Friday, February 8, 2008

The Voice of the (so-called) Fan

By Tony Mazur

My grandfather was a huge Browns fan. I'm not quite sure if he followed the Cleveland Rams from 1936-1945, but I do know he was a Browns fan from the beginning. When he wasn't patrolling the rough, pre-Civil Rights Movement Cleveland streets, he was listening to those championship teams on the radio. My father can recall my grandpa sulking all day after a Browns loss. In his later years, the Browns made it to three AFC Championship games, only to fall to John Elway and the Denver Broncos. He passed away on June 29th, 1990, leaving behind a devoted wife and four successful children. He cared about his family. But he certainly loved his Browns. To this day, I wonder how he would have reacted to the news on November 6th, 1995 that the Browns were relocating to Baltimore.

Eddie Mazur was a true fan. He supported the teams no matter how well (mid-'40s to mid-'60s) or how poorly (mid-'60s to early '80s) the Browns were performing. I know my grandfather wasn't the only Clevelander crazy about his football team. I'm sure each family has their share of stories, whether they be about heading down to Cleveland Municipal Stadium on those frigid November/December days by Lake Erie, or listening to the radio after attending Sunday mass. Fans nowadays cannot relate.

I really do have a problem with sports fans in this day in age. Unlike the "old days", if their team isn't performing well on the field or court, they'll pretend they don't exist. In some cases, folks will completely boycott the organization via petition or blog.

I can recall going to a relative's house back in 2001, a year to forget for the Cleveland Cavaliers.

"Hey, the Cavs game is on."

"The Cavs?! They're terrible. I don't want to waste my time." (instead, we watched Everybody Loves Raymond, a show that I still cannot get into)

Five years later, he's one of the biggest Cavs fans around.

Fair-weather fans do not just exist in Cleveland. They're everywhere. From 1995-1998, the newly-relocated St. Louis Rams weren't drawing well. Then came "The Greatest Show on Turf". Fans packed the Edward Jones Dome for the next few years following their Super Bowl XXXIV victory over the Tennessee Titans. After the downfall of Marshall Faulk and the departures of Kurt Warner and many other players, the Rams have been bottom dwellers for the past couple seasons. As a matter of fact, during the 2007 season, a couple of Rams games were blacked out locally, due to the lack of sell-out crowds.

2007 brought a lot of success to the Cleveland/Ohio sports teams. The Ohio State Buckeyes football team started off the year playing in the BCS National Championship Game, only to lose to the Florida Gators. Fast forward a couple of months to April as we see another Ohio State team fall to another Florida Gator team, this time in basketball. The Cleveland Cavaliers made their first NBA Finals appearance in team history, only to get swept by the San Antonio Spurs in four games. The Indians lost to the Boston Red Sox in seven games of the ALCS. And finally, the Browns had their best season since 1994.

For the first time in a Blue Moon, fans showed up to the playing facilities. While I was downtown working for another radio station, I saw so many people with LeBron James jerseys (most likely the kind you see hanging at JC Penny's) during the Cavs' run to the Finals. I saw more Grady Sizemore and Brady Quinn T-shirts than I can count. I saw through the phoniness. I was able to pick between the bandwagon fans and the true fans. The true fans had "Hot Rod" Williams jerseys and Cory Snyder garb.

What's going to happen to these "fans" if 2008 doesn't work out? What if the Indians' mediocre team blows its chance to reclaim another Central Division title? What if injuries hold down the Cavaliers? What if the Browns lose 11 games (which I think they will)? They won't show up. They don't care. They only want to root for a winner. And you call yourselves fans. Ha!

However, there are fans who do stick with their team. Some follow the team and cheer for the good times, but critique the bad times. Others will praise the good times and blatantly ignore the bad times. When a questionable move is made, these fans will justify the said move and attempt to turn it into a positive. These are the fans that will slam you if you say ANYTHING remotely negative towards their team (see DiaTribe Blog).

In the Cleveland area, we have some untouchable personnel. When I say untouchable, expect to get your behind reamed if you decide to critique ANY decision making. Here are Cleveland's Untouchables:

Grady Sizemore, Indians' center fielder: Grady is a terrific athlete. He can hit 30+ home runs, steal 50 bases, and make incredible catches in center field. But that's all anyone looks at. Sure he won a Rawlings Gold Glove Award in '07, but I watched him the entire season. On many occasions, Grady took bad routes to the ball. Balls that he should catch were overrun or misplayed. But that doesn't come up in the box score. What does is his low batting average and high amount of strikeouts. Don't get me wrong. I like Grady. However, his strikeout numbers and poor reads on the baseball have got to go. But we all love Grady Sizemore because he's so damn cute!

Mark Shapiro, Indians' GM: Former Indians GM John Hart took home six Central Division titles in seven years, and made two World Series trips. How did he accomplish that feat? He went out and spent money on veterans (Orel Hershiser, Dennis Martinez, Paul Sorrento), picked up top prospects (Kenny Lofton, Omar Vizquel, Carlos Baerga, Sandy Alomar, Jr.) and drafted pure hitters and sluggers (Jim Thome and Manny Ramirez) to help lead his team to victory. After the 2001, season, he handed his job over to his assistant, Mark Shapiro. Since '01, the Indians got rid of every player mentioned above in favor of younger (and cheaper) talent. Since '01, the Indians have been to the postseason ONE TIME. After the Red Sox celebrated their World Series victory, Mark Shapiro has refused to make moves. Instead, he has resigned the guys who blew the 3-1 ALCS lead. Why do you have to rip on Shapiro? They won 96 games! I'm sick of hearing that line.

Jim Tressel, Ohio State football coach: Jim won a BCS National Championship Game in 2003. He was blessed to have a talented quarterback (Troy Smith) lead him to many wins. But if you think about it, Jim Tressel has not won a National Championship with HIS RECRUITS. They lost two straight National Championship Games to SEC teams. Tressel loves to recruit within the state of Ohio, which is fine if other schools weren't importing recruits from other areas. If the game plan fails and the Buckeyes lose, it's not Tressel's fault. His assistant coaches should be fired for not doing their jobs.

In the three major professional sports, fans have the opportunity to vote for the starting lineups in their respected All-Star Games. Name recognition is huge when it comes to the voting process. Detroit Tigers' catcher Ivan Rodriguez started in the 2007 MLB All-Star Game. Not only should he have not started, but he shouldn't have been in the game. There were four to five better catchers than I-Rod last season, but since everyone knows "Pudge", we'll put him in the game. The same goes for Penny Hardaway. His best years were behind him, but fans STILL voted for him, based on his history with the Orlando Magic and his nickname.

No matter how you put it, fans annoy me. If you're going to support your team, go ahead. Don't make excuses as to why they may not be performing well, but also don't ignore or boycott them if their season is in the crapper.

Meanwhile, I cannot wait to see all of the die-hard Tribe fans come out to Progressive Field to cheer on their April. 10,000 people and 32,000 ass-less green seats.

1 comment:

Rick Morris said...

So well said! Fans are gonna be fans, but that doesn't mean the idiocy so many emit doesn't make you want to poke your eyes out. Nice job getting in a shot at DiaTribe also! They're really missing out by not getting an endorsement deal from Kool-Aid ...