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The happy and sad involved in loving a team

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During the pandemic pause, SB Nation has come up with different themes to help us fill blank spaces in our content calendar. We’ve done Marvel Week, What If Week, and Underdog week. Each of these themes have allowed us to explore sports in a different and unique way. This week SB Nation is having us explore sports in a more personal way by giving us the theme “Sports moments that made us cry”.

Before I dive into this article, you should probably know a lot of things make me cry. On any given day you can find me tearing up over both beautiful and ugly things. So, you can only imagine the amount of times sports have made me tear up in my lifetime. Despite my ability to apparently cry on the drop of a dime, there is only one sports team which has moved me to tears well over 10 times.

In the spring of 2017, I applied for a social media internship with the Akron Racers, a local professional softball team. I wasn’t expecting anything from it. A 31 year old with no degree and not currently in college knows the possibility of landing an internship over a college student is very slim. Which is why I was completely floored when Laura Wheeler offered me the internship during my in person interview. This was the first time the Akron Racers moved me to tears and it would not be the last.

The next set of tears came during orientation when the owner/gm of the Racers, Joey Arrietta, asked us to introduce ourselves by stating our name, college, and major. When it was my turn I simply stated, “Elaine Shircliff. The old, uneducated intern.” Some people laughed at the quasi joke I made.Some stayed silent. Joey, on the other hand, looked at me and said, “You are not old.You are experienced.. You are not uneducated. I saw your resume. You were able to find ways to learn without school. You are wise and full of knowledge and life lessons.” I cried the entire drive home because it was the first time in years that someone acknowledged my talents, resolve, and ability to adapt without questioning why I didn’t have a degree to back it up. For Joey, at that moment, it was enough. She and Laura still expected me to grow, learn, and add to my repertoire while I was interning.

Photo Credit: Elaine Shircliff

When the Racers were on the road or didn’t have a game I would often bring my computer to Firestone Stadium, sit in the stands, and craft tweets and map out posts. The amount of times I teared up while doing this is astronomical. Being in the stadium and looking out at the field while working was literally a dream come true. Not a day went by where I didn’t recognize how lucky I was to be a woman working in sports surrounded by other strong women who were constantly lifting one another up.

Those strong women made me cry more than I can count. Mostly due to the fact players like Sam Fischer, Sami Fagan, Haley Fagan, Ashley Thomas, Shellie Robinson, and Racers super fan Anthony Hartwig had me laughing so hard I couldn’t see on a daily basis. Then there was the neverending support Jaylin Ford, Emily Seibers, Emily’s family, and the “Stay in Softball” program showed me throughout the season. Especially when I stepped in to be the in-game host and sing the National Anthem. Every single player, staff member, and fan touched my life during the summer of 2017. I’m pretty sure at some point every single person I came in contact with made me cry. It was truly a special season.

We got to experience magical moments like Shellie Robinson hitting a walk off three-run home over world famous softball pitcher Monica Abbott. It was the greatest come from behind win I have ever seen in my life. Robinson also ruined Abbott’s no hitter during the first game of the 2017 Cowles Cup playoffs. I can’t even begin to describe how beautiful it was to watch a strong, confident woman come into the league and have a strong showing against one of the best pitchers in the world.

My favorite memory of that season will always be the game where my family and a few close friends celebrated my dad being 21 years free of cancer. The whole day was a dream.I’ll never forget the smile on his face while chatting it up with Laura Winters during warmups or the way Kelley Montalvo hugged my dad after he threw out the first pitch. This was also the game the Racers clinched a spot in the playoffs over the Texas Charge.

After the game, the Charge began to clean both dugouts. Why? Because they overheard my dad and mom say they would be waiting up for me so we could have a few celebratory drinks to celebrate my dad’s big day.The Charge had just been knocked out of playoff contention. They could have easily gotten on their bus and hit the road. No one would have batted an eye or been upset over it. Instead, they helped me clean both dugouts and picked up trash in the section of the stands I was in charge of that night. I cry every darn time I reminisce about that day. The amount of love, compassion, and strength people showed my family that day will always move me to tears.

BUT, as the saying goes, all good things must come to an end.

In January 2018, I was sitting in Quicken Loans Arena (now Rocket Mortgage Fieldhouse) trying to pound out a Cleveland Monsters recap when one of the players dm’d me on twitter to talk about the team shutting down and possibly moving to another venue. I was incredibly shocked and didn’t see it coming. Joey Arrietta has been a staple of the softball community for my entire life and the team was taken from her in a blink of an eye.

After writing my article, I rushed home from the arena, opened a bottle of wine, and went to work trying to save as much as I could from the social media sites.I fielded calls and messages from the other interns and players from around the league. All of us in disbelief that this had happened to the Racers, Joey Arrieta, and the city of Akron. Then, fans and parents started reaching out asking me questions I didn’t know the answers to. No one had answers. Not a single person. So. I just kept pouring myself wine and saving posts. Just when I finally came up with a good method for saving Facebook posts, the website reloaded and everything disappeared.

For over an hour, I ugly cried thinking about how everything I worked hard for that summer was gone. All the fan memories, gone. All the crappy photoshops I made, gone. All the good photoshops other people made, gone. All of the history of the team from before I got there was gone. Everything was gone.

To this day, I still don’t know if the NPF has any of the Racers social media posts saved for historical purposes. It will always be jarring to me to go online and not see traces of the team I love.

The saddest part of sports will always be when a team shuts down.

I will forever pour one out for the Racers at the start of every softball season.