The Cleveland Indians on Monday followed the path reluctantly chosen not long ago by the Washington Football Team, acknowledged an increasingly woke America, and surrendered the club’s name.
The venerable American League franchise, without a World Series title since 1948, decided after 105 years that it was high time to load its Indians heritage into a Conestoga and roll it outta town for good.
The year that has taken so much, and provided such hurt, finally got one right. Atlanta Braves, you’re next at bat, and the ticking only will grow louder. Blackhawks and Warriors, you’re on deck.
Was anyone shocked about the Indians? Nope. And frankly, that’s the biggest surprise here. The announcement came and went with little, if any, objection or fanfare, be it in Cleveland or anywhere else. The first move came some two years after the club decided to ditch the Chief Wahoo logo from its branding, and then spent the ensuing months fretting over whether it could live as the franchise formerly known as the Indians.
In the end, acceptance came faster than a Bob Feller fastball, circa late 1930s. All the fretting suddenly seemed so silly, so trivial, such a grandiose waste to time. Now it’s OK, new name … moving on.
We have such bigger things to worry about now, right? There is little that can shock our sports world or our minds anymore, not in 2020, not in the torrid throes of a pandemic that on Monday, the same day the Cleveland TBD’s realized they could live under a different name, claimed its 300,000th US victim.
After all the dying and despair of these last nine-plus months, the itsy bit of good news is that it appears we’ve realized that some of this stuff that seemed so monumental to us — such as a team name and its cartoon-like logo — just isn’t worth all the bluster and bother anymore. We’re trying our best to stay alive, wearing masks, washing hands, more focused on checking local listings to learn how soon we might get our COVID-19 vaccinations than stewing over what date pitchers and catchers report to spring training.
Really, the sun will set, the sun will rise, and the ballplayers will show up in Florida and Arizona … eventually. If not February, then maybe March, possibly April. Whenever. They’ll get there.
We just spent a full, albeit short, major league season with canned crowd noise echoing through our ballparks and cardboard cutout fans dotting the seats. It was weird, awkward, hollow. Yet somehow we made it, though sports being what sports is, a few old-timers in Flatbush likely lament it would have been way better had their bums won it all for Brooklyn and not LA.
If the Red Sox announced this weekend that their days at Fenway were finished, that a new ballpark in the Back Bay was on the way, say, for the 2025 season, would we be wrecked? Oh, a few of us, for sure.
The old joint opened in 1912, in case you hadn’t heard, and we have a thing here for history … and an undying love of rickety seats and sightlines more bizarre than a funhouse mirror.
I just think the hue and outcry among Red Sox Nation would be but a fraction of what it would have been a year ago, before news of a mysterious disease began to trickle in from Wuhan. We’ve changed. We’ve changed in ways we’re just beginning to realize, in ways we won’t fully understand for years post-pandemic.
Letting go of yesterday today isn’t what it was yesterday. Not after the brutal haul that is about to carry into a new year.
Admittedly, there are other solid reasons beyond the COVID-19 factor that slipping in plans for a new Fenway now could be easier for many of us to accept. To identify a few:
▪ The lingering train wreck of a 24-36 season (even some of the cardboard cutouts sought witness protection).
▪ The protracted mourning over Mookie.
▪ The starting rotation, once a Who’s Who list, that has become a Who’s They?
▪ The overall dearth of star power. The roster sizzle has given way to fizzle.
Right now it looks like a long way back for the team originally known as the Boston Americans. If that’s right, the promise of a new park could help buoy attendance in the short term. Fans would stream to the Fens from around the country for last looks. It would be a reverse “Field of Dreams” factor. If you say you’ll knock it down, they’ll come. Oh, they’ll come, they’ll definitely come.
If we were suddenly Cleveland, and the term “Red Sox” was deemed a pejorative and socially unacceptable (it came close here in the early ’60s), what would be harder, to see the team have to surrender its name or give up its ballpark?
Would it be easier on the heart and soul to accept the Boston Americans (or other new name) still playing at the existing Fenway, or the Red Sox, operating under their same name since 1908, playing in a dazzling new park, with 42,000 seats, dynamic views, sparkling bathrooms and enough electrical outlets to bring Nikola Tesla to tears?
For the moment, none of that has to be answered. If you are wondering, the vote here would be for the old team in a new park.
All we truly know is that the day will come that Fenway must be replaced, be it because the cracks can’t be repaired or, more likely, ownership acquiesces to the challenged economic fundamentals of wringing 21st-century MLB income from a tiny ballpark that opened its gates within hours of the Titanic going belly up.
We also know, from lessons hard learned in 2020, that these should be our hardest questions.
Once all of this is behind us, it should be easier for us to let most things go around here. Except hating on the Yankees. Not even a threat to mankind’s existence can take that from us.