CLEVELAND - If there was a fairness scale somewhere in the world of professional sports, Cleveland should have it weighed significantly in its favour.
In truth, there is some suggestion already that after all the difficult times this city has had both economically and athletically, the balance is beginning to tip.
After all, here it is the dog days of summer and Cleveland’s long-suffering Indians are alive and well and in the hunt for an American League Central title.
Normally, baseball fans in this city go through a standard cycle. They begin the year with great enthusiasm, watch their team come out of the gate quickly before fading and then by this time are usually left cursing everyone about bad on-field managing, terrible trading and the cheapness of their owner.
Whether it’s true doesn’t matter. The Indians’ failures were just one more sports frustration heaped upon another.
Cleveland is a football town first. It’s ruled by the Browns. But the dark times for the football team have made this city a surly sports town. Even though there appears to be a brightening dawn for the Browns this year, it hasn’t yet materialized.
Then there was LeBron James. He took his talents to South Beach and in the process slapped the entire city in the face in a very public fashion.
The Cavaliers suffered through a dreadful season after several years of being touted as championship material. James not only hurt the city as far as visibility and prestige, but also economically.
The inferiority complex that has enveloped what truly is a great sports city was in full force.
There were no great expectations placed on this team this year. It was almost as if the city was going to skip good part and go right to being disappointed.
“After LeBron, you sort of expected the worse to happen anyway so why get your hopes up,” said Terry Lloyd a long-time Indians fan from Medina. “What Cleveland needed was something unexpected.”
You can’t get more unexpected than the Indians.
They are in the midst of a key series against the Detroit Tigers. Three games back going into Wednesday’s game, the Indians need to take two-of-three in this series to give them a fighting chance of staging what would be one of the most unexpected wins in recent years.
The Indians lineup is not exactly a murderers row. There was not one player hitting .300 in the starting lineup for the Indians Wednesday. The Indians have suffered through a losing streak and several key injuries and still they have managed to keep in touch. It doesn’t’ matter that the Central is a dreadful division. All that matters is that the Indians are still significant.
“People think things about Cleveland because of the bad things that happened with our teams,” said John Taylor of Cleveland. “They don’t know Cleveland, haven’t been here. But it would be nice for something good to happen for a change.”
Detroit knows what Cleveland feels like when it comes to bad raps. But Detroit has had its share of success in basketball, hockey and baseball. There is a belief in the Motor City that their teams can win.
Cleveland needs these Indians to do well. The city has done a tremendous job of revitalizing its downtown. Progressive Field and Quicken Loans Arena are within yards of each other and the area has numerous restaurants.
It’s a much different image that so many have of Cleveland.
Now if these surprising Indians can continue to play the way they have, they could go a long way toward changing the image of what Cleveland teams do on the playing surface.