Wednesday, June 11, 2008

Tribe fans in a half-full/half-empty debate

There seems to be an attitudinal divide among Cleveland sports fans, and, from what I can tell, it seems to be generational, though I'm sure individual personality plays some role as well.

The divide is plausible in the blogosphere for sure.

Most of my fellow bloggers, from what I can tell, are 30-year-olds, give or take three or four years.

They like to talk about OPS and all the other fancy new stats that are somewhat like a foreign language to many of us in the next-oldest generation.

And, to their credit, the younger crew seems to have a lot more optimism about the Cleveland sports scene than those of us who have gotten our invitations to join AARP - however premature those mailings may have arrived at our homes.

Most of the blogs I read (some of them are perma-linked to the right of this post) have a positive bent, and I read them in the hope of finding a reason to believe in this year's Tribe team.

Perhaps the most positive of them all is Paul Cousineau of The DiaTribe, who - on a regular basis - offers plausible reasons why the Tribe just may pull it off. If you need a lift, I suggest you read his latest post.

The 30-somethings were born in the mid-to-late 70s and undoubtedly started to take a keen interest in the Tribe in the mid-80's. Of course for the most part the team sucked in the first decade of their fandom, but the overwhelming success of the team in the following ten years undoubtedly washed away any bad vibes they may have developed early on.

Since then the team has had its shares of ups and downs, has been torn up and rebuilt, much in the fashion of the typical sports team.

So the prism through which this generation of Cleveland sports fan views the Tribe has a bit of a rose-colored tinge.

Not only do I not knock that perspective, I'm a bit envious of it.

But I just can't adopt it.

I'm from The Curse of Rocky Colavito generation, the generation that has watched the Tribe baseball that PD sportswriter Terry Pluto describes in his book by that name.

I was born in 1956.

My Uncle Ed took me to my first Tribe game when I was 6 or 7. I remember two things about it. It was against the Twins, and - even though GA seats were only about 75 cents for kids at the time - my frugal uncle told the usher I'd be sitting on his lap in the near-empty cavern of Municipal Stadium so he could get me in for free. The ticket-taker seemed to just be glad we were there and waved me through.

No one was too excited about the Tribe back in '63. Our parents and older brothers were still angry that Rocky Colavito had been traded away three years earlier; and that Norm Cash and Jim Perry and others were sent packing for what turned out to be nothing in return.

Fan interest was at an ebb, with a twist of bitter.

While the team was basically an average team for the rest of the 60s, it was awful in the 70's, 80's and early 90s.

So those of us from the boom generation in Cleveland joined baseball fandom in an atmosphere of bitterness brought on by Trader Lane and then watched three decades of mostly horrid baseball.

Any time there seemed to be a spark of hope, it quickly died. Think Ray Fosse until he met Pete Rose; the '74 team which was in the race into August until injuries forced them to play Joe Lis as a regular at 3B the rest of the year; the 1987 SI pick-of-the-year Indians that fell flat on their faces before April was over.

It is that gray-tinged prism through which we look at the Tribe.

This is not a case of the "experienced" old goat telling the whipper-snapper the realities of life.

It is simply an observation that the two generations rightly look at the Tribe's current situation and see different likely outcomes.

The 30-somethings have seen the Indians have a reasonable record of success, and as a result they, quite logically, have more of a reason to expect that success to continue.

For us 50-somethings, losing is the norm. The 90's were the aberration. Losing is what we know best. Of course it is logical that our view of the current state of the Tribe is a bit different.

On that note, let me point out that's Anthony Castrovince has a great story based on a conversation with Tribe GM Mark Shapiro posted on today.

It seems Shapiro sees the glass both half-full and half-empty, but admits there's some evaporation going on that may upset the equilibrium. Check it out here.

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