Friday, June 12, 2009

What is it with Cleveland?

There have been a lot of jokes over the years about Cleveland. The city gets no respect and gets lots of bad publicity for things that just can't be true. Because of all the low-brow comics who use the city as a comic device and because the city hasn't been quite successful in the public relations realm of dispelling such notions, if the average person was asked to name one city they would not want to live in, it would probably be Cleveland.

But that's not fair. The Fan never deals in such paradigms of perpetuated myths. Besides, the Fan used to be a faithful reader of National Geographic (before the magazine turned into Greenpeace's mouthpiece), and remembers the stories about how Cleveland has been transformed into a modern city with beautiful landscapes and architectural design. By the way, the Fan is all for protecting our environment. But when a magazine used to fill young readers with faraway dreams of adventure and wonder and now slants every story to some environmental bent, then the subscription lapses and its former reader looks for wonder and adventure elsewhere.

As much as the Fan tries to internally give Cleveland a break and unjaundiced and unbiased opinion, that point of view is challenged by what always seems to take place at Cleveland baseball games. First, there was the Mistake by the Lake. Cleveland's old ballpark was creaky and freaky before it was even a year old. It was like Disney built a Haunted Mansion for baseball. Remember the Boston/Cleveland game that became so foggy that you couldn't see the players in the outfield?

Well, they fixed all that by building a new ballpark, which, by all accounts, is a much better facility than the old one. Except that strange things happen there still. Two years ago, the Yankees had a lead in a playoff series against the Indians. Everything was going according to script. The Yankees had a slight lead and turned the ball over to then phenom, Joba Chamberlain, who was unhittable with amazing command of a blazing fastball. The script was familiar that year: Get a lead and make it a seven inning ballgame by getting it to Joba and then Mo in the ninth.

Well, there was only one problem. Millions of midges or gadflies, or whatever you want to call them, swarmed the field like some kind of biblical plague. They covered Joba so that he looked like he was tarred and feathered. He was sprayed. He swatted and he sweated and he fanned his glove. But no matter what he tried, he couldn't escape the darn things. His composure went out the window and it cost the Yankees the win and the series.

Recently, the bugs have been replaced by seagulls. Not just a few here and there, but a whole gaggle of them that is usually seen at some garbage landfill. There have been dozens of them flocking the stadium, landing in the outfield, flying around unconcerned that people were trying to play and watch baseball. It's been like some kind of Hitchcock film. Thursday night, the unthinkable happened in an extra inning tie game. Choo was at the plate and when there was a runner in scoring position. He hit a line drive that Coco Crisp was charging and seemed to have a shot at the runner. But the ball hit a seagull, glanced sideways and away from Crisp and the ballgame was over.

Cleveland, the Fan wants to believe in you. He doesn't want to buy into the bad connotations the city has always had. But get an exterminator for crying out loud or find some humane way to keep the freak show out of your stadium. Hire some genius to study the problem. Do something! Because if you don't, your city's reputation will never change.


eyebleaf said...

I've been to Cleveland. It's kind of a dump. I'll go back to watch a baseball game at Progressive Field, but I'm with most of the other people; I wouldn't want to live there, no way.

Josh Borenstein said...

I'll actually be in Cleveland in a few weeks. Gonna check out the two Ohio ballparks.