The earliest memory I have, and a story told often by my family, is my older brother teaching me to read using Cleveland Indians baseball cards. He would teach me home runs, batting averages and other pertinent stats and then have me memorize certain players stats like Joe Carter’s batting average and home runs To say that my sports dedication started early would be an understatement. Later I remember attending the final games at Municipal Stadium, hurting when Art Modell moved the Browns (I still have the Sports Illustrated with that as the cover story), excitement over the team returning, the MLB All Star game in our town, and wondering if Lebron would ever be all that they said our local boy would be. I also remember and cringe regarding The Drive, The Shot, The Decision and many more. Cleveland area comedian John Caparulo once said that our cities sports miseries is what led to his career in comedy. I think those same miseries led to my career path. I have professional provided counseling services for the last 12 years in a variety of rolls, situations and programs. It will be with the combination of those two passions, Cleveland sports fan and professional counselor, that I will bring to you my point of view on our beloved teams.
The current state of the Cleveland sport fan may more relevantly be compared to Stockholm Syndrome then Factory of Sadness as described by Cleveland comedian Mike Polk. In Stockholm Syndrome those who were kidnapped or captured start to develop positive feelings for their captors even with the rational understanding of the harm the captors have or may do to them. The end of Mike Polk’s now infamous Factory of Sadness video most readily portrays this, “I’ll see you next week.” Many Cavaliers fan’s willingness to accept the return of Lebron James, the man who caused some much pain and anxiety, is another great example of this syndrome.
That leads us to the question “Why do we choose to suffer?”
For many the answer is as complex and delicate as a Mchael Symon entree at Lola Bistro, for others its as simple as a foot long hot dog with OUR stadium mustard. The complex and delicate nature from the handed down love for our teams, the desire to see a turn around or a Phoenix rising from the ashes story or even fighting any idea of quitting on them (as many struggle with feeling quit on by the economy, religion, friends or spouses). For others its as simple as identity, “I am a Dawg! I am a Cavs fan! Roll Tribe! O H… ” To not be identified with this would be to not be who we are. The impact of the answer of Why often leads us wanting more, wanting better. So we have to ask ourselves the questions of How and What. How do we handle this season, how do we handle the hope that a 2-0 start for the Tribe gives us, how do we process the free agents and draft picks the Browns bring in his year, how do we find hope in the 10 game losing streak the Cavs are currently in? How do we continue to love our captors?
No matter what the answer, no matter what the syndrome and no matter what the season we are a loyal bunch, hardened by our shared history and living in the hope of our eventual rise.
I accept my syndrome, I embrace my teams. Can you say the same?