To Sammy on her Fifth Birthday

It’s become an annual tradition that I write a note to my daughter on her birthday. This year, I told her about the adventures of being a Cleveland sports fan. Here’s the text of it:

The Browns won the weekend you were born, making it an even more momentous occasion. A Browns victory doesn’t happen often.

Last night, your mother reminisced that five years ago at that very moment, they were trying to induce labor on her. I thought about it for a minute, and realized that I was doing the same thing then that I was doing five years ago at that very moment: watching baseball while your mother drifted in and out of consciousness.

In a lot of ways, I consider myself a sportswriter who’s gone straight. Before I was a sportswriter, I was a sports fan. Growing up in Youngstown, I had my choice between Cleveland and Pittsburgh. Bernie Kosar tipped me toward the Browns. I flirted with the Mets briefly (a consequence of having a teacher, Mrs. Gooden, who swore she was related to Dwight), but my first Indians game at the enormous, decrepit Cleveland Stadium put me in their camp. I had no problems rooting for the Cavaliers or the Penguins.

I’m not going to tell you about how difficult it is to be a Cleveland fan, because I’m not sure you’d understand. The Cavs just won the NBA title in June (after Game 6 of the Finals, I went into your room and told you that I still loved you more than the Cavs, but it was close that night). The Indians are playing in a World Series, the first in Cleveland since I was in college, thinner, far more nihilistic, and nowhere near as well-adjusted as I am now.

I went to one of those World Series games in Cleveland. Papa Chuck secured tickets (he scalped them, for the same cost as the tickets I got for face value for this year’s World Series). It remains probably my greatest moment as a Cleveland sports fan. I still get chills thinking about the bullpen door opening and Jose Mesa walking out for the save. It was like the end of “Major League” come to life.

Papa Chuck took us to baseball games. And basketball games. And football games. He took Uncle Adam to hockey games (I honestly never watched a hockey game in person until college, and never watched an NHL game in person until I moved to Pittsburgh). And here’s one of the great joys of parenthood: It affords you the opportunity to do everything you enjoyed again — and it’s like it’s the first time.

Papa Chuck was just as giddy as I was to go to a World Series game. I still remember your first baseball game. You were six months old and it was April. It was a little chilly, but thanks to my friends at Did the Tribe Win Last Night, we were in the Social Suite. I’ve taken you to plenty of ballgames since, and I hope you enjoyed them. We’ll go to plenty more.


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