If you’re reading this, then you’ve probably noticed that people who like Cleveland (and its sports) tend to stick together. While I’ll argue with almost anyone about almost anything, there’s a good chance that we’ll settle on wanting the same team to win, and that’s good enough.
With that strong community vibe, we get tiny little articles that mean nothing to the world but mean something to us. One of those tidbits I saw was about Brandon Weeden wearing an Indians shirt on the podium after a practice (or whatever these things are that they’re doing).
At first glance, who cares that he’s wearing an Indians T-shirt? Why should what shirt he’s wearing make any difference to anyone? It shouldn’t. But it does. The simplest way to become a fan favorite in Cleveland is to drink the Kool-Aid. All you have to do is make it seem like you love what’s going on in the city and that you’re a fan yourself and suddenly you’re the most lovable thing in town – puppies notwithstanding, of course.
If there was any doubt about this, take a look at Joe Haden. The Browns have had good players periodically over the last 15 years (not quite true, but work with me here) who have not necessarily been welcomed in the community. Similarly, it’s gone on in other sports – the Tribe and Cavs have had players who were tremendously talented but not personally adored.
There have been players who are loved from the fans’ point of view but everyone knows there’s something going on with them that we’ll never quite connect on. For instance, we loved when William Green was taking in 80-yard screen passes for scores, but we knew that we’d never understand how he “stabbed himself in the back” while “moving boxes.”
Haden is either truly loving it or he’s the best actor in the city. And we all love him for it. When he decks out in Cavs gear for the games or when he goes to the NBA draft lottery, that’s all stuff that he’s going out of his way to do in the interest of enhancing his public image. I know that he probably has a great publicist to encourage him to do those things, but he still does them. He doesn’t care about his “global brand” because he does care about his local brand.
What I’m getting at is this: Weeden wore a Tribe tee and it endeared him to the community. It’s that simple. He doesn’t have to do that, and no one should really care, but it matters. If Colt McCoy had been decking himself out in Cleveland gear from the start, I suspect he would have a longer leash.
Be honest with yourself and think about whether or not you would be more apt to give a guy a second chance if he were more likable. You know you would – that’s human nature. Joe Haden was asleep at the wheel when the Cincinnati Bengals scored the go-ahead quick-snap touchdown last season and we ultimately let it slide because we like Joe Haden. Sure, he makes up for it by doing things well for the overwhelming majority of time he’s on the field, but that one really burned.
We’re already turning the other way with Weeden, and that’s really going to help him out.
I would also love to see him don a weird jersey number and occasionally hide in the corner of the court and just knock down three-pointers all night for the Cavs, but I’m very selfish.