I recently saw someone on Twitter quip that it’s about that time of year where we get all hot and bothered about Chief Wahoo and whether he is racist or not or stays or goes. It is that time of year, no doubt—Wahoo debates tend to go into hibernation once the season comes to a close. That said, I’m going to skip it this year. The fact is that I, (along with pretty much anyone else who is going to be on the record on the topic, have already weighed in. We’ve made our decisions in our personal lives whether to buy more Chief gear or to extract it from our wardrobes. And while the Cleveland Indians haven’t responded much to the issue and I still disagree with their use of the caricature, I can justify not debating it this year.
Full disclosure: I had trouble buying into the Indians last season as an entertainment venture. I went a little bit overboard with the Wahoo issue and it tainted the season for me. I don’t know if anyone else remembers, but when the de-chief thing came up, I predicted there would be at least one fight over the issue during the season. As far as I know, I was absolutely dead wrong. I’m happy I was wrong, by the way, but that’s indicative of my attitude toward the Indians heading into the season and I didn’t enjoy it as much as I used to.
I watched my fair share of Indians games, but I just never felt invested in the team or their season. I enjoyed Michael Brantley and Corey Kluber, of course, but just like the team got off to a bad start, I think last year’s Wahoo beginning to the year started me off with a bad taste in my mouth.
None of this is to try and pretend like it isn’t an important conversation. In a lot of respects, it is an important conversation and the Indians still remain firmly on the wrong side of history. I’m convinced of that. The thing is that I’m already on the record. I let my dollars do the talking in terms of Cleveland Indians gear. I could take the next step and let my dollars do the talking from a ticket-buying standpoint, but I don’t think I help anything by denying myself the experience of being a fan alongside my fellow Clevelanders—and that, in the end, is what this is really about.
Despite the Wahoo issue, baseball and sports in Cleveland are much more about the relationships that we share with each other. To let Wahoo impact my enjoyment of a season like it did last year is counterproductive. It’s like agreeing to go to a family reunion and then sit in the corner sulking because you have a cousin or uncle with whom others are sharing a beer after he told a racist joke.
Baseball in Cleveland is so much more than Wahoo. That’s been one of my biggest arguments during the Wahoo debate: Whether Wahoo is there, or whether they call this team the Cleveland Blanks, it’s still the same geographically linked people in the stands hoping they win enough games so we can host a parade. In the end, I’m not tied to the name on the jersey as much as the city which they represent. That’s what I’m going to focus on this year and let my past words on the topic stand as is.