Editor’s Note: Huge thank you to Kyle for filling in for today’s WWW. Subsequent to his filing of this column, The Wall Street Journal published an article about Cleveland and it’s new-found “identity crisis” that features a little WFNY and a ton of Cleveland sports. Please check it out.
Today I’m filling this “While We’re Waiting…” Tuesday spot, a princely piece of real estate ordinarily reserved for Andrew. I imagine no one has noticed, but the Team of Thursday WWW folks has slowly been leaking out over the rest of the week, with #TeamThursday member Jessica filling in for Scott last Monday. We’re creeping into your week, gradually transforming the days to be more like Thursday. WATCH YOUR BACK WEDNESDAY AND FRIDAY, #TeamThursday IS COMING FOR YOU NEXT. But while we’re waiting…
Happy Greatest Day in Cleveland Sports History Slash Historical Sports Footnote Day, America! Calling someone or something a “footnote” is usually a pejorative term with negative connotations. The most readily identifiable example of an inconsequential footnote devoid of any meaning beyond its answer to obscure trivia questions is “The List,” the catalogue of Cleveland Browns quarterbacks since 1999, which has seen the recent additions of Charlie Whitehurst and Kevin Hogan as the Browns continue their quest for 16 in ‘16. Every sports follower, Cleveland and non-Cleveland alike, has a favorite entry on The List, my personally cherished being Spergon Wynn (with runner-ups Doug Pederson and Ken Dorsey).
But the other type of footnote is one whose knowledge is a celebration of some historical feat or landmark achievement, such as the first two people to walk on the moon,1 or the first man to sign the Declaration of Independence.2 October 25, 2016, will be one of those grand sports-date footnotes alongside October 7, 1916, when Georgia Tech defeated Cumberland 222-0 in a college football game, or April 8, 1974, when Hank Aaron broke Babe Ruth’s home run record. For Tuesday, October 25, 2016, is the night the Cleveland Cavaliers will unveil the banner for their first championship team in 52 years, and the night the Cleveland Indians will open the 2016 World Series, hosting Game 1 against the Chicago Cubs.
Although Cleveland fans are hopeful the result is favorable —with the Cavaliers winning to begin a spirited title defense, and the Indians taking the first step in ending their own 68-year title famine (I’m tired of droughts) — Tuesday’s mere existence is meaningful and significant to the City of Cleveland. As far as I can tell, no city has ever opened the World Series on “Banner Night” of its NBA franchise. There have been several instances of cities appearing in the World Series following an NBA Finals appearance (16 by my count), but only six cities who won the Finals before appearing in the World Series the ensuing autumn. Of those six cities, only one had teams host games on the same day: New York on October 16, 1973. But the Knicks were already playing the third game of the season on that Tuesday, while the Mets hosted Game 3 of the World Series (the Knicks beat the Boston Braves, and the Mets lost that game and the subsequent series to the Oakland Athletics). Since, the two events have rarely overlapped, with the NBA season going to the end of October, and the World Series gradually creeping closer to November in the interim.
Tuesday night in Cleveland is a powerfully symbolic moment, and a special occasion beyond having an excuse to get drunk on a Tuesday; one great moment ending, and another just beginning … for both franchises. Pretend I said something profound right here about the circle of life or stars collapsing and spawning new galaxies or whatever. For one night, Cleveland will be the center of the sports world on two different stages, a unique feat in sports history. Let’s enjoy it, and hopefully good fortune will continue to shine on Cleveland in this new (if brief) era of infinite optimism on the City by the Lake.
Random Calvin and Hobbes strip of the day. Which brings us to the Browns. What about the Browns? The thing is, sports fans are insatiable. Although it’s been so long since Cleveland’s last title we’ve surely forgotten, Cleveland will soon learn that championship lust is impossible to satisfy. Fifty-two years will quickly turn to three months and then a year and five years, and we’ll want another one.
Which is why it’s important to appreciate what the Browns are doing. While most people may just see an inept organization entering Rebuilding Phase No. 8 since 1999, I see a team with the great courage to suck so impossibly hard to allow the Cavaliers and Indians to succeed. In the never-ending quest for sports euphoria, the Browns are the one bummer to keep us balanced — Cleveland’s sacrifice to the sports gods. I salute your bravery and steadfast commitment to failure, Browns, and God speed.
While we’re here: Cubs fans. I would also like to take a moment to thank you all for allowing us to keep the “Cleveland Against the World” narrative going. For while Cleveland is at Peak Annoying right now in our championship haze, we can’t compete against your insufferability. A lot of people may impugn Cleveland fans for relinquishing their tickets to Cubs fans for outrageous sums of money, but some people aren’t in the financial position to pass up $2200 for a pair of tickets. The Cubs have a national and rabid following for a variety of reasons, and there will be many at the games on Tuesday and Wednesday. The ideal solution as far as I can tell is obvious: Indians fans going to the game should dress like Steve Bartman.
Why should fans dress like Bartman (sweatshirt, green turtleneck, blue hat, headphones, pained mixture of loneliness and dread)? The reasons should be plain enough, but here they are: 1. If everyone dresses like Bartman, it will make the actual Cubs fans mostly indistinguishable from Indians fans; 2. It will make the Chicago occupation look like an elaborate ruse planned by Cleveland; 3. It’s within the spirit of Halloween, mere days away; 4. It will freak out the Cubs players; and 5. It will enrage and frighten Cubs fans and, possibly, force them to become violently ill. When Cubs fans’ heads explode/they flee the game like they’ve seen a ghost, Indians fans can remove their Bartman costumes to reveal their Tribe gear, which will most likely be before the third inning. And if this seems mean-spirited, I’m sorry but I’m not the one who made the lifelong fan of my team join witness protection.
And now for the random 90s song of the day. I made an appeal to the deity (deities?) responsible for the R90sSotD for the old “We’re Talkin’ Baseball” theme to Indians broadcasts, but they responded (via an elaborate light system on my wall similar to what Winona Ryder used in Stranger Things), “That’s a little on the nose, don’t you think?” So they went with the next best thing for an Indians playoff game: Hootie.
Although Hootie & the Blowfish’s Cracked Rear View was released in 1994, its chief popularity coincided during the peak of the the 1995 Cleveland Indians, trading top spot on the Billboard charts during the summer of 1995 with the Pocahontas soundtrack and (coincidentally) Bone Thugs-N-Harmony’s E. 1999 Eternal, only to lose the top spot to Alanis Morissette’s Jagged Little Pill, an apt metaphor for what Indians’ fans swallowed when they lost to the Atlanta Braves in the World Series. Like the fervor of 1990s Indians nostalgia, the popularity of Cracked Rear View was both partially justified but ultimately inexplicable (the album sold more copies in the States than Abbey Road), and Hootie & the Blowfish is the only thing that six-year-old me remembers from that year other than the Indians, Fla-Vor Ice popsicles, and learning the food pyramid.
The video features a shirtless white dude with long hair wearing a sweater tied to his cargo shorts, as all videos in the 1990s were contractually obligated to have. Rumors on the internet persist that David Crosby — the legendary songwriter and harmony singer of Crosby, Stills, & Nash (& Young) fame — sings background vocals on “Hold My Hand” and other Hootie songs, but this author suspects they’re fabricated. Darius Rucker of Hootie would go on to sing popular country music, including one of the three country songs I begrudgingly like, “Wagon Wheel” (the other two being John Denver’s “Take Me Home, Country Roads,” and The Eagles’ “Take It Easy”). Think of “Wagon Wheel” as the Indians’ equivalent of Manny Ramirez’s turn with the Red Sox. The 90s were weird.
Hold my hand
Want you to hold my hand
Hold my hand
I’ll take you to the promised land
Hold my hand
- Either Neil Armstrong or Buzz Aldrin, or “two actors directed by Stanley Kubrick,” depending on which version of history you subscribe to. [↩]
- Either John Hancock or Herbie Hancock, depending on whether you’re trying to impress people with your knowledge of history or your knowledge of Tommy Boy. [↩]