CLEVELAND — The moment has arrived.
Cleveland's baseball team has played its final game carrying the storied team name "Indians." The identity of the club has now been changed forever, and fans are understandably emotional about the situation.
A chapter in our lives has come to an end — a long and illustrious chapter filled with plenty of emotion, a good amount of pain (we won't talk about that) and countless happy moments and memories that will last a lifetime. Whether it was Feller or McDowell or Thome or J-Ram, the Tribe has likely shaped your childhood, just like it did mine.
Fans knew this was coming since the organization announced it was exploring a name change last summer (perhaps even sooner than that). During the subsequent year-plus, I have written extensively on the topic, from the origins of "Cleveland Indians" to the pros and cons of the most notable possibilities that could be chosen as the team's new moniker. Suffice to say, people across Northeast Ohio are sharply divided over this topic, and there is no shortage of passionate opinions on either side.
Team owner Paul Dolan said it was time for the team to evolve. The club wanted to move past a name many felt was divisive, and now its leaders, its players, and its fans will now hopefully start turning attention back to what will best bring everyone together: winning baseball games.
When I published my series on the top choices for the new identity, it quickly became clear there was not going to be an obvious choice among the possible replacement names. The options either seemed too overdone ("Rockers"), too bland ("Cleveland Baseball Club"), or too well established ("Buckeyes"). Even "Spiders" — the top vote-getter in our poll — had a strong contingent of detractors, either because of the previous franchise's sorry demise or a fair amount of people not keen on having an eight-legged creepy crawler as a logo.
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In the end, "Guardians" emerged as the safest pick, the least likely to stir up ridicule or accusations of insensitivity (i.e. the polar opposite of Indians and Chief Wahoo). It's also fairly close "Indians," so perhaps people can ease into it.
Plenty of fans are still plenty upset (that was going to happen no matter what name was selected), but it seems like a majority either like the name or have decided to at least try to accept it. I am confident those who are angry now will come around in due time, particularly if the Guardians start winning.
Will local partisans still miss the Tribe? Of course, and that's perfectly okay. It's only natural to develop an attachment to something that’s provided countless joy in your life. For me personally, those joyful memories will involve things like getting an autographed baseball from Jim Thome on my eighth birthday, feeling the electricity in the stands during the 2016 ALCS, and the awe I felt the first time I saw the script "Indians" sign atop the scoreboard.
But the most important part of the name, after all, is "Cleveland," and that's why we must keep things in perspective. They won't be the "Indians" anymore, but the team, the franchise, and the history remain. None of our memories will be cheapened or erased, nor will the new memories we make be less significant because they will now be made by "Guardians."
Some of you probably saw a sign from last Monday's final Indians home game that read, "Relax, we're becoming the Guardians, not the Ravens." Countless fans still remember the pain of not having our beloved Browns for three years. This is not that, and the two situations shouldn't ever be compared.
Unlike the NFL from 1996-98, there will be Major League Baseball in Cleveland in 2022 and for many years to come. It's sad that most of us never got to witness the Indians win a World Series, but that won't make it any less exciting when the Guardians finally do.
We will never forget the glee and elation the Cleveland Indians brought us, but it's time to look to the future. It's time to move on, together.