Red Right 88

Cleveland sports fan and sports writer

Location: Cleveland, Ohio, United States

quit my job decided to drive west

Wednesday, May 25, 2005

Support your local athletes: pro or amateur

It is easy to pull a Bill Belichick and just judge by what you see. It is not that hard to forget athletes are people too.
I find it humorous that so many Indians fans “hate” Aaron Boone. Yes, I know he was a Yankee and normally I am leading the charge in irrational sports behavior. But he was only a Yankee for a few months. It seems to me that Casey Blake and many of the other Indians are getting a free pass from many local sports fans. They aren’t hitting either. It is as if we fans need a lightening rod to focus our anger on. Tim Couch cried so he gets the heavy hand. Holcomb didn’t, so we buy his barbeque sauce.
Trust me when I tell you no one is more upset than Aaron Boone. You don’t grow up in a family of major leaguers like he did without being a competitor. Yes, he broke his leg violating his contract like Winslow did, but what Boone did was compete against his family in some backyard hoops not popping wheelies in a parking lot or down a residential street. Boone wants to win. He needs to win.
I admit I would have helped in the lynching of Jeff Garcia, but he gave me the creeps. Not only did he not perform, he was a bad teammate and not an ideal citizen. Boone is a hard worker. He is the type of guy who you want on your team. Yes, he isn’t hitting but as of right now— he is not alone in that regard.
What is wrong with the Tribe? It could be us. We want to win. We feel like we need to win. It is as if we think everything that is wrong with this city will be fixed just by winning. Cleveland: bad schools, rising violence and the poorest city in America. Besides Mark Shapiro, I wonder who is more upset by the Indians poor start, Barbara Byrd Bennett or Jane Campbell. Winning distracts us from reality. Losing just deepens the depression.
Yes, they are grown men paid to play a game but we don’t have our job performance aired over the radio and cable TV. Boo hoo you say. They get millions. Yes they do. But money doesn’t buy peace of mind.
I saw the same pressure this weekend on the amateur level. Read my other articles and check out the quotes for arguably two of the best high school athletes in our area, Brad Noel and Kelley Moore.
I interview a lot of people. Often you get the same quote over and over. Some coaches in particular love to say nothing. So when you get brutal honesty from two teenage kids, it opens your eyes. I even hesitated before printing them. I thought maybe their competitors would mock their honesty.
When you are expected to win, that does something to your psyche. It is very easy to have your sport change from passion to preserving. You start playing sports because it is fun. Then you work as hard as you can to get as good as you can.
At a certain point, winning isn’t celebrated as much as you fear losing. I know it would be easy for those easily vanquished by Brad or Kelley not to feel sorry for the pressure they feel. Both are extremely talented but both have worked very hard for what they have achieved.
I think this week both of them found perspective in the swirls of expectation. What is important is not if they win state, but the strong relationships they have with family and friends.
It is easier said than done to release the voices in your head. Pressure comes from within and nothing is harder to deal with than thinking you are letting down your family and loved ones.
I don’t think it is weakness to admit something is more important than winning state. Kelley already has one state title. Brad is only a sophomore, he has this year and two more chances after that. Whether they win a title this year or not, in my book both are champions.
And so are the vast majority of the local high school athletes and pro athletes. They work hard and they do it the right way. They deserve our respect and our support regardless of the outcome.