Wednesday night, I attended an Indians game for the first time this season. At least I thought it was an Indians game.
When I got a closer look at all the red, white and blue gear people were wearing inside Jacobs Field, I had my doubts. An impossible-to-ignore amount said "Red Sox," "Boston," or "World Champions."
The replica jersey backs bearing "Schilling," Damon" and "Ramirez" routed the number of jersey backs featuring any Indians players.
I came to the game with Jeff, a fellow Tribe fan I know from Medina County. Long about the second inning, as we stood over what appeared to be two solid sections of Boston fans in left field, Jeff finally blurted out what I had been thinking all evening:
"Where am I, Fenway?"
It was true: Jacobs Field had become Fenway Park West. What was worse, we both knew there was no way what appeared to be at least 5,000 Red Sox fans had ventured all the way from New England to Cleveland for the game.
Many of these fans were members of the common species we refer to as the "North American bandwagoner." Like moths to a bug zapper, the North American bandwagoner is intensely attracted to the latest fad. In this case, the desire to be as much like Ben Affleck as possible. It's cool to be a Red Sox fan now that they are the world champions and free from any justified persecution, even in the Bronx.
(Of course, in the Bronx, a Red Sox fan would still not be free from fists or bodily fluids, a point Jeff brought up later in the game, as legions of Bostonians-at-heart began chanting "Let's go Red Sox.")
"Man, if this was a Browns game at the old stadium, there would be all kinds of things flying at them right now," he said.
At least a number of Indians fans tried to drown out the insurgency with a chant of "Let's go Tribe."
I guess this would be a good point to discuss the game a bit, which Boston won, 5-4, to complete a three-game sweep. The Indians tried. They didn't lose for lack of effort. Boston simply did to the Indians what the Indians used to do to other teams in the '90s.
Playing chess-match baseball, like the Indians usually have to do to win, is nearly impossible against the Red Sox. Like the mid-late '90s Indians, playing chess against the Red Sox is like playing chess against a club-wielding caveman. You make your intricately-planned moves, and they bash the board off the table with a three-run homer.
Boston out-homered the Indians 8-2 in the series.
Cliff Lee staked the Indians to a 4-2 lead through seven innings. As Bob Howry worked through a shaky eighth, I yelled to no one in particular, "Quit screwing around with Howry! Go to Rhodes!"
Arthur Rhodes, after all, had been lights out all season, with an ERA below 1.00.
Of course, no sooner do I say that, than the bullpen door swings open, out comes Rhodes, and he promptly allows two runs to score to tie the game again at 4-4.
And when Boston has you down, they find a way to finish you off.
Bob Wickman came on to pitch the ninth. He gave up a double to Jay Payton, who reached third when Grady Sizemore bobbled the ball trying to pick it up. Edgar Renteria, who hit a solo homer earlier in the game, drove in the winning run with another double, this to left-center.
The Indians went down in order in the ninth. The only drama was a Travis Hafner shot deep down the right field line which hooked foul.
I will say this about the mass of Red Sox fans, legitimate or bandwagoners: they were civil in victory, at least from what I could see.
I fully expected throngs of loud, obnoxious, confrontational Red Sox fans chanting pro-Boston and anti-Cleveland slogans as Jeff and I left the park. Maybe that was happening around other exits, but as Jeff and I left the park under the giant Jacobs Field sign at the corner of Carnegie Street and Ontario Avenue, all appeared quiet. In fact, the only interaction we had with a Red Sox fan was a guy who we nearly ran into walking toward the exit.
"Good game, guys," he said.
Wow. Maybe a championship really has changed these people. Then again, we weren't wearing Yankee caps.