With over 280 comments now devoted to Ketih Law's take on the Indians, be it a hatchet job or a reasoned analysis, and Jay Jaffe taking his own measured look at the Indians today, I had to take a second to remember what it is that I'm doing here. I've written about the emotional universe the Indians inhabit for me before, about the bitter sea we float in, about my own attempts to shape my experience, about my excitement over an emerging future, and, most explicitly, about my desperate vision for the 2009 season, absurdly inspired by Sherwood Anderson. So, as the national media has gathered around the suddenly reanimated corpse of Cleveland baseball, pointing and poking, evaluating, looking deep in our ears and nostrils, saying things like "Hrm, I'm not quite sure it's alive—do you think it's alive, Buster?", I crawled back inside myself for a while. I looked around.
I don't cheer for the Indians to compare my predictions for the future to the reality that overwhelms me. I don't cheer for the Indians as a means for expressing rage for an unfair system and those on top of it. I don't cheer for the Indians for the validation of the national media or the fans of other teams. I don't cheer for the Indians to see a winner.
I had a late class Wednesday—my headphones went on as soon as I walked out of the room. Vinnie Pestano was on the mound and he was issuing a walk to Jeff Francoeur, loading the bases with two outs. I stood alone, in the dark, halfway home, 2,000 miles from home and the woman I love, even further from Cleveland, and further still from the postage-stamp-sized town where I improbably fell under Roberto Alomar's spell. I stood there and I listened, totally still. I keep the volume low because I know better:
CALLED STRIKE THREE! PESTANO GOT HIM LOOKING ON A SLIDER!
I clapped, alone in the dark with Tom Hamilton. I smiled.
I cheer for the Indians because, in a complicated world, they give me a chance to access uncomplicated emotional spaces. The Indians make me happy and they make me sad, but what they make me feel, it's a cause-effect tree I can understand. I cheer for the Indians because I love baseball and they're my part of baseball.
The Mariners longtime radio announcer Dave Niehaus died this offseason. Seattle hip-hop artist Macklemore recorded a tribute to Niehaus and, for me, it works, in spades. A lot of the song rips me up but especially:
I don't really collect cards anymore, just a box and some old cardboard / Memories embedded in the dust and the fibers that age just like us / Living somewhere off in a drawer
With full knowledge that anyone older than me justifiably might find this kind of statement self-indulgent and silly: where I used to feel myself growing up, I feel myself getting older. The stuff I loved about baseball as a kid, from cards to hats to blowout wins to bragging about the team, seems less and less important to me. What I want now, what I crave, is that emotional hit, the synaptic snap of a memory being formed, a memory steeped in emotion and connecting to the others like it. The cards don't matter anymore, and maybe the plays don't even matter—what matters is the new memory, the image and sound and place that becomes a part of me, gets old with me. The winning matters because it makes the moments more important more often, it gives me more of the emotional tautness I cherish.
The incredible things I've seen as an Indians fan—Omar ranging right a quarter mile, Bob Wickman laboring through another July night, the bugs all over that brave kid's face, Pronk's swing, being laughed at by an opposing manager making a choking gesture, Kenny's grins after ripping home runs out of batters' hands—none of that stuff sits at the front of my brain. They're memories living somewhere off in a drawer—but, they're with me and often when I'm emotional, no matter the context, the drawer will slide open.
I cheer for the Indians because, alone in the dark with Tom Hamilton, clapping and smiling, it washes back over me: how Pestano must feel, what it means to save the day; how Grady's back, or maybe he's not, and how I grapple with the anxiety of expectations; Santana and Victor and the happiest days of my life, the woman 2,000 miles away; Hamilton and his awkward near-daily remembrances of Bob Feller, how hard it is to show how much someone meant.
I cheer for the Indians because I do, because they're part of me.