) of Cleveland sports fans has had it the worst. Sure, the older crowd vivdly remembers the heartbreak of "Red Right 88", the Broncos AFC Championship games, and "The Shot." At least they had that! This generation of Cleveland fans has had the 1995 World Series. This is one of the most underrated heartbreak moments in Cleveland Sports History. Here's three reasons why:
1. The perennial bridesmaid team, the Atlanta Braves, finally got their ring. A team that should have won at least three in the 90's settles for one. Against Us. They knew they were going to win, and they just toyed with us. Like when Greg Maddux in Game Three threw at Eddie Murray just to start something. The greatest quote was afterward when someone asked Orel Hershiser if he thought Maddux threw at Murray on purpose: "he's the best pitcher in the game. He could throw a baseball into a teacup."

2. David Justice, in the middle of the series, said that the Atlanta Braves fans sucked. That the team couldn't get motivated to play at Fulton County stadium, and that the Indians fans were so much better. He ended hitting the winning home run in Game 6 that gave the Braves their ring, amidst the boos he was hearing because the Braves fans took exception to what he had said. Funny how that ball going over the right feild wall changed their opinion of him. Oh, and also? We couldn't touch Glavine that night from what I remember. I think we had maybe two baserunners.

3. The off-season following the 1995 WS, who did we sign?
True story. You cannot make this stuff up. But don;t worry, we would eventually trade him to the Yankees for Ricky Ledee. RICKY LEDEE.

That was one of our biggest heartbreaks. This generation of Cleveland fan has lived through our prime rooting years without the Browns, not the years they were in the AFC Championship back to back years. Our hearts have been broken by the Indians twice not in the ALCS, but in the big dance. This generation of Cleveland fan has had a worse childhood than those older than us. We hold a special place for ourselves and each other when it comes to Cleveland loyalty. We, as children, could have very easily become Chicago Bull, Pittsburgh Steeler, or New York Yankee fans. We didn't, we stuck it out, and lived through more heartache as kids than any other generation of Cleveland fans.

Now, just because you might be around my age, that doesn't mean you're lumped into this group, although the invitation is open, if you can remember these things:

-- Most people think Jason Grimsley is a heel for his involvement with steroids. He will always be a legend in Cleveland for going into the Umpire's locker room and stealing Albert Belle's alleged corked bat. Fans of my generation can still see Albert Belle pointing to his bicep and saying that was the power, not the cork. He was never the same after that.

-- The Cleveland Cavaliers drafting Vitaly Potopenko and Z in the same 1996 draft, 8 picks apart. Three of the guys taken in between? Kobe, Steve Nash, Jermaine O' Neal. Sweet Moses.

--The Cleveland Cavaliers drafting Andre Miller and Trajan Langdon in the same 1999 draft, three picks apart. Two of the guys taken in between? Shawn Marion, Jason Terry. [Expletive deleted]
--After the 1997 World Series, the Expos and the Tribe were about to pull the trigger on a Jaret Wright- Jim Thome for Pedro Martinez deal. We didn't do it. It's ok, though, because in the next off-season Pedro signed with the Red Sox just in time to dominate the Indians in the 1999 ALDS, and win a World Series with them in 2004. That ALDS also was the series where we had to watch over and over again Kenny Lofton dive into first base and separate his shoulder on top of Pedro's domination, on top of Paul Shuey's inability to throw Troy O'leary anything but a belt-high fastball with the bases loaded.

-- Sandy Alomar's UNREAL 1997 Season: 146 hits, 37, doubles, 21 HRs and 83 RBI. All career highs. Also won the 97' All- Star Game MVP, and wore some sick nasty catcher's gear that night, leaving little league catchers all over North East Ohio clamoring for the Red, White, and Blue chest protector.
-- The 1995 Cleveland Indians Batting Order:
1. CF- Kenny Lofton
2. SS- Omar Vizquel
3. 2B- Carlos Baerga
4. LF- Albert Belle
5. DH-Eddie Murray
6. 3B- Jim Thome
7. RF- Manny Ramirez
8. 1B- Paul Sorrento
9. C- Sandy Alomar
That lineup was sick. Manny being Manny, batting Seventh. The good with the bad mixed into this short list, there is more, there are so many more. But these are just some of the moments, just some of the memories of the fans that will be screaming the loudest when the Cavs finally bring a Championship to the fans that deserve it the most.

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