What’s with the Goat?

What is a goat? The obvious answer is that it’s those horned farm animals with the huge tongues that make a sound which is called “bleating.” Luckily for you, I don’t know much about those kinds of goats, so this is probably the last you’ll read me describing farm animals (hopefully). The term “goat” can also mean “a bad or inferior member of any group.” That definition finds its roots as a short form of the term “scapegoat” which of course refers to one individual who takes the blame for the failure of a group. The term is taken from the Old Testament of the Bible where the high priest of the Israelite people would symbolically place all the sins of the children of Israel onto one goat on the Day of Atonement and then said goat is sent out to the wilderness…where that poor unsuspecting goat is summarily eaten by wild beasts. Finally, the term GOAT is also an acronym for the Greatest Of All Time.

So what does the city of Cleveland have to do with a goat?

With the revitalization of the Flats you can no longer make the case that that area of town could pass for something that’s potentially inhabited by goats. And Cleveland is primarily a manufacturing city; agriculture isn’t really our thing.

Even after my long description of the definition of a scapegoat, I don’t think that has anything to do with Cleveland either. I mean, this isn’t Chicago where we make a scapegoat out of a literal goat.

However, when it comes to our sports teams it’s hard to defend the fact that generally speaking they could be described as “a bad or inferior member of a group.” The Browns since their re-birth in 1999 have only had two winning seasons and one appearance in the playoffs. The Cavs have only been to the Finals one time in their franchise history and that wonderful ride ended in a pathetic fourgame sweep. The Indians have come the closest to vanquishing the demons of the city, but naturally, as things always happen, Jose Mesa picked a terrible time to stop being the best closer in baseball.

The “Timeline of Terror” in Cleveland is so well known and gets thrown in our faces on ESPN so routinely it’s probably a hot key on the producer’s board in Bristol at this point. If they announced on SportsCenter that a sports team’s owner was being investigated by the FBI and the IRS, you’d have to guess that the team was from Cleveland, right?[1] From the Rocky Colavito trade to The Decision we’re all aware of the terrible events that haunt our nightmares…so why bother going through all of it? As the great Bill Simmons is constantly reminding…“The lesson as always: God hates Cleveland.”

However, as crazy as it may sound, all of that crap is part of what makes Cleveland so great. And in my humble opinion, Cleveland IS the GOAT of sports cities.[2] Considering everything that we’ve been through there’s no reason why we should still care about sports at all…especially not as much as we do. All things considered there’s no reason why fans should show up to support the Browns with as inept and pathetic as that franchise has been run since coming back to the league. Yet every summer the fans flock to watch training camp practice.[3] And for the home opener the Muni lot is packed hours before kickoff with thousands of people dressed like dogs, wearing ghastly orange and brown outfits that could never be considered appropriate for any other event in life save if you were a rodeo clown. The case could easily be made that the teams in Cleveland do not deserve any modicum of support, but we lavish our love on these squads like a cupid-struck teenage girl.

As Cleveland sports fans we like to fancy ourselves as being great die-hard fans of our teams. They never win and yet we stick with them through thick and (most of the time) thin. Lots of cities like to claim themselves as the most tortured fan base but no one has as great of a case as Cleveland. Red Sox fans liked to wear their 86-year title draught as a badge of honor while completely ignoring Russell, Bird, Belicheck and Brady. (I think they have a hockey franchise that’s also had some success.) Cubs fans can cry and complain about their hundred-plus years without a championship but I’m pretty sure they also had Jordan. Philadelphia has had Phillies and Flyers championships. Minnesota won a World Series title with the Twins in the 90’s and no Indians fan wants to hear the city of Atlanta complain about their losing struggles. Put it this way: there’s only one city about which ESPN is doing a 30 for 30 documentary about their fans…and that’s Cleveland.

The question naturally is Why do we still care about our sports teams? The answer is multi-faceted. Much of it is rooted in family of course. Being a Cleveland sports fan is a tradition that is passed down from father to son for generations. For many of us being a Browns or Tribe fan is as simple as My dad was a fan, so I am too. I’m a first-generation Cleveland fan having moved to Ohio from Connecticut when I was ten years old. But even though I live in Wisconsin now you’d better believe that I’m going to do everything in my power to make my son a Cleveland fan. There’s a Cavs flag hanging over his crib, a Browns banner over his changing table, an Ohio State flag on the opposite wall, and the only hat he owns is navy blue and bears a red block C. Ultimately, he can root for whoever he wants, but I will pull out every stop to make him to be a Cleveland fan like his dad.

The other part of the equation is more spiritual.

Faith—It’s a religious term referring simply to a belief in something that you cannot tangibly sense. Hebrews 11:1 in the Bible reads “Now faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen.” As a Christian I believe in God even though I’ve never seen, talked to, or touched God. I can make a strong case for His existence based on looking at the way the world is structured around us, events in my life, and the spiritual feeling in my heart. To many religious people, that explanation makes perfect sense but to many more I probably sound like a complete loon. And I’ll admit that while I can make what I believe to be a strong case for the existence of God, in the end it comes down to faith. I have to believe in something that I’ve never physically evidenced. This concept of “the evidence of things not seen” is a self-contradictory in nature. How can one believe that something will actually happen without any proof?

It’s the same with Cleveland sports. We believe that someday our faith will be rewarded with a championship. We have nothing (at least nothing in the past 50 years) to base this belief on. I’ve been told and read about past championships with the Browns under the great Paul Brown and behind the brilliance of Jim Brown. But I did not witness those events myself and nothing that I’ve seen from this current iteration of the Cleveland Browns has come anywhere close to a championship. So you see, we have to have faith that something (a Cleveland sports championship) will actually happen in our lifetime without any physical tangible proof to support that belief. That’s why it all comes down to faith. See, it’s easy to believe that your team can win a championship if you’re a Yankees, Lakers, or Patriots frontrunner fan. You have plenty of recent tangible evidence to support your belief and faith is nowhere in the picture. It’s easy to be a fan of teams like that. But to be a fan in Cleveland you have to be a special (some might say “crazy”) person to faithfully follow and support the Cavs, Indians, and Browns through all the lean years, constantly hoping, eternally praying, unflinchingly believing that you will live to witness a championship parade down Euclid Avenue. We are Cleveland. We are Believeland. And we are the Greatest Sports City Of All Time.

We are The GOAT.


[1] Well, at least since the passing of Al Davis you’d probably come to that conclusion.

[2] My mother, not much of a sports fan, provided the following alternate acronyms for GOAT that could apply to Cleveland: Go Out and Try; Grease, Oil, and Tar (smells of the city, she says); Girls Only Athletic Teams; and, actually one positive one, Go Out and Triumph.

[3] “We’re talkin’ about practice man!”

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One thought on “What’s with the Goat?

  1. Pingback: Reaction to Zach Lowe’s piece on the Cavs Lottery Crew | Cleveland the GOAT

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