As Tom Cruise so eloquently put it, You lost that lovin' feelin'
Sure, he wasn't singing to me. Nonetheless, those words relate to the mixed feelings I've had regarding my chosen ballclub, those Cleveland Indians I’ve supported for the past 13 years.
It’s true, I have lost that lovin' feeling. And I’ve been fighting this for a while, if I’m honest. I'm writing this now because I need to make it official, I need to have some closure.
My time following the Indians has come to an end.
How can you do this, I hear you cry, violently waving your fist above your head in my direction. It’s been a difficult decision, I assure you. I’ve always hated the idea of changing your sports teams and yet here I am, doing exactly that. Funny how things work out. It wasn’t easy.
Allow me to explain. Being from the UK, I had the luxury of selecting my American sports teams, as I wasn’t born into a fanbase. There were no strings holding me down, I could choose whoever I wanted.
Cleveland became my adopted city when I was still just a teenager. I selected the Cavaliers as my basketball team in 2004 after I became obsessed with playing the sport at school. I was in a local store and wanted to choose a jersey, to choose a team to follow. The range was limited. I couldn’t be a Bulls or Lakers fan, everyone knew who they were. What about that team with James 23 on the back? Yeah that looked good! How ‘bout them Cavaliers?
Thus, a fan was born. By 2007 my allegiance to Cleveland was cemented when I started following the Browns and Indians. I had consolidated my US sports teams to one place, this city that outsiders weren’t overly fond of but those within were fiercely devoted to. I admired that. My sporting trilogy was complete.
England Tribe was born on the eve of the 2013 season, just as Terry Francona began his enormously successful tenure as manager. I don’t feel he receives enough appreciation for the job he’s done. The 2020 season has shown just how much influence he has, and how much it’s been missed.
As the years progressed, baseball soon became my priority. As I’ve grown older my attention span for the NBA and NFL has steadily waned but my love for the national pastime continued to grow.
I thought the love for my team would follow suit. How could it not, when this talented and very likeable Indians group found themselves in contention for the World Series every year? But in the back of my mind, despite the success, despite every hat I bought, every hoodie and jersey I purchased, a nagging doubt still lingered.
I chose the Indians. They didn’t choose me.
I have never been to Cleveland. I’ve not had the opportunity to sample the sights and sounds of The Land. I’ve not experienced that love and adoration the fans have for their sports teams firsthand. Through my writing and social media I’ve been fortunate to connect with some genuinely lovely people who worship their Indians. I have always tried to match my affection but it hasn’t been as simple as that. Being separated by an ocean and numerous time zones doesn’t help. It’s the deal we settle for as baseball fans in Britain.
And yet, when I landed in San Francisco in April of 2019, it felt like coming home. Please forgive my hyperbole, but when I stepped onto the tarmac at San Francisco International Airport I instantly felt like I belonged. It’s hard to describe but when you experience that feeling, you just know.
The following night I took my seat along the first base line at Oracle Park to watch the Giants play the Rockies. I was wearing my Indians cap, repping my chosen team, but subconsciously the Giants had already established a foothold in my baseball fandom. It was one of the most memorable and enjoyable days I’ve ever experienced.
I had long been an admirer of the Giants, watching from afar as they enjoyed those incredible title runs in 2010, 2012, and 2014. Players like Buster Posey, Madison Bumgarner, Hunter Pence and Tim Lincecum all resonated with me. In 2015 my brother returned from a west coast trip with a Giants cap and a pennant to hang on my wall. I’d picked up some Giants merchandise here and there whenever I stumbled upon them. Over time I would tell friends the Giants were “my NL team,” if such a thing existed. I couldn’t make the leap to call myself a proper fan (whatever that means.) The Indians were supposed to be my team, after all.
But I can’t deny it any longer. Everything about the Giants feels right. I’ve found the connection I always wanted. It’s a shame I never truly found it in Cleveland but that’s just how it’s worked out.
Since returning from San Francisco, my adoration and enthusiasm for the city and it’s baseball team hasn’t diminished. It’s only grown stronger.
I made great friends during my time there. I could listen to Jon Miller, Duane Kuiper and Mike Krukow read the phonebook. Metallica are one of my all-time favourite bands. Grant Brisbee is my favourite baseball writer. Oracle Park is the finest ballpark in the country. McCovey Cove is gorgeous. Garlic Fries are undoubtedly the best. The home uniforms are cream, not white. Alyssa Nakken. The fog. Mission District burritos. Emmy’s Spaghetti. Claude the albino alligator. The sea lions by the Wharf. The Golden Gate Bridge. Coit Tower. The Castro. The Rock. The Ferry Building. Lombard Street. Willie freakin’ Mays.
I could go on.
The current group of Indians have some supremely gifted individuals and all-around good guys, like Francisco Lindor, Shane Bieber, Jose Ramirez, and Carlos Santana. I’m not a heartless monster, I’ll still root for those guys and watch out for the Tribe’s box scores. I wish them every success. But make no mistake, I’m making this switch permanent; I’m moving on from those MVP-calibre players and the club they represent for a young and exciting Giants roster in the midst of a rebuild. I know one thing for sure; I can kiss goodbye to sleep. Those west coast start times will be brutal.
The Indians and I have a lot of history but I don’t regret my decision. Tony Bennett famously sang that he left his heart in San Francisco.
So did I, Tony. So did I.