This is one story. It is one of millions.
It’s October 26, 1997. The Cleveland Indians are leading Florida Marlins 2-0 after the bottom of the sixth inning.
“Alright. Time to go to bed.”
My father, after butting out a smoke looked down and said “let’s go.”
I pleaded to stay up. It was the World Series, and I was 11-years old. I could have stayed up to the end.
Nope. Wasn’t happening.
My father sent me to bed, where I did fall asleep, surprisingly shortly as I remember it.
I woke up, what felt like an entire night later to my dad hollering at the TV. It was the ninth inning, and we know how that ends.
“I don’t know why, but I just took it for granted. That was such a strong team, I thought you’d see multiple World Series. You weren’t so good in school so it was time to go to bed. If I’d known then what I know now, I’d have done it differently…I guess I really should have known better.” said Dad.
In my dad’s defense, he was just trying to do what’s right by me. He was right, I didn’t take school seriously back then, but it’s was the World Series, and we realized soon that there weren’t days like this.
Fast forward 19 years later. I’m married now. I have a son of my own. I’m in a small studio in downtown Cleveland in the middle of an interview about golf. In between each question, I’m crying. Sobbing is more accurate. I’m not crying for the Cavs though.
I’m crying because of my father. I can’t call him while I’m on-air. I’m thinking of him being an Indians fan, and still wondering why he didn’t let me stay up that night (even though it was another heartbreak).
I’m crying because of my son. He and my wife usually stay with the in-laws when I have to do late shows. All I wanted to do was hug him. He has no idea yet what any of this means. But I do. And now I realized I was going to have to wait until Monday, and then hope and pray a Cleveland team does it again while he’s with me so we can enjoy it together. A lot like generations of other Clevelanders.
I’m crying because of my wife. A woman who changed her entire life so I could get the chance to pursue my dream in Cleveland. Who had to stretch a budget to the nickel so that I could afford the $525/month gas tab that came with commuting from Youngstown to Cleveland that first year while she looked for a job so we could move here.
I’m crying because of my friends and their dad’s. I have no siblings. Ones closest to me have different last names and backgrounds. But their dad’s and them share the same history I do. The stories of “where were you” over stolen beers from the fridge in the garage. The same stories their dads told when they were young.
I’m crying because of my grandfather. He didn’t even like sports. But he loved Cleveland. He was forced to quit high school after ninth-grade to keep his family farm from going under. He could barely read or write, but was wise in the world. Bill Carman remembered a Cleveland that was once one of the largest cities in the world, with one of the largest buildings in the world. A place that was 50 miles up the road, but took a lifetime of work to get to. He cried when my dad told him I got the job in Cleveland. To him, a Carman had finally made it. He died a year and a half later.
I’ve told that story before in my first year on The Fan essay. It still means the world to me. He wouldn’t let himself know Cleveland the way Carson wanted him to know Cleveland. To him, Cleveland might as well have been Paris.
It’s because of him that I love Northeast Ohio so much. Canton is where I was born. Akron and Youngstown were places I lived and loved. Cleveland is where I’ve aspired to be.
In that moment, as the clock ran down these memories assault me, and I have no other choice but to cry. It’s my family. It’s the people of this community that makes it so special.
Five years ago, when I first got to The Fan, I got to speak to listeners who I had known all my life, but had no idea who I was. In a short time, I’ve heard thousands. I’ve gotten to know some by name and voice. When I add on the stories that I heard for the 25 years previous, it’s been hundreds of thousands.
This morning alone there was a story from Mick in Geauga, who thought of his son who was still asleep down the hallway, and while having the voice of the Marlboro man, began to break down in his kitchen.
A 76-year old listener, Bill in Strongsville, called us on the way back from the cemetery. His father died 20 years ago. He drove to his grave this morning and drank a beer leaning against his father’s headstone at 8am.
All morning long we heard stories of people who not only felt comfortable enough to share their feelings with us, but to anyone else who was listening.
That’s what Cleveland is. It’s a big, small town. We all know each other some way, and it’s not always because of sports, but it’s usually the way we get to know each other. It’s what’s brought us together for generations.
It’s a family. For 52 years we’ve all wanted the same thing. We haven’t always agreed on how to get there, but we’ve all wanted the very same thing.
Finally today, that thing is ours. No cheap jokes. No nasty rumors. No nefarious means. No “if’s, and’s or but’s” it’s ours. From now until someone drinks at our grave. No one can every take it away. It’s ours. Forever.
This is just one story. It’s one of millions like it.
I couldn’t be more proud to be a face in the crowd.