May 2, 2007

Ithaca’s Own Mistake By the Lake Says His Final Goodbye

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On August 7, 1993, the Indians and Orioles met for the second bout of a three-game series in Baltimore. The Orioles were 12 games over .500 playing in their inaugural season at Camden Yards. The Indians sat eight games under .500 — still two years away from making it back to their first World Series since 1954 — and I was an eight-year-old at his first Major League Baseball game, who possessed only a mild interest in baseball related matters that didn’t come with a free stick of gum.
Sitting in box seats down the third base side, my cousin Tom, my uncle Jim, my dad and I were four of the 46,424 in attendance that night. I had decided ahead of time to root for the Indians, partly because my dad was from Cleveland, but mainly because Tom was from Baltimore, and at the time, my chief rival in the AL East standings for grandparent affections.
It’s funny what you remember from baseball games. A long-suffering Indians fan, my Dad to this day remembers how the Tribe manufactured a run in the top of the first inning off a bunt single by Kenny Lofton and eventual sac fly from Albert Belle. For me, the details of the game are little less clear. Instead, I remember that night in August because I came to that game rooting for the Tribe because I hated my cousin, and I left that game an ardent Indians fan because I loved my dad.
That’s why Cleveland Rocks.
It rocks because for an eight-year-old kid, the Indians were the first subject he felt he could talk with his father about like men. It rocks because eight years later, when that kid and his family were struggling to deal with his bipolar disorder, “How ’bout them Indians?” was always a safe ground for conversation. It rocks because today, that kid can sit in the stands at Jacobs Field and buy his dad a beer and, for three hours, talk about anything from balls and strikes to women and life.
And that’s why we care about sports.
We care about sports because they give us something to talk about. Because we can talk baseball to any guy at the bar long before we can ever pick up any girl dancing on the bar.
We care about sports because they’re a chance to relate to others in a way that is both universal and deeply personal. Because one of the few times any of us really feel like Cornellians is while singing the alma mater before the third period at Lynah.
We care about sports because they’re not just a way to relate, but a chance to escape. Because some of us still fall asleep imagining themselves filling whatever position the Indians’ lineup currently needs and because more people than you think dream about being middle relievers.
It’s because we care about sports so much that for many of us whose athletic careers peaked in high school or before, we now find ourselves writing about sports.
While this is the last column I’ll write for The Cornell Daily Sun, when I took the job as an Assistant Sports Editor, it was the first column I knew I wanted to write.
On the day their column runs, every columnist checks The Sun’s website repeatedly hoping for comments not involving how to get generic prescription drugs. At least I do.
But the only opinion that really matters to me is my dad’s because for at least the past 14 years of my life, sports have been the best way I know to tell my dad that I love him. Every column, every recap, every feature I’ve written have been for you Dad. How ’bout them Indians?
Of course, none of what I write would make any sense if weren’t for the woman who’s edited all of my literary works since I learned to type. Thanks for cleaning up my grammar, Mom. I promise someday I’ll clean up my room.
Thanks to Tom and Eileen, without whom none of this would have been possible.
Thanks to my aunt Mary, for getting me those tickets to my first Indians game and for so much more. And thanks to my grandparents and aunts and uncles and cousins and all of my family. You guys mean the world to me.
Thanks to my amazing roommates and friends at Cornell. Every important thing I’ve learned at Cornell I’ve learned from you, Ben. Matt and Kirk, this column is as much yours as mine. Thank you for making me sound smart about sports. Friend Sam, I didn’t think you could fit that entire half a banana into your mouth, but I always knew you and Cornell’s Tae Kwon Do team would crush MIT this past weekend. Congratulations on bringing the championship back to Cornell where it rightfully belongs. Julie, you’re beautiful and amazing and I thank you for making my last year at Cornell, my best.
Thanks to Ms. Bach who was foolish enough to make me sports editor of the Ithaca High School newspaper. In many ways, this is all your fault and I am forever grateful because it led me to the Cornell Daily Sun.
The Sun’s office is located on 139 W. State St. and for a proud Townie, it’s about as close to home as I’ve come in college, without actually going home. I may be an only child, but for the past four years, you guys have been like brothers and sisters to me — or at least first cousins.
Thank you to Owen Bochner, Chris Mascaro, Brian Tsao, and Per Ostman. You are the guys I always looked up to, at least in the figurative sense for Beefy and Tsao. Owen, thank you for making the Sports section what it is today. Mascaro, you taught me the intangibles of being a Sports editor, by which I mean how to hit on Design and Photo. Tsao, you were the best beat partner a guy could ever want and someday I’ll beat you in tennis. Everything I know about interviewing I learned from you Per, and I everything I wish I was as writer, I read in your columns.
To my fellow Assistant Sports Editors, Tim Kuhls and Josh Perlin, thanks are not enough. Kuhls, baby, I couldn’t have gotten through our board without you, and Perlin, I can’t think of someone better to carry on our legacy.
To my Sports Editor, Olivia Dwyer, there is no other person I would have rather worked for. I am a better writer, a better editor and a better person today all because of you. You mean the world to me.
To the current crop of Assistant Sports Editors, you’ll know how I feel a year from now, but for this year, I want you to know how proud and impressed I’ve been with your work. Keep the faith, and don’t ever let News or Opinion out drink you, unless we’re talking about Michael Morisy or Carlos Maycotte. Those guys are legends.
Sports editors love to take credit for the work of their sportswriters, and I’ve been blessed with some of the best. Scott Reich is not only a great writer and columnist, but also a great guy to sit through the Vagina Monologues with. Thanks again Scotty. Devon Goodrich, Allie Perez and Meredith Bennett-Smith have all on numerous occasions left me wishing for a pair of X chromosomes to make me a better writer. What’s the best part about spending Friday night in Princeton after a basketball game? Hands down, Patrick Blakemore, who’s Tuesday columns I didn’t so much edit as marvel at.
Thank you to Erica, Rob, Will, Claire, Emily, Elliot, Jonny, Kyle, Vanessa, Rebecca, Olivia, Julie, Schroeder, and everyone else I’ve had the pleasure of working with at The Sun. Thank you to Wabel, Lady and all of my other readers. And finally, thank you to all the amazing teams, athletes and coaches at Cornell, for making all of this possible.
Paul Testa is a Sun Senior Writer. He can be contacted at ptesta@cornellsun.com. Cleveland Rocks appeared alternate Wednesdays.