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FACES OF THE FAITHFUL
November 21, 2007
THERE ARE NEARLY HALF A MILLION PEOPLE IN CLEVELAND, AND EACH ONE HAS A STORY OF THE MOMENT THAT DEFINED HIM OR HER AS A FAN FOR LIFE. HERE ARE 16 OF THOSE STORIES
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November 21, 2007

Faces Of The Faithful

THERE ARE NEARLY HALF A MILLION PEOPLE IN CLEVELAND, AND EACH ONE HAS A STORY OF THE MOMENT THAT DEFINED HIM OR HER AS A FAN FOR LIFE. HERE ARE 16 OF THOSE STORIES

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JULY 4, 2006: The Indians beat up the Yankees by a score of 19 to 1 and hit six home runs. My entire family and I are sitting in the bleachers, and the game is very special to us—not only because we beat the Yankees, but also because that is the last game my uncle Chip got to see. He was an Indians junkie, obsessed with anything Indians and baseball, but he had lived in Texas for a long time and hadn't seen a game at Jacobs Field in a while. Nothing could mean more to him than going to a Fourth of July game at the Jake and watching us beat the Yankees. It was even more special in hindsight when the following September, Uncle Chip died of an incurable illness. That made the game priceless.
Mary Darmstadt, Elyria, Ohio

DECEMBER 21, 1980: The Browns beat the Bengals 27-24 in the last game of the regular season to clinch the division title. It was one week after the infamous Ahmad Rashad catch of a Hail Mary pass from Tommy Kramer that stole victory from the Browns in the waning seconds. I don't remember much about the game other than Don Cockroft's winning kick with a little over a minute left. For me—being 12 years old and for the first time living and dying with my favorite team—the whole season was summed up by that last game. This team truly earned the nickname Kardiac Kids.
Scott Sopata
Medina, Ohio

MY MOST powerful memory as a Cleveland fan is from last spring, when LeBron James had one of the most amazing individual performances in NBA history, scoring 29 of the Cavaliers' final 30 points and every point in the two overtime sessions of Game 5 of the Eastern Conference finals versus the Pistons. I've never seen anything like it in my life as a sports fan.
Sam Bunick, Piqua, Ohio

WHEN WE LOST the World Series to Florida in 1997, what a heartbreaking event! I went to the airport to thank the players, along with many, many other fans. Then Sandy Alomar Jr. looked out into the crowd and said, "I am so very sorry!" I cried my heart out. I'll never forget it.
Gerianne Perry, Parma, Ohio

WATCHING THE bottom of the ninth inning of Game 7 of the 1997 World Series. I was sitting on my bed with the lights off and no one around because I needed complete silence. After witnessing Jordan nail the Shot and seeing the Browns blow leads plenty of times, I was ready to celebrate. Tomorrow at school was going to be the best day ever. Then Jos� Mesa gave up a few hits, and I started to panic. Then he blew it. When the runner scored to tie the game at 2, I knew it was over. I started bawling. The next day at school was the worst day ever.
Matt Burgoon, Akron

I HAVE witnessed firsthand all the heartbreaking moments in Cleveland of the past 25 years or so, the earliest being the trifecta of three straight years of disappointment with the Browns when they blew a 21-3 lead against the Dolphins in the January 1986 playoffs, the Drive in the January '87 playoffs and the Fumble in the January '88 playoffs. So, the greatest moment for me as a Cleveland sports fan was Game 6 of the 1995 American League Championship Series, when the Indians clinched against Seattle. I remember sitting there stunned after the final out and saying to myself, I can't believe we finally made it to the big stage, and I even got a tear or two in my eyes. Good times are hard to come by in Cleveland as far as the sports teams we follow, but that moment, that night, was the closest I have ever come to experiencing what it feels like to be a fan of a champion pro sports team.
Tony Lastoria
Painesville Township, Ohio

THE MEMORY that sticks out most in my 26 years as a Cleveland fan is just being at Municipal Stadium. From the giant Chief Wahoo that was suspended stories above the main gate to the massive Marlboro advertisement located on the scoreboard, Municipal Stadium might as well have been my home. The only complete baseball series that I have ever attended happened to be the final one played at the old stadium, and I'll never forget it. Yes, the next few years saw a Tribe team that would go on to win hundreds of games, but the one that lost nearly as many in the years before is the one I grew up with. In that last series we were swept by the Chicago White Sox, but those 70,000 seats that had been mostly empty for years were completely full of fans who truly loved what the stadium had given to them.
Scott Sargent, Parma, Ohio

UNFORTUNATELY my most powerful memory is watching Game 7 of the 1997 World Series at a bar called Mel's Tavern. The jam-packed house was ready to pour onto East 9th Street in celebration of an Indians World Series victory—despite the cold, steady rain—only to have our hopes dashed by Jos� Mesa's blown save. I lived in Lakewood at the time, and I made my wife drop me off more than a mile from home, so I could walk off my sorrows in the rain.
Bobby Cart, Cleveland

A LITTLE over four minutes left in the game on Jan. 3, 1987, and the Browns were down by 10. The kid quarterback from Boardman, Ohio, wasn't going to lose. Bernie Kosar set a record with 489 yards passing and won the heart of a city by leading Cleveland to a double-overtime victory over the Jets, and an 11-year-old found out what it meant to be a Browns fan.

John Elway and the Broncos were coming to town, and all anyone could talk about was the AFC Championship Game on Sunday. We'd all crowd into our family room and rest our hopes and dreams on our Browns. A game as important as this one needed to be viewed on a big-screen TV. So on Tuesday night I headed to the mall with my dad, and we spent three hours picking out a new TV. That Sunday we watched the game on our new 48-inch big screen.

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