It's earlier than you think

I saw a comment attributed to Nick Swisher the other day about the Indians relatively slow start to the 2014 season, particularly after all the talk this spring about the “unfinished business” the Tribe had to take care of.  Swisher calmly replied, “It’s early.”

There’s no disputing his logic, especially in baseball. As of this writing, the Indians still had about 85 percent of their schedule to play. The troubling thing about hearing those words – to me, anyway – is that those words are never spoken by a team which has started well; they’re only uttered by those who are sputtering a bit. Allow me to demonstrate:

In the 1960 Presidential Election, JFK shot out to an early lead against Richard Nixon in the voting. My father, a very conservative conservative, calmly stated, “It’s early.” He was right. But Nixon still lost.

In the 1964 Presidential Election, LBJ raced out to an early lead against Barry Goldwater. “It’s early,” Dad stated confidently. Once again, he was spot-on. Unfortunately for him, Goldwater got smoked, in one of the larger landslides in presidential election history.

Coming off a surprisingly successful 1968 Indians baseball season (86-75), and the giddiness which accompanied a successful bid for the presidency by his man Nixon, Dad shifted his prognosticating magic to the ’69 Tribe, who’d started the season just slightly below expectations, at 1-15. “It’s only 10 percent of the season; there’s plenty of baseball to be played.” Of course, he was right – on both counts – once again. But the Indians lost 99 games.

Let’s fast-forward to more recent times, shall we? Dad had long since moved on to that big glass of optimism (which was, obviously, half-full) in the sky. And, although we didn’t always share the same views politically, I was lucky enough to pick up his optimistic outlook on life in general, and Cleveland sports in particular.

I need only point to the 2008 Tribe, who a year earlier had come within one stinkin’ game of the 2007 World Series, after starting the season 5-10. “It’s early,” I chortled confidently. Unfortunately, the chortling stopped about as abruptly as Jeremy Sowers’ fastball, when the Tribe went nowhere with a record of 81-81.

However, my confidence wasn’t deflated, because we still had the 2008 Browns, who had missed the playoffs the previous season with an impressive 10-6 mark. I mean, it usually takes the Browns two or three years to rack up 10 victories. So, was I worried when the Browns lost all four of their exhibition games? Nah. Was I concerned when they lost their first three regular season games? Okay, maybe a little. But yes, it was “still early.” Unfortunately, I was very concerned at the end of the season, when their record read 4-12 (although in Cleveland, 4-12 does reflect a "normal" Browns season).

The point of all this is that bad starts often translate into bad seasons, so most Cleveland sports fans are hesitant to jump onto the old “It’s early” bandwagon. Are there exceptions to the rule? Yes, and I will present one of the better feel-good stories of Cleveland sports:

The 1984-85 Cavaliers started the season 2-19. Nationally, they were ripped as one of the worst franchises in the history of ALL sports history, not just the NBA. What did I see with this team? I looked at the collection of misfits, led by coach George Karl and aging veteran World B. Free, and smugly stated, “These guys are horrible. No hope whatsoever.” The Cavs promptly got hot, rallied to finish 36-46, and give the mighty Boston Celtics all they could handle in losing the first round of the playoffs.

Maybe I should start following politics.   

Jeff Bing

Lifelong Westlake resident who dabbles in writing whenever the real world permits. My forte is humor and horror...What a combo!

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Volume 6, Issue 9, Posted 9:40 AM, 04.29.2014