We moved to Cleveland in the summer of 1997. My family had spent the last 8 years in San Antonio, so my relationship with baseball was almost non-existent. Occasionally I’d catch a Braves game or Cubs game on cable, but for me, the sport of summer (and fall and winter and spring) was basketball. Being born in Chicago, I rooted for the Cubs, but only because they always seemed like a fun team to like. Good, but not too good. Ryne Sandberg. Andre Dawson. On TV more than most teams. Weird TV personalties. And so forth. I had a Cubs hat and I’m pretty sure there’s a picture somewhere of me dressed up as a Cubs player for Halloween when I was 8 or 9. I gave no damns one way or another about a goat, though. I didn’t live or die by their wins and losses. That was reserved for Tennessee football and Spurs basketball.
But then I moved to Cleveland in 1997 and began to understand that while basketball may be more entertaining and football might capture America’s short attention span, baseball is the sport that feeds your soul. I spent the summer not knowing anyone, (badly) shooting baskets in my driveway during the day and watching the Indians from time to time at night. I lived in the same town as a baseball team in the summer and they were on every night! I had never experienced this growing up – a team and a sport that was available to you every day.
Baseball fits life. Every day is the same but slightly different. Some days become magical. Others become regrettable. Every once in a while you get a bunch more good days than bad and all of a sudden it’s October.
I wasn’t a fan of the Cleveland Indians in 1997, but I watched, and then school started, and it became clear I should be watching, so I watched more. I watched a team that I guess wasn’t as good as the team two years prior make it to the World Series. I saw the error and Jose fuckin’ Mesa and Edgar fuckin’ Renteria and the Marlins celebrating.
The following season, my friend Chad demanded that I take some unused Indians tickets and go with him to a seemingly unremarkable game between the Tribe and the Rays. It was May and I wasn’t ready to care about the Indians again yet. It turned into the best baseball game I’ve ever seen live, an entire master class on mid-90’s John Hart-built Cleveland Indians baseball in one spring night that was in turn average, regrettable, and then magical.
I’ve followed the Tribe since that day. High school summers consisted of going to the games or watching the games in one of my friends’ basement. In 2001, my college roommate Thad, a Mariners fan, and I were not on speaking terms for ALDS week, despite my low expectations and his historically good team. The next year the Tribe traded Bartolo Colon for Cliff Lee, Brandon Phillips, and Grady Sizemore, a trade that showed me and Geoff and Chad how much better fantasy sports could and should be. In 2007, I went to the Midges Game and I watched in my apartment in Boston as Kenny Lofton got held at third base at Fenway.
Now it is 2016 and I run a fantasy sports company I founded in large part thanks to that baseball game in 1998 and that trade in 2002. I met the danged Indians GM. I’m still close with my friends who taught me about baseball, Cleveland fandom, and life. There were some average days, a bunch of regrettable days, and even more magical days. All of a sudden it’s October and the Indians are back in the World Series.