Uncle Crappy’s affinity for college football is pretty well documented here. Those of you who’ve known me for a long time know that I grew up in a bedroom with freaking Ohio State wallpaper. That when I was in school I would often leave OU home games early because Ohio State was on TV. That me and the Coochie Doctor wore identical scarlet and gray rugby shirts in our fourth-grade class pictures. That I now ignore all reason and common sense to host, with The Wife and my folks, ungodly tailgate parties at every Ohio State home game, foregoing sleep to start drinking in a parking lot at 8 a.m.
Ohio State’s football team is off this weekend. It’s their bye week. The Bobcats and Browns are both off as well.
No meaningful football. And it couldn’t have come at a better time.
I’ve also been a baseball fan for as long as I can remember. When I was a kid, it was the Cincinnati Reds, for two reasons: 1) The Cleveland Indians didn’t even have a radio affiliate in Columbus, from what I can remember; I was had only a vague sense that there was a Major League team in the hometown of my beloved Browns. 2) The Reds of the early and mid-1970s were one of the best teams in baseball history.
My dad let me stay up to watch every game of the 1975 World Series against the Red Sox. And, years before I learned to really hate the Yankees, I somehow knew that sweeping New York in the 1976 series was extra-cool because of the opponent.
In the off-season after that series, the Reds did something a 10-year-old like me couldn’t understand: They dumped Rose, Perez, George Foster, Don Gullett and a few others who made of the core of the Big Red Machine. I knew nothing at the time about the business of the game; I only knew that we had one of the best teams ever, and we just shit-canned a bunch of those guys for no good reason.
For the next couple of years, I was done with baseball. It didn’t make any sense to watch when you knew stupid shit like that could happen again.
It changed somewhere around 1980. The lineup for our cable system changed, and WUAB from Cleveland was added to the list. Somehow, I got hooked into watching the Indians, even though they were horrible at the time. And for most of the time in the next dozen years, I kept watching, even though they were just as bad.
For what I endured — a relatively short stretch for someone who’s been a lifelong Indians fan, I admit — I got to enjoy the success of the 1990s honestly. Even with the World Series losses in ‘95 and ‘97, I had some serious fun with the swagger that being an Indians fan gave us license to enjoy.
(I’ve never watched the end of Game Seven of the ‘97 series, by the way … but I do know that if Jose Mesa ever stepped out in front of my car, I’d be tempted to do something that society generally frowns upon.)
And when Mark Shapiro, the Indians’ current general manager, told us in 2002 that the Indians were going to rebuild, and that we’d be back in playoff contention in three years, I swallowed hard and believed him.
It’s three years later. And although the White Sox just clinched the AL Central title this afternoon, I still get three more games, with the AL wild card berth at stake. Wow.
Despite the long history with the game, I feel like I’ve become a real baseball fan just in the last few years, and the personal change has mostly been thanks to the personnel changes in Cleveland during the same time. I had no idea who Travis Hafner was, or who Grady Sizemore was, etcetera, and I wanted to find out. Research into my new guys turned into a broader knowledge of the game, and a greater appreciation for the game across the board.
Even if I wasn’t an Indians fan, I couldn’t help but start to vibrate over this weekend in the American League. Indians-White Sox and Red Sox-Yankees head-to-head with one division championship and the wild card on the line? Are you kidding me? I love the NFL, but there’s an intangible thing about baseball this time of year, and it can make baseball more exciting than any other professional sport I spend time with. And since my team, my boys, are in the midst of it, it’s even better.
No football this weekend? No problem. Somehow, I think I’ll be OK.