Opinion: 'Cleveland Guardians' is fine – but MLB fans' memories should be about more than a name

To many Cleveland sports fans, there was never going to be a right choice for a new baseball team name.

It had to be “Indians” or it wasn’t going to be good enough. It was the name they grew up on, no matter what decade or era of Cleveland baseball that was. It was the name they saw rise from the ashes during the 1990s and become an annual contender. It was the name that was nearly carved into the 2016 World Series trophy after an epic seven-game series with the Chicago Cubs. It was the name for every baseball memory of their lifetime.

And I know all of this to be true because I’m one of those fans.

I grew up in Northeast Ohio, where I was – and still am – a diehard fan of the team. I rallied around players from the 1980s such as Tom Candiotti, Cory Snyder, Candy Maldonado and Doug Jones, when avoiding 100-loss seasons was a good year. And I’ve stuck by them – in great and heartbreaking times – ever since.

It’s officially the end of an era, true, but at last we can move on. The uncertainty is over. They didn’t pick Spiders (a fan favorite) or Rockers (not a fan favorite) or any of the plethora of other names whispered and rumored over the course of this search that began in June 2020.

The ballclub announced the name change Friday.
The ballclub announced the name change Friday.

I can understand the myriad emotions running through the fan base after the organization announced it will officially move forward as the Cleveland Guardians after the 2021 season. It will be the fifth name in franchise history, having used “Indians” since 1915. The announcement marked the conclusion to a three-year phasing out of the team’s old “Chief Wahoo” logo in 2018 and the decision to part with team name amid pressure from Native American groups and Major League Baseball.

It’s Guardians, and the most Cleveland way to respond to the decision would be to say this: It could’ve been so much worse.

It’s not like Guardians came from nowhere. It wasn’t just a desperate attempt to rid the organization of its controversial team name. There’s a history with it and the city that stems from the Hope Memorial Bridge, which hovers over the Cuyahoga River just outside Progressive Field. The bridge is known for its gigantic “Guardians of Traffic” statues that have been standing since the 1930s and are said to be protectors of transportation and symbols of progression.

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To some, that explanation might be good enough. Others might hate it or find it confusing when there were seemingly more appropriate options on the table. I fall somewhere in between but find that I’m mostly good with it because it was a change that had to be made and now the waiting is over.

Whether or not we like the new name, it doesn’t take away from the tradition or history.

A new name doesn’t erase all those ballpark memories. It’s still Cleveland baseball, and that’s the most important thing.

This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: Cleveland Guardians: MLB team's history about more than a name