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I would have been a surfer. Had I grown up near the waves. Alas, Cleveland.

During the height of the Viet Nam war, I spent the summer of 1968 with the family of my Uncle Colonel Pat in Hawaii, on Oahu. It was quite an adventure. I learned to play poker. I was 13. But the highlights came almost every day, when I ventured into the breaks at Barber’s Point and at a spot–Ones, Twos–off of Waikiki, with my cousin Chris and a neighborhood lad, Teddy. (The neighborhood was Fort Kamemeheha, situated at the mouth of Pearl Harbor, and located a half mile off the end of Hickam Air Force Base’s main runway.)

I was goofy foot and an excellent swimmer. Being a good swimmer came in handy because I spent a lot of time chasing after the 7 foot long Hobie board. The break at Barber’s topped out at about four feet. We made several forays into the summer break off of Waikiki. The size of the waves was similar but the waves were steeper. One day my cousin told me the break was close to six feet. He shunted me off to the edge of Ones, and there I had my only close call, when a soldier on R&R loosed his board right toward my head, forcing me to duck, then abandon my take off. This happened in about three feet of water on top of a coral reef. I just managed to escape getting a rub job from the reef. The other guy’s board missed the side of my head my inches.

Billabong, Teahoopu, Tahiti

The next summer my aunt and uncle had moved to Virginia. I visited, and we made one trip to Virginia Beach, but the boards stayed on the car because the conditions were much better for body surfing. Then, during the next summer of 1970, with a red Greg Noll board of my cousin’s that I had a share in, I vacationed with my family at Hilton Head. There the swells rolling in from all the way across the Atlantic didn’t offer much of a sturdy up-welling and break, so the only surfing, such as it was, happened in the roiling wash. Until a hurricane blew by in Florida, tripling the size of the waves, and causing the 8-10 foot swells to become steep enough to ride down, like sledding on a snow hill. But, it became immediately apparent that their ferocious all-at-once close out, close to shore, involved way too much water for me, intrepid and fearless as I was, to safely surf.

And that was the last time I paddled out into anything.

Lots of surfing videos on Youtube. (Search: Billabong Odyssey | example | mini-documentary) One thing I’m mindful of is that these monster waves in the following videos are breaking in very shallow water, say, a 30-60 foot wave breaking in under 8 feet of water. Scary.

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In the weeks during which the Cleveland Indians began to kick toward the Central Division crown, the lack of Jacobs Field sell-outs increasingly became the point of talk show conversation. Why weren’t the fans excited enough to start another string of sell-outs? After all, this 2007 team is somewhat in the same young and feisty mold of the legendary John Hart mini-dynasty of 1995-2001 (six crowns, two world series appearances.) Still, once the rebuilding phase commenced abruptly in 2002, the 455 sell out streak had long ended (2001.)

2006     78 84 .481 18.0 1,997,936
2005     93 69 .574 6.0 2,014,220
2004     80 82 .494 12.0 1,814,401
2003     68 94 .420 22.0 1,730,001
2002     74 88 .457 20.5 2,616,940
2001     91 71 .562 3,175,523
2000     90 72 .556 5.0 3,456,278
1999     97 65 .599 3,468,436
1998     89 73 .549 3,467,299
1997     86 75 .534 3,404,750
1996     99 62 .615 3,318,174
1995     100 44 .694 2,842,745
1994     66 47 .584 1.0 1,995,174

It is indicative of our town’s collective sports psychology that the basic reason given for the fans’ inability to ‘re-arouse’ themselves this year is that they won’t subject themselves to the potential heartbreak should they jump on the bandwagon and experience it to stall sometime at or before the final out of the world series.

This is nonsense of course. Psychology doesn’t work this way. Its ridiculous, uninformed assumptions presume the 10,000-15,000 fans who are staying away are all staying away for this reason. This implies the fans who are showing up come for other reasons but no other reasons exist for all other fans, fans who come out of the sports-happy demographic of northeastern Ohio and its population of 3 million peeps.

This reasoning ignores the 300,000+ fans who have watched the team recently on STO and assumes there is in this group a lack of motivation to see the team in person, even if it is okay to assume they all have stilled this anxiety-provoking potential for heartbreak.

Actually, it is worth suggesting that the in-person audience is highly correlated with the at-home audience. Perhaps the figure is about 10% of the former. Yes, fans have to be motivated to invest time in watching their favorite diamond sons play, but the total figure is quite dynamic and quite unlikely to move south simply because people will defer today’s pleasure against the complete uncertainty of anxiety-provoking results in the distant future.

My guess is that the perfect storm of a good young team and a new ballpark in a city stripped of their beloved, inept Browns (1996) and with a putrid NBA team, constituted a marketer’s perfect storm in 1995.

This said, the rationale behind the idea that a critical mass of fans is prevented from re-forming because of a collective fear says an ore boat’s worth about the longstanding narrative floated by ignorant sports commentators, commentators at least ignorant of social psychology! In effect, it’s a meme floated to support the chip on the shoulder even if the sample of truly disgruntled and fearful fans is given only by those both disgruntled yet motivated to blather on over the phone during call-in shows.

Go Tribe. They are a very dangerous team completely unaware of the idea that they aren’t this year’s cream of the crop. Consider a playoff starting rotation of Sabathia, Carmona, Byrd, with Westbrook, Betancourt, Perez coming out of the bullpen, Borowski at the backend, and the simple revival of hitting with runners in scoring position, and you have to like the Tribe’s chances.

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