Life and politics from the Sunshine State's best city

Jennifer Ungru: Indians fans embrace “Cleveland Against the World” challenge

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Admit it. You’ve made a Cleveland joke. We’ve provided plenty of material.

Many great moments in sports play like the reel of the Agony of Defeat for Cleveland fans. Ten-Cent Beer Night. The Drive. The Fumble. The Shot. Game 7. The Decision. 26 starting quarterbacks since 1999.

Every Clevelander has a pit in their stomach knowing the good can be taken away with just one play. We have a chip on our shoulders because it has always been Cleveland Against the World.

That is our mindset as the World Series begins tonight against the Chicago Cubs.

I grew up playing tag in the empty stands at Municipal Stadium and skipping school for Opening Day at the Jake. I was at the Coliseum in 1992 after Chicago called us cream puffs and marshmallows. And in 1996, as I headed to college in Baltimore, I learned Art Modell was moving there, too.

Yet we continue to watch, hope, and cheer. We are unbreakable that way. But the fear of heartbreak was always there. We commiserated together. “Waiting ‘til next year” or “just once before I die” were our memes.

But the city has been transformed. Once abandoned buildings have been repurposed. This new identity is putting Cleveland back on the map.

And this year, people noticed. It’s different. I was flooded with almost penitent emails during the RNC Convention with friends telling me they had wrongly judged my beloved city.

In June, we learned what the Thrill of Victory meant. The Cavs brought a championship home, the first since 1964. I couldn’t stop smiling. My girls get to grow up in a world where being a Cleveland fan isn’t greeted with pity.

For Game One of the American League Divisional Series (ALDS), I watched with my whole family, 23 of us, three generations of Indians fans. My girls, in their new Indians gear, watching baseball with their 10 cousins looked like a Norman Rockwell painting.

Understand, the soul of this rust belt city is unmatched. Other Cleveland athletes show up and support each other. East 4th Street is a scene straight out of Major League, everyone in Tribe gear. Fans nearly bought out Ryan Merritt’s wedding registry as a Thank You for his part in bringing us to the World Series.

This road to the World Series has been bumpy, but the team stayed loose, played hard, and had fun. Not even a drone could take us down. I pulled over on I-10 just to hear Tom Hamilton play-call as the Indians clinched.

Today, as the Tribe steps onto the field at the corner of Carnegie and Ontario, the Cavaliers are next door beginning the season as World Champions. Even with so much excitement — it is still Cleveland Against the World.

We know casual viewers will be Cubbies, but that’s ok. Because for us, Rally Together isn’t some cheesy hashtag, but encompasses the very essence of Cleveland. Nothing comes easy. Everything is earned, and we will do it together.

In the words of Jake Taylor, so perfectly played by Tom Berenger in Major League, “I guess there’s only one thing left to do …”

With four more wins, there will be a Party at Napoli’s!

___

Jennifer Ungru is a corporate affairs adviser for Jones Walker LLP in Tallahassee. This transplanted Northeast Ohioan is a former Chief of Staff at the Florida Agency for Health Care Administration and a Deputy Chief of Staff for Gov. Rick Scott.

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