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False equivalence and All-Star Games

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Maybe the Indians gave up Chief Wahoo to get the 2019 All-Star Game, maybe they didn’t. Cleveland is better off either way.

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MLB: All Star Game Tommy Gilligan-USA TODAY Sports

With no baseball actually being played for much of last week, I, like many of you readers I’m sure, felt a little lost. Lord knows José Ramírez did.

But where the goat can tweet his innocuous thoughts as he pleases, Cleveland.com probably should have followed the “never tweet” rule during the All-Star Game. Instead, they tweeted out yet another bad Photoshop, this time imploring fans to participate in an informal poll on whether the “choice” for hosting 2019 ASG was worth it.

The legend that the team swapped the Chief Wahoo logo for the privilege of hosting the ASG is banal. Whether or not it actually happened the way many imagine it, with Rob Manfred dangling the carrot of the ASG in return for the logo’s demise, really does not matter, because it is 2018 and if we’re not going to tolerate Josh Hader’s tweets we also should not have to tolerate red Sambo.

That last sentence surely riled some of you reading this, I know because I’ve had this conversation many times with my father. It culminates with my dad reflecting on how Wahoo has always been a part of his life, how losing it would be like losing a part of his past. To this I am not unsympathetic. It’s hard to find a picture of me as a student, from grade school through high school, where I’m not wearing some sort of Indians gear featuring Wahoo. Likewise, if you could rescue my notebooks from the recycling bins of yore you’d find countless Wahoos drawn in the margins. Hell, my bedroom used to have an Indians wallpaper border, the visage of Wahoo appearing every three or four feet.

I have the bona fides. I was one of you. But then I stopped thinking only about my experience. I tried to see things from someone else’s point of view. Suddenly, Wahoo wasn’t worth it.

Thus, I don’t buy the argument that losing Wahoo would be like losing a part of the past. My dad may have spent 30-odd more years on earth than I, but Wahoo was no less a part of his life than mine. And when Wahoo is gone we do not lose anything, just as I don’t miss anything when I look at this:

As far as I know, no one at SABR doctored that image, there’s simply just no Wahoo anywhere to be seen. I also don’t miss anything when I see this image:

No Wahoo, just a great ballplayer in a Cleveland uniform.

And that’s the crux of it, right? Jerry Seinfeld famously quipped, “You are standing and cheering and yelling for your clothes to beat the clothes from another city.” But, funny as it is, it’s not about the clothes: it’s about the city — our city — whether we live within it’s corporate limits or not. What we all love so much, the reason we come here to read and discuss Cleveland baseball, is not Wahoo, it’s the city and our affection for the team thta represents the city. Hell, why are there so many shirt companies succeeding in Cleveland? It’s not because of a Native caricature.

And when we go back and look at team history, is Wahoo really that big a part of it? Via the indispensable SportsLogos.net, we can see that the vast majority (23 of 28) of Indians caps since 1915 have featured a C rather than Wahoo, with the C being the primary cap for 71 of those 114 seasons. Likewise, the team’s jerseys have primarily featured “Cleveland,” “Indians,” or (the greatest jersey of all time) “Worlds Champions” rather than Wahoo 95 percent of the time since 1915 (53 of 56 jerseys).

Thus, the question that should be asked of fans is not “Was this a good choice?” but rather, “How can we continue to improve?” As detailed by Zack Meisel at The Athletic, hosting the 2019 ASG will allow the team to continue upgrading Progressive Field and bring an estimated $65 million to the city. If that was the trade off, the team and the city are surely better based on their decision. It’s also not hard to imagine a postseason in which color announcers are not discussing the logo on the cap, but instead the talent on the field and how accommodating the city has been.

That’s what progress looks like, and if an aesthetic choice so offends you, feel free to pledge your allegiance to another municipality’s baseball team. The Indians had the second-highest television rating among MLB teams at the break, so I’m sure there will be plenty of people in Cleveland willing to take your seat.