Relax, I’m joking. I don’t really think The Beatles are terrible.
Between the black and white, we have a gray area, an area where we just don’t adore something like the next guy, and maybe we’re wrong for trending away from the flock. Many will accuse us of being contrarian for the sake of being contrarian, and that element certainly exists, but for some, it’s a rare stroll off the beaten path. I’m not one to tell the world that up is down, just to be a jerk, but I try to make my words genuine; to smile and nod would make me a liar.
That doesn’t mean I can’t keep my mouth shut. It is with some level of shame that I confess, on more than one occasion I’ve abandoned Tweets and Facebook after thinking, should I really float this out there? I’d rather say more by saying nothing at all, which challenges me at times. For example, I didn’t care for The Hangover, but I don’t ridicule those who do; I even kept an open mind when the sequel came out, and let’s just say I don’t need to take a flyer on the third chapter. The other day, someone suggested that I was trying to be “Alan” because of the beard, but why should a Hangover character be my first thought there?
Anyways, I don’t have any real thoughts on The Beatles, beyond the fact that I don’t get the hype that stays with them to this day. Sure, they might have revolutionized music. I wouldn’t know, since it was all before my time, but it just isn’t my cup of tea. No, I’m not one of those Elvis types, who insist that any interest in the British Invasion takes away from your undying loyalty to Mr. Presley. Honestly, I’m less inclined to change the station when the Monkees are on, which I realize is like saying I prefer CB4 over any other rap group.
Now that everyone’s opinion is so transparent, with the help of technology, there are so many divides in the public when it comes to any topic, beyond music with politics and sports, that right and wrong barely have clear boundaries any more. In sports, you have the stat geeks, the numbers guys, the ring counters, the blatant homers, the hometown antagonists, and the fans of the game itself. That last group is the one that puts down anyone who demonstrates an interest in the outcome of the games.
Two Chief Concerns
Is it worth the fight?
Good god, which side are you talking about? Yes, we will fight this forever, because it’s worth it, and I can’t believe anyone would go to these measures to oppose it. This has gone on long enough; I can’t even believe this is a thing.
Those words could come from the “Keep the Chief” crowd or the varying level of the caricature’s opponents. Like it or not, Chief Wahoo has become a relatively hot topic of conversation recently, and unlike in the past, it won’t be going away when the news cycle gets its next wave of information. They are leaning on the Redskins pretty hard right now, and as I watch that fight continue, I wonder, what are they fighting for?
I can understand that some businesses need to maintain that brand recognition, but I don’t think it matters in professional sports. The Braves became the Clippers and the Royals became the Kings, long before the Bullets and Hornets joined the name-change revolution in the NBA; does anyone care? Just as the Titans became the Jets in the AFL, the team in Washington’s NFL team could become something new and everyone would watch, because it’s football. On that same note, if the Indians reverted back to being the Blues or Spiders, groups of 7,500 or more would continue to populate Progressive Field, because it’s baseball.
All attendance jokes aside, the “change the name of the team” topic isn’t really the one that’s on the table. The discussion is over an emblem, one that existed but wasn’t even on the caps when I became a fan, but has essentially been what we know as the primary logo my entire life. I’ve heard a lot about what’s offensive, what isn’t offensive, and how many people need to feel a certain way before we can really determine what’s what. In the end, you have some varying opinions and a limited amount of facts.
Some facts are based on opinion, but they remain facts nonetheless. Some opinions are based on fact, but they are still opinions. Plenty has been said to support change; the Cleveland Frowns site has been making a case for years (and plenty of other writers on plenty of sites, both local and national), and more recently a Cleveland Councilman has made his opinion known that if it’s offensive to anyone, it’s offensive. Proponents of Chief Wahoo oppose change because they see nothing wrong with it, and would like the “PC Police” to chill out. Often cited are Native Americans who aren’t offended by Chief Wahoo, and some who would go as far as to say they like him.
Forget what I think on the topic for a second, and let’s say a change was made. Since the Dolan family bought the team, they’ve played with some different cap styles that don’t include the Chief. Sure, the mascot has appeared in other places on the uniform when the Script “I” and Block “C” have been worn, and how many people missed it then? Believe it or not, I’ve heard more than a few complaints about the Block “C”, but more about it representing Wahoo being phased out than for general aesthetics, though the latter has drawn its critics.
As for my thoughts, I think it should be changed, and it should be done proactively, rather than reactively. If it’s done because management believe that it’s time, that enough is enough, you’ll still have the folks who complain that it took way too long, that it’s 2014 or whatever, but I’d much rather Paul Dolan or Mark Shapiro give the order than Bud Selig or a United States Senator. My home state of Arizona has been called to the carpet for not doing the right thing initially a time or two, but doing it with the threat of losing a Super Bowl hanging in the balance.
Speaking of Arizona, and this is just an observation, but there is no sign of Chief Wahoo at the Goodyear Ballpark in an official capacity of any sort. Of course, there are plenty of fans that bring him in, and the Team Shop sells apparel with the mascot’s likeness, but when the stadium is empty, it’s void of that logo. He’s not on the scoreboard, the field, or the team’s Spring Training uniform. As Peter Pattakos (principle author of Cleveland Frowns) has pointed out, the Indians acknowledge a need to walk on eggshells in my part of the country, because of our Native American population. How is that not admitting the team sees an issue?
This Hat Collection of Mine
So, I am not attaching any photos of me joining protests outside Progressive Field on Opening Day or prior to high profile playoff games. Those photos do not and will not exist, nor will you ever see me participating in any demonstration near the Goodyear Ballpark, if anyone ever decided to stage one. The truth is, while I don’t openly and adamantly oppose Chief Wahoo, I’m not exactly fighting for the team to keep him. I don’t really think it’s worth the fight, and besides, my closet is filled with caps and t-shirts depicting the questionable cartoon.
If I wear Chief Wahoo, am I part of the problem?
If I have 25 Tribe hats in various colors, because I’m weird like that, and only 5 of them are not the standard Chief Wahoo, am I obligated to keep only those five in the rotation? I have been wearing Indians hats in public for the better part of the last 12 years, and I’ve had someone say something to the effect of being offended exactly once. Ironically, it happened in Cleveland, at a bar in the city. To tell the whole story, they didn’t exactly say anything to me.
We were watching a Cavs playoff game, if that tells you how long it’s been, and they were talking amongst themselves, but trying to be loud enough for me to hear them. Apparently, they didn’t try hard enough, because only my wife heard them talking, “that dude needs to turn his hat around or something,” and she told me that was said long after the fact. To be fair, it’s a black chief wahoo on a chocolate colored cap, and these people were sitting at an angle where they may not have figured it to be an off-color Indians hat, but a blatant Sambo. I haven’t worn that one in a while.
I used to play a lot of poker, and I’ve conveniently lived near a reservation with a casino that has a poker room for the last decade or so. Many of the employees in these places were from the tribes that called these reservations home, or at least of Native American descent, a fact that I would usually think about after the fact, after I sat down with a giant red cartoon Indian on my hat and asked the dealer to change $100. They never said a thing to me or gave the logo a second look, though I’d often wonder when they would and how I’d react to their criticism.
Now, I don’t care for the argument that people have been told it’s not offensive because people in “Indian Casinos” aren’t offended. That happens to be my story, and maybe the story of many others, but Native Americans in casinos might not be the gold standard for what offends an entire culture. There’s a language of currency in those places that might trump all. However, this Caucasian’s level of understanding doesn’t tell me what to do with my Indians hats.
The easy option is that I stop wearing them, if I believe what they represent to be wrong. I have really invested a lot into making Cleveland a part of my wardrobe, and I have denied, or at least shrugged at the offensive aspect of Chief Wahoo for a long time. Why am I growing a conscience now, and would I really contemplate the FISCAL implications of ditching these hats, if they featured swastikas or clansmen? The thing is, they don’t represent those things, though some might contend that they do, even if a Major League team is wearing them of the field at their home games. That suggests that society accepts what the Indians do, even if that fact couldn’t be farther from the truth.
In the end, it’s a long road ahead, if I’m going to find all of these colors without Chief Wahoo in the New Era catalog. It would be so much easier if I were a Yankees fan, or that dreaded fan of the game, where colors and Wahoo-less caps were more readily available. Maybe I should just admit I’m almost 36 and abandon the ball cap altogether. I’m so confused…
One Cactus League Guide
Though most of the Upper 48 states sprung their clocks one hour ahead on Saturday night, at 1:00 AM on Sunday morning in Arizona, we simply wait sixty seconds for the clock to hit 1:01 AM, and repeat the process for an hour until it hits 2 AM. Because Arizona does not participate in this antiquated agricultural event, it means you’ll see Cactus League games at 4:00 PM instead of 3:00 PM in the east. Around here, I only need to know one time each day, and that’s 1:00 PM, the time of the first pitch in any of the nine parks here in the Valley of the Sun. Because I’ve been to all of them, I figured I could do everyone who might think about checking out the Tribe and getting out of the cold this winter or during one in the near future the service of telling you what to expect.
#9 Phoenix Municipal Stadium (Oakland Athletics)
The A’s play in one of the older stadiums you’ll find in the Cactus League. If you’re in from out of town, its proximity to Mill Avenue, Arizona State’s bar district, is as close as you’re going to get. If you like rocks and mountains, Phoenix Muni is tucked between a bunch of them, which means no lawn seating. The lawn is solid seating for those who don’t take things too seriously in Spring Training; a typical lawn ticket will run you $8, which isn’t too much lower than an outfield reserve seat near the Phoenix/Tempe border. It’s also accessible by light rail, if you don’t mind a little bit of walking. Unless you have privileges to the small stadium lot, you’ve got a decent up and over the bridge that takes you from the parking lot, across Galvin Parkway, and into the ballpark.
Lack of a lawn, hard bench seating, the awful scoreboard, and the logistics of the parking lot put this one at the bottom of the list, but a day at Phoenix Muni is probably better than most alternatives that don’t involve baseball. This becomes a moot point at the end of the month, since the A’s will be headed out to Mesa’s Hohokam Park, the former home of the Cubs, and Arizona State University Baseball will make Phoenix Muni their home in 2015.
#8 Maryvale Baseball Park (Milwaukee Brewers)
I tried to think of an appropriate way to describe the Maryvale neighborhood and the location of the Brewers’ 51st Avenue ballpark to the Cleveland reader, then I realized my comprehension of Cleveland neighborhoods expired about 20 years ago, so I’m left to ask you to recall the area around West 65th and Dennison in 1994. For those of you unfamiliar with the west side of the city, I’d say it’s safe enough to drive through, but it’s not a part of town where you want to be lost.
You have to put up with Miller Lite, it’s just a Wisconsin thing. In fact, the stadium doesn’t seem to draw a massive amount of people from the Midwest, but there’s a lot of Wisconsin personality injected into the place. It shows in the available concessions, which have menus specifically catered to the people from Wisconsin, in my opinion anyways. The scoredboard is old, like the rest of the park, but there’s a lot of personality throughout and the sight lines are great. A sidewalk divides the lawn area into sunny and shady areas, so there’s some variety, and the berm seating wraps around the right field fair pole, so the cheapskates are offered a different vantage point. Speaking of shady areas, there’s not much in the way of post-game dining in the area, but you can tailgate, or at least you can get away with tailgating.
#7 Goodyear Ballpark (Cleveland Indians, Cincinnati Reds)
It really pains me to put this ballpark this low, it does, but this is where it goes. The location is questionable; it reminds me how Spring Training is not about the fans. There are plenty of fan experiences to be had, but the design of the Goodyear Complex seems to much more about the players, and rightfully so. The games at the ballpark seem like such a chore, and everyone seems to prefer playing at Field 1, the one with dimensions identical to Progressive Field, where few spectators attend.
The location doesn’t matter if you stay in Goodyear, but this is not a convenient commute from Scottsdale, Tempe, or even downtown Phoenix. Think of the distance from the Inner Belt to Elyria; that’s how I think of it, though I have no idea how close I am on the mileage estimate. There’s little to do, in or around Goodyear, though Black Bear Diner and Majerle’s seems to be visitor favorites, and neither is exactly next to the park. In fact, there’s nothing next to the park but desert. I honestly cannot believe the city of Goodyear hasn’t built anything near the ballpark in six years that might entertain out-of-town guests. Of course, the park’s two Ohio tenants aren’t putting many butts in the seats; crowds under 3,000 are routine. In contrast, the Diamondbacks and Cubs routinely draw over 10,000 a day.
I have a word of advice to those commuting to the ballpark or practice facilities from the east, exit I-10 at Bullard Road. The park is on Estrella Parkway, but the congestion caused by the necessary left turn is ridiculous, regardless of what parking lot you’re attempting to enter. By exiting sooner at Bullard, you can drive south on Bullard off of the interstate, and just drive until you hit the ballpark.
#6 Diablo Stadium (Los Angeles Angels)
The Angels spring home is very noticeable, sitting down the hill from the Buttes Resort on 48th Street, and directly adjacent to I-10, which is only separated from the right field fence by a small parking lot. For a local, March commutes during the work day are made worse by seeing all of the people enjoying themselves, as you glance to the south from the freeway. However, if you’re among the lucky spectators inside, you don’t give all those suckers headed home from the office a single thought.
There’s not a bad sight-line in the stadium, but it does tend to be crowded at this other venue that sits close to Arizona State, so lawn seating is first-come/first-serve. Since you have the parking lot in right field, the lawn starts in left-center and wraps around the left field fair pole to just behind third base. If you’re on the third base line, you can laugh at the commuters beyond the right field wall and ancient scoreboard. On the weekends, the crowds are worse, with it not uncommon for Orange County to caravan in for a quick road trip.
As far as your own commute is concerned, parking is limited around the stadium. You might get lucky enough to not have a Lord of the Rings-caliber journey, but that means getting to the ballpark right after breakfast. A lot of the Mill Avenue-area bars have shuttles that run, so that’s worth looking into. Directly adjacent to the stadium, there’s positively nothing in the way of entertainment, unless you can get those pedi-cab drivers to crack some jokes.
#5 Surprise Stadium (Kansas City Royals, Texas Rangers)
This is a great ballpark with a terrible location. Well, Surprise is somewhat of a retirement community and it’s a long way from nothing. I’m reminded of how not freeway-accessible Parmatown Mall was for me as a young driver in Northeast Ohio, and I’m reminded of the ride up Bell Road. There’s a traffic light every thirty feet, and the nearest freeway is 8 or 9 miles (really unofficial estimate of distance) to the east. However, when you finally navigate West Bell Road to the complex on Bullard, very far north of Goodyear, there is a payoff.
The stadium has free parking and a minimal walk to the gate. The lawn is plenty big enough, there’s a variety of concessions, and the atmosphere is family-friendly. At a lot of the Cactus League places, you’ll find the younger fraternity brother-looking crowd, but Surprise is just too far for their type to travel, so there’s a lot of the elderly and a lot of mini-vans, but just an excellent ballpark. There’s nothing to do in Surprise if you’re under 150, so hustle to get back east before the early-bird buffet traffic.
#4 Scottsdale Memorial Stadium (San Francisco Giants)
Welcome to Club Giants. This is the premier spot in the state’s biggest tourist trap, Old Town Scottsdale. You’ll enjoy the scenery. You’ll enjoy the company. You’ll enjoy the food and entertainment, and they’ll enjoy your money. It’s an expensive part of town, but you fall backwards into fun in and around the Giants place at Goldwater and Osborn, a few paces east of Scottsdale Road.
Last year, I saw Giants tickets for a Saturday game with Milwaukee with a face value of $32…on the lawn. That’s insane; you might pay $20 to a scalper to get on the lawn for a sold out game, but that’s ridiculous. You can have a good time on the lawn in Goodyear for $32. It might not be quite so steep any more, but if money isn’t an object, this is the place to be. It’s always crowded, with a lot of Giants fans and a lot of young people looking to party. It’s an old place, but there’s plenty of young blood inside, and the entertainment is shaped for that crowd.
#3 Camelback Ranch (Chicago White Sox, Los Angeles Dodgers)
Here you have a couple of tenants that I could pass on. You have to ask yourself, do I want to be around Dodgers and/or White Sox fans for three hours on a beautiful day. It’s a tough question, but if you stick around, this place is nice. It was built around the same time as Goodyear was, but their spot in Glendale just blows it away. Of course, they put butts in the seats, at least the Dodgers do; I haven’t seen a White Sox game there yet.
The concessions are nice, the lawn is large, and the expensive seats are outstanding. The general parking lot may or may not have charged the last time I used it, and I remember thinking that they shouldn’t charge for parking because of the long, yet scenic, walk from the parking lot, through all of the practice fields, and to the stadium. I don’t know all of the designer lingo, but I’ll say there’s a nice desert look to it. It’s easy to get to, via 107th Avenue north from I-10 or west on Camelback from the Loop-101.
#2 Cubs Park (Chicago Cubs)
I had my first glimpse of Wrigley West on Friday, when the Indians took on the Cubs, and it was impressive. It might actually deserve #1, but they get an incomplete because I haven’t seen everything yet. The location makes me sigh a little bit, because it was once proposed as the site of the Arizona Cardinals, the site that was put out on the far west end of town in Glendale, and it was kyboshed because of the plane that crashed at Laguardia, near Shea Stadium, in the weeks after 9/11. There was concern over the flight line to Sky Harbor Airport, the route that was okay for the Cubs to build their off-season facility. It used to be Riverview Golf Course, a place I may or may not have played once.
The have miles of open field around the stadium, plenty of room to tailgate for $7, as Chicagoans love to do, and a seemingly endless line of palm trees along Rio Salado Boulevard, which I’m sure impresses the Windy City guests. Cubs fans will always pack any Spring Training park they play at, so there’s always plenty of beer and plenty of food on hand. At the old park, a few miles to the east, the vendors sold Old Style; I’m not sure I saw any the other day. Another thing that struck me as strange was the Giordano’s advertisements; there are no locations in Phoenix, but they were quick to plug their mail-order product. It didn’t seem to fit with me. There’s also a giant billboard, high above the very nice, state-of-the-art scoreboard in left field, which directs you to Portillo’s, one of two new locations in Arizona. Portillos is a staple in the Chicagoland area, a place you can get genuine Chicago Hot Dogs, Italian Beef, and a long list of the other things that your doctor wouldn’t recommend. The Tempe location is 1.3 miles to the west at Tempe Marketplace; to the east, you have the Mesa Riverview Shopping Center. And, Mill Avenue is close, so shuttle service is a thing from here too.
#1 Salt River Fields at Talking Stick (Arizona Diamondbacks, Colorado Rockies)
Everything east of Pima in Scottsdale is technically on the reservation. Of course, that would mean the Talking Stick Casino and Resort also falls on that land. On the east side of the Loop-101, you’ll find the new digs for the hometown Diamondbacks. For now, this place edges out the built-for-2014 Cubs Park, if only because of its layout, with the co-tenant Rockies owning the first base side of the park, complete with a dedicated team shop in right field, mirrored by the Diamonbacks having the same amenities on the third base side.
There’s bar areas, places to sit and eat, places to stand and watch baseball, and expensive places to sit and watch the games. There are shuttles that run to the stadium at Indian Bend and Pima, but these run from Old Town, to take you away from the Giants love-fest around their place. Plenty of lawn and an awesome scoreboard highlight the outfield area, you can walk anywhere, and it’s probably the most enjoyable walk into any Spring Training site, because you can watch minor league games being played and watch player hit into the cages, which are completely viewable from the walkway to the gates. Like the Cubs Park, this is a high-end place, so no less than $12 is required for entry and you’ll be accompanied by about 12,000 of your closest friends.
Six Random Things
I suppose I wasn’t on board with the retirement of Zydrunas Ilgauskas’s #11, and I said my piece on Twitter earlier this week, much to this dismay of many a Cavs fan. I don’t usually back down from any stance I take in sports, but I have to admit, I’m feeling some regret on this one. It was obvious to me very quickly on Saturday night, just how much Z meant to this team. This is one example where I find myself out of touch, being off the reservation for so long.
Without a QB
I’m finally warming up to the idea that the Browns might not take a quarterback with the fourth pick in May. I’m not sold on Brian Hoyer, not completely, but if they can’t land Blake Bortles, there’s too much value in that slot to reach for Teddy Bridgewater, Derek Carr, or Johnny Manziel. While I don’t think Jadaveon Clowney will be available to them, I wouldn’t be shocked to see them take Buffalo’s Khalil Mack, but there is a lot of time for me to change my mind before May.
Free Agents Aren’t Free
I suppose I’m the ultimate pessimist when it comes to free agency for the Browns. I suppose there is a reason for that; precedent says I’m right to see the glass half-empty. There are so many targets, and so little curb appeal to Cleveland or the Browns in their current state.
So, I’m thinking a local guy like Roger Saffold, most recently a St. Louis Ram, could fill the void at guard or right tackle, if Mitchell Schwartz is the new center, could be attainable. Of course, we’ll see if the Buffalo love for Mike Pettine is real, if Jairus Byrd is indeed targeted to play free safety for his former Defensive Coordinator in Cleveland. Problem is, his college coach is the head coach in Philadelphia, who is believed to be a suitor for Byrd’s services.
I know we try to play everything short of championships off as a failure in the internet generation, but in the case of the 2013 Indians, it seems to be a ridiculous downplay of an overwhelming success. Oh well; the eye should be on the ultimate prize, I guess, but there’s nothing “all-in” about 2014, if you ask me. The rub resides in Justin Masterson’s contract issue. If he’s not signed by Opening Day, he’s gone after the season, and I’d put that folly on the front office. It seems like he is giving the team every chance, within reason, to retain him. If they pull that off, and maybe an extension with Jason Kipnis as well, they need not go for broke in 2014. I could appreciate the luxury of patience, given the landscape. The Indians are closer to getting it done than most believe, if they can do it the right way.
The CSan Experiment
We got to know him, and he’s what we want to know about, so they got him at third base, and I finally had the chance to check him out. According to MLB.com’s Jordan Bastian, Saturday’s game in Peoria was, by far, the best look we’ve gotten at Carlos Santana as a third baseman, and results were mixed. He made a throwing error on a ball he fielded cleanly, his second error of that variety from the hot corner this spring, but nothing to be alarmed about. Terry Francona was quick to remind the media that Santana is a work in progress at third, and I imagine that fielding the position is the biggest challenge in this transition. My take is that he looks comfortable, and this is going to be a good move in the long run. Ironically, he’ll be the best third baseman since Casey Blake, the man he was traded for, and you might have to go back to Jim Thome’s days at third for a real comparison. We may not see it in 2014, but it’s going to be a good move, one I’ve been thinking about since spring of 2012.
On a personal note, this is where I like to be, writing long-form articles, and this column is somewhat of a monster every Sunday. I sincerely hope it’s worth your time to read it, but I’ve diversified, and added audio work to my weekly catalog. I’ve been co-hosting the first hour of Sports Byline Sunday, with Andy Dorf, which runs from 11 AM to 1 PM Eastern, for a few months now. I’m also seven weeks into my podcast, here on More Than a Fan, and I’m happy with how The 185 has gone to date. Check MTAF.tv for past episodes, and look for this week’s show with Jake Dungan of Indians Baseball Insider, which was recorded this weekend in Goodyear. We’ve got a lot of good Tribe stuff to discuss there.