OK, full disclosure: like pretty much everyone in Red Sox Nation, I am not happy about Games 2 & 3. But honestly, my views of Cleveland were formed long before the 2007 ALCS ever became a factor in my life.
I've been to Cleveland three times. One of my fondest Cleveland memories was the time many, many years ago when I ended up having something like a six hour layover at Cleveland Hopkins Airport. Just me and another guy from my hometown, sitting at the airport bar, taking full advantage of the "Get a Double for a Dollar More" promotion. I think we were drinking Killian's. (You expected Guinness in an airport bar in Cleveland?)
Whereever that bartender is today, I still remain grateful for her truly adept buzz management-- the unprompted large glasses of water, the Pizza Hut Personal Pan Pizzas that she comped us every couple of beers... Sigh. When a woman touches your life in that way, you just can't help but remember her fondly. I think we ended up leaving her a tip equal to whatever our tab was before we got on our flight home. Now I'm back in my hometown and that guy is... well, according to Google, he's the guy who wrote this. Clearly one of us liked sports more than the other... more to the point, clearly one of us is doing a much better job of being a professional smartass.
But truly, if the highlight of three trips to Cleveland is six hours in a hotel bar, that tells you something about a city, doesn't it? It tells you "This city is not like Boston. This city is not even like Columbus or Cincinnati."
The airport bar was trip # 2. My first trip there was for a tradeshow. I stayed at the luxurious... uh... I don't remember. Whatever the official "airport" hotel is. That's where I was. Airport hotels are rarely memorable. The tradeshow was at the sprawling I-X Center. If you've never been there, then Whoa! You have truly missed out on one of Cleveland's greatest attractions. See, it's a big-ass building. They used to build tanks there. Then some years later, and nobody could really explain why to me, they cut a hole open in the ceiling and built a Ferris wheel there.
Could I make that up? The single permanent structure of note in this sprawling convention facility is a Ferris wheel that take the rider through the roof, protected by a giant transparent Ferris wheel, uh, cap. And has no other context for being there. If James Bond ever faces a villain who is into carnivals-- think Pennywise the Clown crossed with Blofeld-- then this is the ideal place to use as a film set for that guy's lair... if they want that guy's lair to look like a Super Wal-Mart on the outside.
And this? This was an attraction in Cleveland then. When the people who worked the trade show booth with me talked about what there was to see in Cleveland, the giant Ferris wheel 30 feet away from our booth was on the short list. That, the Browns training facility, and The Flats. (To be fair, this was before the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame opened.)
Oh, The Flats. So here I am, all alone in Cleveland, and some friends of mine from Cincinatti and Columbus come in to see me while I'm stuck in Cleveland for a week at this trade show, and we ask where there is to go. And we're told "The Flats". Bostonians, never again should you complain about the bars closing at 2 a.m. Until 2 a.m., we have myriad bars we could go to and drink, eat, dance and generally be merry. At the time I was in Cleveland the only game in town was "The Flats". Imagine Lansdowne Street. Now imagine that instead of it all being owned by somebody named Lyons, it is all chains-- Friday's, etc. Now imagine that THERE IS NO PLACE ELSE TO GO TO HAVE FUN.
Back then, that was The Flats. I mean, I was young, I was single, I was with two good friends, brilliant and attractive young women at that. (Seriously, brilliant-- one is CEO of a company now, the other is an attorney.) Even then, we had to actively work at having fun in Cleveland, Ohio.
So guys, listen: you cannot lose this series. Hey, I'll give Cleveland the benefit of the doubt. Maybe the city has improved since then. The small part I saw on my third trip- which did include the by-then-opened Rock & Roll Hall of Fame-- wasn't bad at all. Hell, they had a Hard Rock Cafe last time I was there, which means that they finally embraced.. uh, the late 1980's. Though, of course, the Indians are still using that big grinned Chief Wahoo which I suspect they'll have until the tribes that own Foxwoods and Mohegan Sun team up to buy the Indians, rename them the NASCAR Dads and replace the mascot with a big grinned white guy holding a can of Coors Light.
Though that's kinda been done...
(Note: The writer is well aware of the irony in the guy from Boston commenting on the state of race relations in Cleveland.)
Look, seriously. You can't lose this. Losing to the Rockies (which I do not recommend or condone, by the way) would actually be less painful than losing to the Cleveland Indians. Do whatever it takes. Imagine they're all Jeter or something. Tell Gagne the bus is leaving at 7, and leave at 6:45. But for the love of all that is good and holy, don't lose to Cleveland.
Now, get out there and show me some hustle.