Supporting the Indians and Changing the Way We Look at Opening Day

Photo - Associated Press
Opening Day is the greatest day of the year for baseball fans. I mean, look, we capitalize it as if it is a national holiday. It should be a national holiday, because people take off work and skip school to go to a baseball game. And those baseball games range from the late morning to late at night. Baseball all day, from the moment we wake up celebrating to the moment we go to bed after the west coast games.

Even a team that is destined to go nowhere that particular year has its fan base behind them. There is, even though reality will soon set in afterwards, a momentary hope that this baseball season is going to be fun. There's an excitement surrounding the fact that baseball is back. Whether it is because baseball is back or that it signifies a change in climate for some areas, or that it just is a professional sports league starting up a new season and everyone is 0-0, so everyone still has a chance.

And if your team wins? 1-0, no one has beat them this year, maybe it will be a good year. There's some optimism. Even if you are a realist rooting for a bad team, you may realize this is the high point of the season, so why not enjoy it?

Find me a fan who is down on Opening Day (prior to results) or doesn't have a reason to be excited about what they are about to witness and you have found me a baseball fan who really isn't a baseball fan. Or someone completely jaded. Enjoy that jaded perspective, I can't imagine living and enjoy sports that way.

Some call Opening Day the Christmas of baseball. But really, if we are comparing it to any day, I'd pick Valentine's Day. Hear me out. A day that you either freak out about whether you are single or in a relationship (whether you win or lose, which is which, you decide, I'm just providing the analogy), or you don't freak out and are able to treat it just like any other day, because really, it is no more significant than today or tomorrow. It is just a day branded by everyone else and extra expectations are thrown on top of it. But really, shouldn't you appreciate your significant other every day, and not just because corporate America tells you to so they can sell a box of chocolates and a dozen roses?

A little bit of an editorial note prior to continuing on in reading this. In the large scale of every year, I'm talking about Opening Day as the first game of the season, but in regards to this specific year, not so much. I'm talking about a team's first game in their ballpark. Even if it is their fourth or fifth game, it is still that fresh feeling of their "first" game that their fans have the opportunity to attend. I give this preface so I don't have to go switching between the terms of Opening Day and Home Opener until later on, at the risk of confusing my points.

Further more, I've been working on this for a good month. I've written it, re-written it, read it, re-read it, and most importantly, changed analogies several times. The scope of the piece originally had more basic intentions, but as this past month has gone on, from the beginning of the Home Opener selling out, to the complete and ridiculous overreaction to the results of the Indians first game against the Astros (and others), this may be a little more timely than I had originally expected. The downside is, without re-writing again and losing my original point, I don't want to reference several things from the past few days, so I'm continuing as if I wasn't influenced by events of the past few days.

Those of you who know me, probably know exactly where I am going with this. Opening Day should be celebrated for what it is, the opening of the new baseball season. There should be joy and optimism and energy about watching our favorite sport.

But why do we have this perception about Opening Day, specifically in Cleveland? Year-after-year, Progressive Field is completely packed. There's that excitement, there's that energy, there's an all-out party on the corner of Carnegie and Ontario and every other street that can be connected to it (so, every street). We put all of our backing into that one day.

Whether the team wins or loses, one-third of the fan base is not coming back until next year because they may be jaded by a loss, unconvinced by a win, or just there for the pomp and circumstance. Another third is that jaded fan that is done if they lose, but if they win, they're buying in a little but their support will be erratic and they certainly won't show up tomorrow. The final third is there the next day regardless and giving just as much energy as they did the day before. They're in it as much as you and I. Well, we are that third.

Why does two-thirds of this fan base cling onto the result of one game, and not only one game, but the very first game of 162. That's .006th of an entire season and a good majority of the Cleveland Indians contingent bases their perception of the season off that .006th.

Why do we only love our lover on Valentine's Day?

We give the Indians our love on that one day a year, on Opening Day. Chocolates, flowers, teddy bears, kisses and hugs, all of that Hallmark bullshit that shows you "appreciate the one you are with" because we are told that is the day to do all of that.

MLB tells you as a baseball fan to love your team on Opening Day. Which is not their fault, that's what they're supposed to do. That's what every professional sports league does, that's what is supposed to happen for every professional sports team on their first day of the season. Even if that team is the Jacksonville Jaguars, the Houston Astros, or the Philadelphia 76ers.

That is the day everyone supports your team. And I love that and it's what makes sports fandom great. That should never change and if your perception of what I'm saying is leading you to believe I'm condemning us from being happy about the start of the season, you are missing the point.

There is a huge difference between a fan for the Jacksonville Jaguars realizing the rest of the season after the first day is here and a fan for the Cleveland Indians realizing the rest of the season after the first day is here. At least in 2015. And it shouldn't hinge on the result of that first day. It is incredibly annoying for me to have to use the "baseball is a marathon not a sprint" cliche, but it is absolutely most definitely true because of the amount of games there are. I may run a great first mile, but I have 25.2 more miles worth of terrain to go and it takes a long time to go through it.

That's one side of the coin. The other, why do we need to hinge on that first mile, that first day? It doesn't make our performance. I could go out and run that first mile at eight minutes. Not running the entire thing at that pace, am I? Well, some might, but they're really good. I'm just in it to finish, and I know that there's going to be miles after that where I'll win and ones that I'll lose. That first mile doesn't make my entire marathon.

I'll stop the running analogies, but you need to know that I'm really annoyed at having to use a cliche to prove my point, so I'm going to go the extra mile. I'm also then going to throw in a really dumb joke to make sure you are still with me and to alienate you if I haven't already with that cliche.

Or am I really testing you? Because as bad as that cliche and the following joke was, there's more to this. I have seen this team win and lose on Opening Day. But I cannot tell you that I specifically remember many of those wins and loses and I most definitely cannot tell you if one of those wins or losses was indicative of the season the Tribe had. I specifically remember the first opportunity I had to attend Opening Day a few years ago as a member of the first Indians Social Suite. I can tell you that we lost and I can tell you that Fausto Carmona (at the time) got completely shelled. I can only tell you all of this because it was my first Opening Day.

I can also say that despite remembering the result, I'd needed to look up what year that was (2011), and that will tell me how the Indians did that year because I remember the full body of work (they didn't make the playoffs, had a mediocre year). I don't remember the exact year that specific game was and because of that, I can tell you I don't remember how that season ended. The two should not correlate, yet people think it does and it shouldn't.

And that's my point. We don't remember the results of Opening Day, and because it is .006 percent of a season, it does not mean that the season is 100-percent over. It is also not a preview of what is to comes, so while we SHOULD celebrate the day and the game, the sport, the team, and the excitement, we should not have the same type of hype heaped upon the result.

But we do, because we have all that hype and excitement for the actual game, most feel the need to put that same type of energy into the result. Did you know that after they lost that game in 2011, they lost the next game and then went on a run in April that saw them win 13 of their next 16 games? They finished the month 18-8, but if you gave up after that first game, you probably missed all that.

I know that I'm pretty much over-exaggerating and saying that all people who went to Opening Day but didn't come back the next day gave up on the team, and that isn't the case. They just didn't buy a ticket to go to the next game. But they don't have to. While that was my first Opening Day, it wasn't my first series of the season game. One of my favorite times of the year to go to a baseball game is in the first homestand that isn't the home opener. There's something fresh and new about it. Even though the season is underway at that point and I've missed the pomp and circumstance, but I still get that feeling of being at the park for those types of games. I like going there and spending that time with those fans who realize what I realize.

Everyone there is there because they appreciate baseball. I'm not sure a good majority of the people there on Opening Day appreciate baseball, at least in the same way some of us do. Appreciate that it is back and can be background noise or something fun to potentially do at some point in the year. And don't get me wrong, not a bad fan or less of a fan by any stretch, it is just different. There are ones though that lose their support or really didn't even support from the beginning, they're...just there.

What I'm saying is a lot. I know, I'm asking our fan base of this team to buy in and be supporters year around. I'm sorry if that is too much. But if you are a fan on Day 1, there isn't any reason for you to not be a fan on Day 2. If you can't go to Opening Day, go to the second game. It is just as important as the first one. The team deserves just as much energy in that game. They're out there playing just as hard, so why has it become an expectation to give less? Especially if the team doesn't win the first game?

There was a huge outcry when single game tickets went on sale and the home opener sold out in a disputed 11 minutes. Both die hard fans, the ones that fit the mold of a fan who is in it for the long haul, and the ones who just want to their Opening Day glory were livid. Many were left without a ticket or put in a position to pay more than they are accustomed to through other means. Stubhub's cheapest ticket less than two weeks out was over $70. Today, the cheapest ticket is a standing room ticket for $54.

Again, a disputed 11 minute sellout, fans felt cheated that they missed their opportunity to take part in the celebration. Whether they always did it and continued tradition, wanted to be there for the pomp and circumstances, or this was just one of the many games they would be attending in 2015, many got left out. Many voiced their displeasure with how the Indians decided to sell the single game tickets. Others were completely outraged that they went to click on the link to buy tickets and couldn't even find seats within five minutes. Some just wanted to completely fly off the handle and be unreasonable.

First off, hold up, slow down.

I guess what I don't get is...why? Go ahead and look at Saturday's game. Same time on a day most people do not have work or school, same opponent, the only difference is a lack of hype. Go back on Stubhub and find bleacher tickets for a little over $20 at the same point in time. Two weeks out, I was still able to get tickets on the Indians website at the standard prices. Today they've dropped a few bucks to be even cheaper.

From a pure economical standpoint, wouldn't you want to save the $50 bucks and still get to see a ballgame? Sign me up for that. Look I get it, Opening Day is different, but again, it is only different because you are being told it is. That first game is no different in terms of importance than the second game is. If you are about showing support and you got shut out of Opening Day, here's an idea...

Buy tickets to Saturday's game. Logical, right? Why can't we make the entire weekend a sellout? It is the defending AL Central Champions that our team is facing for this first home series. Yeah, by following my logic, this series is just as important as the next one, but you get it. There's more of an opportunity to carry on that celebration of the first baseball game of the season in your home ballpark that we are missing out on if we don't capitalize. What difference does it make for you if you go to that game on Friday or that game on Saturday. A good majority have less of an obligation on Saturday than they do on Friday. There's probably a better parking situation and less of a price tag on it to boot. Oh here's one more for you. The reigning American League Cy Young Award winner, Corey Kluber, is pitching on Saturday, against David Price to boot. That may have made a late decision, but it is still information you now know. I've been to plenty of Sunday afternoon games or Saturday night games and been saddled with a lackluster pitching matchup or disappointing Indians fifth starter. Our best is going that day against theirs. That's an incredible matchup.
Photo - Cleveland Indians via Twitter

What it is with the fascination with being at Opening Day? I mean I get it, it is great, and if you've got the opportunity to go or you are one of the lucky ones who nabbed tickets, enjoy it, support your team, and have an excellent time partaking, especially if you haven't before.

But if you missed out and are bummed, what are you doing? Sitting around and watching it on TV? You had obviously made plans to attend a ballgame that weekend, so why not follow through with those plans and pick up tickets to the other games that weekend.

If you did this, I tip my hat to you, because you get it. If you go to those games anyway, credit to you. If you are like me and just want that first opportunity to get to a game, but can't on that Friday, so you go on Saturday or Sunday, you understand it is just as much of an important baseball game as Friday is. I'd like to say it is even more enjoyable for a baseball fan who likes to go and enjoy the game in person. There's less commotion, more room, and of course better parking. I'd happily trade all of that stuff being in existence though for more people and more energy and support, but the realist in me says that won't happen.

So I'll enjoy the perks of Game 2.

When everyone else was buying tickets to Opening Day, I was getting tickets to four games I wanted to commit to for the season. In the past few years, I didn't have the means to buy in advance, or even get to as many games as I would have liked. A lot of times I ended up going on a whim and grabbing cheap tickets, or getting invited for free. I was the typical college student who had no money for anything other than the necessities because I ate peanut butter out of the jar for dinner and cut grass on the weekends.

I have a full time job now though and the ability to spend money on things other than school, rent, bills, and food. The things that one actually needs to spend money on to live. So, I ponied up. I bought tickets to four of the games I wanted to go to this year up front. I'll most certainly will be going to more than four, in fact, I may even be at Game 2 provided my calendar will allow for it (and I can rope some people in to go with me, right?) as that was not a game I committed to in my initial purchase.

Three of those four games, I bought the standing room only, district ticket. Because, why not? What an awesome option, especially for someone who gets antsy and has been known to get up and watch the game from the home run porch or the old right field porch area. Those games are in my calendar though, I've committed to them for sure. I'll add more as my summer approaches and friends are available or plans are made. But right now, before we even start, that is my commitment.

I may have not been able to commit to Opening Day like a lot of people, and if you are in that boat, perhaps you should join me in that commitment to some other game. It doesn't have to be four, it doesn't even have to be more than one. But if you missed out on Opening Day, why not grab a cheaper ticket elsewhere? Don't bother with Stubhub or scalping for an expensive over-hyped game that has just as much importance to the four games I've committed to, or the game after that over-hyped one. You don't even have to go in April when it may be rainy or potentially cold. Do it in June if you want.

Just do me a favor and pony up and show support in another way. It won't make you any less of a fan. It makes you even more of a fan if anything that you've bought in to the hype of the whole season, and not just the game you've been told to buy into. This is a long season and the support needs to extend further than one day a year. Don't dive off the cliff because of the results of one game, don't support the team because baseball or the media tells you to support them because that's what we do on this day. Do it because you love the team and are open to buying into a fun season.
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