Many consumers of sports are indiscriminate. I am one of those who are not.

I’m a fan of Cleveland sports: the Browns, Indians and Cavaliers (and the Ohio State Buckeyes football team). Indians spring training games begin this week in Goodyear, Ariz. As batters take their first swings and pitchers throw their first innings there and elsewhere around the league, the air is filled with a sentiment all too rare for many months: hope.

This is the last year I will be able to write that, as next year the Tribe will be something else. Perhaps the Cleveland Blue Sox, or, God forbid, the Cleveland Spiders or Rockers. The Midges would work, given the tiny bugs’ outsize role in Cleveland sports lore, but I am hoping for the Blue Sox. Regardless, the Indians are retiring the name after this season for the right reason. Some people object to it, and sports should not begin from a premise that traditions and feelings ought to be ignored simply because others have long attachments to a particular name. The Washington Football Team’s seemingly untraumatic transition away from its old moniker has been educational for everyone. The real fans, they stick around. They love the game and the players.

And there’s plenty of reason for those fans to have hope. There have been setbacks for the Tribe, including the offseason trade of Francisco Lindor and Carlos Carrasco to the Mets. But Terry Francona, remains baseball’s wiliest manager, the pitching rotation is still one of the league’s best, and superstar Jose Ramirez continues at the hot corner. Like the Indians, the Browns and Cavaliers have smart coaches leading promising collections of young talents. There are many years of hope ahead for all three clubs (and always for the Buckeyes).

And though every spring training brings fans across the country hope, this year it is particularly special. Last year I wrote about a home opener postponed. We were all naive then, even folks like me who had been ringing the fire bell about the virus from early January 2020 on. I thought we’d pass through a fire and then figure it out. I was a year off. A very long year.

Now it isn’t just Israel that is on the verge of reopening, but vast swaths of America. I turned the magic 65 this week, and two days later, CVS had done what three government-operated websites could not do: schedule me for a vaccine and a second dose to boot. In a matter of weeks, I’ll be able to resume the somewhat hectic life of a radio talk show host, zipping around the country, visiting markets and doing affiliate events. It will be wonderful. I used to hate the travel schedule. Now I will appreciate every TSA line. Normalcy beckons.

And the Indians will be at Progressive Field starting April 5. Crucially, there will be fans in the stands. There will be limited capacity at first, more and more as the year rolls out, and full crowds again before long — not just for the pros, but at high schools and club teams for junior high kids in all sorts of sports across the land. Fans loudly cheering and lustily booing. Television cameras will be able to pan the stands and not see cutouts, but kids with mitts hoping for a foul tip at Progressive Field, and freezing thousands at FirstEnergy Stadium, hard on Lake Erie, willing the Browns toward a promised land never yet visited … a Super Bowl.

What a great year 2021 will be. A half-million won’t be here to enjoy it. Tens of millions across the planet will miss their games. So savor ours.

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