The Cleveland Fan on Facebook

The Cleveland Fan on Twitter
Indians Indians Archive No Narratives
Written by Jeff Rich

Jeff Rich

Not easy to stomach this oneFrankly, it's probably better when they just leave our name out of it.  We used to blame it on ESPN, but it's probably fair, at this point, to just paint the national media with one broad stroke.  Be it the "Worldwide Leader", NFL Network, Mad Dog Radio, or whatever other outlets engage in building their news stories around TMZ-type narratives, I find myself screaming "UNCLE!" so much more often than I used to.  Narratives, oh stupid narratives, why does the media seem to think we need you?

There really isn't much mystery to it, they do it because it sells, but also because it's easy, and even lazy to a certain extent.  The news is out there, whether we want to go and get it or simply let it come to us, but it's so much easier to find one popular topic and then to mercilessly beat one single dead horse until they are presented with another dead horse.  On a national level, they like to go after the cheaters and the ne'er-do-wells, and why not?  I admit that the Lance Armstrongs, Alex Rodriguezes, and Johnny Manziels of the world make for good press, but not every day.  That might be when it gets ugly.

There comes a time when the big evil witch-hunters of the media run out of witches to hunt, so they turn to some of the old stand-bys.  It's all about championship rings, nationally broadcast games, and then the part where we come in, the tortured fan bases.  Those angles aren't mutually exclusive; for every Yin, there must be a Yang.  For every Championship game, there's a runner-up.  For every prime-time HD broadcast event, there's a game that can only be seen via a Zapruder stream on some Russian website.  And, for every event that tortures one fan base, another is probably elated, doing cannon balls into the pool of tears created by the not-so-fortunate.

BynerThat's us.  For all the great things that happen in sport, chances are there's a Cleveland perspective that make it less than great.  Most of us are familiar with the Montage of Misery that ESPN loves to play at Cleveland's expense, except I don't know that they neccessarily love to play it as much as I think they feel obligated to show it in certain context.  All of the bad things that happen can't be blamed on the media, just because they're peeling scabs off old wounds every single time we have to see Craig Ehlo, Earnest Byner, and Jose Mesa in a single shot, it doesn't mean they care, and there's two sides to that coin of apathy.  First, they don't care that it hurts the people in our little corner of America; the news needs to be reported without remorse, provided it's the truth, and the Montage of Misery contains no fiction.  Second, and this is a hard pill to swallow, they don't do it just to tug at our heart-strings.  It's just narrative, whether we like it or not.

Everything that's bad doesn't fit into that montage.  I think it lines up with the difference between bad and miserable.  If the Indians lose a 3-2 game in Houston in April, it's bad.  If they drop 3 of 4 to that same Astros team in late September, with the playoffs on the line, that's some pretty miserable shit right there.  Fortunately, good fortune struck the Tribe this Fall, and we were spared the misery, even if "they" didn't like it.

Who's "they", you ask.  They would be the dead horse-beaters and slaves to narrative.  They love the fact that Cleveland can't seem to get it together, whether it's the Browns, Cavaliers, Indians, or even Ohio State, when they meet their match.  They don't make bad things happen to Cleveland, but they are right there to scream from the rooftops when bad things do happen, and bad things happen in Cleveland all of the time.  Lately, they haven't had much to say.

Life, this one we live absent of narrative in the present tense, has been good.  I remember back to 2005, a playoff chase that included our beloved Tribe, one with a soft schedule in September and multiple contenders running down multiple playoff slots, with the promise of one being left out.  The Indians were a game and a half behind the White Sox for the division crown, and neck-and-neck with the Yankees and Red Sox for the Wild Card, trying to complete a sweep of the Royals before hosting a 91-loss team we called the Devil Rays.  Things shaped up nicely to take over the White Sox when they came to Jacobs Field for the final series of the season, but Grady Sizemore lost a ball in the sun in Kansas City and the Indians lost that game.  They did so badly over that last week and a half of the season, in fact, that they needed to sweep the White Sox just to force a playoff for the division crown.  That idea didn't appeal to the White Sox, who swept them right down to Winter Haven for 2006 Spring Training.  They choked, it was miserable.  It was a Cleveland thing.  You could say the same about holding a 3-1 lead in a best-of-7 against Boston, and not advancing to the 2007 World Series.  You might try to squeeze a 4-0 loss to the not-so-devilish Tampa Bay Rays last week, but you'd be wrong.

Lofton SKINNNNNNER!It doesn't fit the narrative to scratch and claw your way into the playoffs with a 21-6 record, then lose a game you never led to a very good team.  There's no Joel Skinner stop sign on Kenny Lofton, no Pedro coming out of the bullpen for a perfect relief outing, and no Jose Mesa doing whatever he did.  It was just a loss, one that made the Indians the 21st of 29 teams that won't win the 2013 World Series.  There were no gut-wrenching moments in the game.

Sure, we'd have rather not seen Delmon Young take Danny Salazar deep early, and Tribe fans couldn't have been happy to see their team leave 9 runners stranded, but I spoke on the idea of being happy just to be there before the game started, and it still holds true.  It's not choking when a really good team doesn't make it to the part of the tournament that only welcomes great teams.  There's not enough room in the montage to include every moment the Indians were eliminated, that would be 110 times in the Tribe's 113 year history.  Sure, that number is sad, but it also illustrates the point that 2013 Indians need not be included with The Drive, The Move, or even The Decision.

It's like when you don't hear a story about how a relationship ends, because it simply ends without fanfare.  Not everyone can be Andre Rison or Chuck Finley, just like not everyone has to be the '84 Cubs or '86 Red Sox.  There were so many great story-lines about that ball club, but they mostly ignored for their lack of appeal on the narrative.  Jason Giambi's date of birth, Terry Francona's jewelry collection, and even the Rocky River Police blotter tend to service the narrative better than the consistency of Michael Brantley, the emerging star-power of Jason Kipnis, or the fastball of Danny Salazar.  Hell, if there's a bright side in losing, can we be happy that ESPN was denied the satisfaction of a 5-game series with Francona taking on his former team?  Sorry, point withdrawn; there's never a bright side to losing.

CouchWell, there's never a bright side to losing, unless it's for the draft position to build your future, and such a strategy in baseball is futile, but sometimes it doesn't hurt in the NFL.  The Browns have not held the first pick since 2000, despite just how god-awful they've been, and a lot of people out there believe that's what it would take to put them back on the map.  We should all know by now that Brandon Weeden isn't the answer for them, but a 30 year-old 2nd-year quarterback that couldn't cut it in baseball failing on the gridiron doesn't provide any narrative for a world so fascinated with the non-failures from Weeden's draft class, so it flies under the RADAR outside of Cleveland.  That's a good thing; it means they don't care much about Greg Little's heavy foot or the rise and (potential) fall of Josh Gordon.  It all gets lumped into one giant pile of shit that represents how much the Browns stink, and that pile is 14 years-old with nothing new to report for about half that time.

The Browns could have kept that narrative train going by losing to Buffalo last Thursday on national TV.  They would have been the same old Browns, just 27 games from a new coaching staff and one Tennessee grand jury indictment from new ownership.  You see, no one cares when you beat the 3rd-string quarterback of an also-ran like the Bills, but things can get juicy when you lose to Jeff Tuel, if you lose to Jeff Tuel, which they obviously did not.  Thursday was also a night to honor Jim Brown, and he's part of the narrative that we like, in the same way that we appreciate Paul Brown and Bernie Kosar, even if people would rightfully clown us for clinging to the past.  It's lose-lose for us though.

By now, we understand revisionist history.  Paul Brown hated Cleveland so much he started a second NFL franchise in Ohio, just to spite us.  Jim Brown chose the movie business over our classless fans.  Art Modell had to go to Baltimore to win, and on and on and on...  I don't know if there's a font that properly conveys the level of sarcasm tied to this paragraph, but it wouldn't be good enough.  At least, they now have Bernie Kosar's DUI to satisfy the narrative, the one where we need to apologize to Sports Illustrated's Peter King for blindly suggesting that Bernie was drinking when being critical of the Rams during the pre-season.  Got it.

So, the Browns are 3-0 since the infamous Trent Richardson trade that netted them a 1st-round pick in next year's draft.  Remember, this was the trade that called the competence of the front office into question and had everyone claiming the Browns were tanking for draft position.  Here's what 3-0 does, it kills narrative on multiple levels.  Of course, there's more to the tale of the Browns being winless with Trent and undefeated without him, but so much for the narrative about rueing the day they decided to go in a different direction.  Then, there's the tanking thing.  Yes, the Browns want to continue to build through the draft, which is why they're stocking up on draft picks, but there isn't a coach, player, or suit in Berea that thinks losing each week is a good idea on any level.  I don't know that there's much more to say about the committment to winning right now, just three wins and zero losses; that's probably enough, even if we're void of some narrative there.

HoyerBrian Hoyer's story is worthy of some narrative, good narrative once again, but his ACL narrarates nothing more than life on Injured Reserve.  The Cavs are starting up again soon, and Kyrie Irving walking after his rookie contract makes for good troll bait, but there is nothing concrete enough to bring the circus that was the summer of 2010 back to the North Coast.  Speaking of that drama, even our old friend down in Miami has exercised something of a gag order on the narrative of 2014 by simply saying he won't discuss it.  And, we can't forget the old reliable, the Yang to the Yin of the SEC Conference, everyone's favorite allegedly overrated Buckeyes.  Oh boy, they could have spoiled all of this with the narrative that comes with losing any and all dreams of a National Championship in Evanston in early October.  However, they won, stayed undefeated, and very few outside of the Midwest could conjure up anything resembled caring.

I do remember a time, a time when I was younger, when I'd sit and watch Pardon the Interruption and Sportscenter, merely hoping for a mention of Cleveland.  Being relevant on ESPN, even for something negative, was all the rage, but that got old.  Now, we'd just as soon go back to being a blip on the RADAR.  We know what hasn't happened since 1964, or since 1948, and what's never happened in Cleveland's NBA lore.  That so-called Holy Grail has become so much less important to me in this era of "Embrace Debate", I'm not sure how much I care whether or not it happens in my lifetime.

ComicWhat happened?  When did the sports themselves become so boring that we require these tangents to entertain us?  And, why am I so over-joyed when Cleveland denies the press the low-hanging fruit of easy narrative?

The people who shouldn't be important became far too important in the age of comment sections and Twitter, that's what happened.  We require these tangents because a White Bronco slowly driving with the LAPD in tow was more interesting than the 1994 NBA Finals, and also fantasy sports devalued the home team in a big way.  

Finally, people like me take great joy in the easy story falling off the table, especially when it comes to Cleveland, because we enjoy hard work, but also we also because a lifetime of rooting for losing teams may have made us all spiteful.

And, we like it that way.  Now, stay off my grass!

The TCF Forums