As I fawned over a bottle of Sierra Nevada's Southern Hemisphere Harvest Hop Ale while on the deck last evening, I thought about the life-decisions that confront us, the choices we make, and the ramifications that impact our future. Was it the impending election that took up so much of my cerebral activity? The latest banking crisis? The political unrest in Pakistan? Hardly. The subject that occupied my mental meanderings can be summed up in one word: Cleveland.
I have a friend in Nashville who grew up in the Music City while the Titans were still running amok inside the Astrodome as the Oilers. The nearest professional baseball team was 4 hours away. The NBA? Even further. So, growing up, he elected to choose his favorite teams without being locked into geographical boundaries. Of course, not being hog-tied by "proximity" leaves the door open to all sorts of possibilities. Let's see....his favorite football team: the Cowboys. Gee, have they even been in the same county as the Lombardi Trophy? Now, over to basketball. Why, wouldn't you know it: the Los Angeles Lakers! Gosh, they've never even smelled an NBA Final, have they? And baseball? The lowly Los Angeles Dodgers. Koufax, Drysdale, Garvey, and Kirk Gibson...what a pathetic bunch of losers. Well, at least he can't pick Notre Dame, since he's a University of Tennessee grad.
I, on the other hand, grew up in Canton, Ohio. In my neighborhood, there was only one city's teams that we cared about. That also meant that our allegiance was, and is, defined not by Super Bowl rings and NBA Championship banners but by gut-wrenching phrases such as "The Shot" (Michael Jordan's last-second shot over the outstretched arms of Craig Ehlo), "The Drive" (John Elway thrusting his sword in the abdomen of Browns fans in the waning seconds of the '87 AFC Championship game), "The Fumble" (Ernest Byner drops the ball on the 2-yard-line en route to the end zone in the '88 AFC title game at Mile High) "The Hit" (Edgar Renteria's bases-loaded single to drive in the winning run for the Marlins in Game 7 of the '97 World Series), "The Sweep" (the Cavs pathetic performance in the 2007 NBA Finals against the Spurs)....and on, and on, and on, and on, and on........
In much the same way that this wonderful beer's bitterness is tempered by a more-than-generous helping of Centennial and Cascade hops, my bitterness is always lessened by....hope. For those of us who haven't chosen their teams wisely, it's really the only thing on which we can lean. The hope that Romeo Crennel will find ways to get the Browns to an even better record than last year's 10-6 mark. The hope that Jamal Lewis will have another 1000+yards rushing season, the hope that players such as Kellen Winslow and Joshua Cribbs will stay healthy, and the hope that somebody will come up with a few spare tickets in the Dawg Pound so that I have don't have to pay for them. (those 9-dollar beers at Browns Stadium take their toll on the wallet).
Then, something always comes along to ruin all that good "hope". It's a feeling, a force...almost a kind of virus, that, even amidst the strongest sense of good expectations, always manages to, seemingly effortlessly, thwart even the most ardent strides towards turning the tide on this litany of bad karma. Interesting enough, I can also sum that up in one word: Pittsburgh.
There are many things that I, more than likely, will not see in my lifetime. I will not see a winning lottery ticket with my numbers on it. I will not see a deed to a summer home that I own on Maui. I will not see Angelina Jolie beckoning me to accompany her on an evening of frivolity. And I really don't think I'll see a time when the Cleveland Browns will beat the Pittsburgh Steelers. And as our Pittsburgh friends wasted no time in contacting us after the Steelers beat the Browns for the 10th time in a row (you know it's pathetic when they're sending us text messages with the words "I'm sorry"!) I decided that maybe....just maybe....I didn't do the best job in choosing my teams.
But, what's done is done. So, I popped the top on another Sierra Nevada and wondered how different things might have been had my father chosen a teaching job in....Rapid City, South Dakota. Than I could have chosen any number of teams: Yankees, Celtics, Red Wings....
....or maybe the Steelers.
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