Guardians of Traffic

The Hope Memorial Bridge crossing the Cuyahoga River into Cleveland.

Go Guardians.

Doesn’t quite roll off your tongue yet?

Give it time. Give it time.

After this baseball season ends, the Cleveland Indians will be called the Cleveland Guardians.

I cheered at the announcement. I worried they would pick the Spiders (too creepy) or the Blues (too depressing) or the Walleyes (too wacky.)

We knew change was coming when the team retired Chief Wahoo in 2018. The racist caricature of a Native American was deemed “no longer appropriate for on-field use in Major League Baseball” by the MLB commissioner.

Then the murder of George Floyd kicked off months of social unrest and protests that finally woke up a lot of white people to right the wrongs of racial injustice and insensitivity.

To those who say that only a few Native Americans protested using the name “Indians,” that could be because there are so few Native Americans left to protest. The white men who invaded their country killed them off.

The name change was bound to happen. When money talks, racism walks. That’s why protesters target sponsors. The Washington Football Team dropped “Redskins” from its name only after pressure from sponsors, including FedEx, which paid $205 million for naming rights to the stadium. The team plans to choose a new name next year.

Our ball club did its due diligence. It met with Native American groups both nationally and locally, reached out to 40,000 fans and conducted 140 hours of interviews before deciding on the Cleveland Guardians.

Here are 10 reasons to love the new name:

1. Our Guardians of Transportation stand 43 feet tall outside the stadium, sort of like angels looking out for us all. Those art deco sandstone statues on the Hope Memorial Bridge are one of a kind. They’re pure Cleveland. They’re steadfast, loyal, proud. They’re artsy, funky, weird and whimsical. They’re rugged, strong and heroic looking, kind of like eight superheroes in a town that gave the world Superman.

2. There are endless marketing opportunities to use the Guardians of Transportation. Right now, the eight statues hold various kinds of vehicles. They could hold a base, home plate, a ball, a bat, a glove, a beer, a hot dog and a World Series trophy.

3. The word “guardian” has such positive connotations to back up our slogan, “Cleveland Against the World.” We are defenders and protectors of the land.

4. Now we can focus on winning. The great distraction is over. No more debates over whether the team has a derogatory name. No more division. No more protests outside the stadium.

5. It puts us on the right side of history. “It’s not about us. It’s about other people,” Indians manager Terry Francona said. “We are trying to be extremely respectful and I’m really proud of our organization.”

6. The script Guardians still has a lot of the Indians left in it, the d-i-a-n-s. We kept most of the name and the font nearly matches the old.

7. Our colors don’t change. We’re still red, white and blue.

8. Cleveland still has a Major League baseball team. They aren’t selling the team or moving it. Rumors had been swirling. The name change puts them to rest. As local comedian Mike Polk pointed out, “As of 2018, there were 19,495 incorporated cities in the United States, and we are one of just 29 that has a big league team.”

9. The Guardians remind us to hope. Something every Tribe fan has deep down inside, no matter how the season ends.

10. The name change officially ends the Curse of Rocky Colavito. The Curse prevented the Cleveland Indians from winning a World Series. We haven’t won it since 1948. The curse came about in 1960 when right fielder Colavito was traded to the Detroit Tigers. The Curse says nothing about the Guardians.

OK, so none of that eases the pain of losing the Indians after 106 years.

As Polk told Clevelanders in a video, “To be clear, you’re allowed to be bummed out that your baseball team’s name is changing, and having affectionate memories for the identity of the team that you grew up watching doesn’t make you intolerant. It just makes you human.”

Change is hard. In “A League of Their Own,” Tom Hanks told us, “There’s no crying in baseball.” We’re allowed to shed some tears over this.

But remember, Hanks also said this in that beautiful video announcing the future of our team: “There’s always been Cleveland. That’s the best part of our name.”

Yes, the most important part of our name stays the same.


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