Seven Life Lessons From The World’s Greatest Baseball Fan, John J. Adams – Forbes
A legend is defined as a person who has become famous as the result of a unique characteristic or skill. John J. Adams of Cleveland, Ohio, has become a legend in the realm of major league baseball and is arguably the most dedicated fan ever.
Starting in 1973, at the age of 21, John began consistently attending home games for the major league Cleveland Indians baseball team. He comes with his large bass drum and beats it to get fans clapping and cheering at key points during a game. The tradition originated in the old Cleveland lakefront stadium and now continues in its modern-day replacement, Progressive Field.
In 44 years, John has only missed 44 games. Day in and day out, in the snow, sleet, rain and sunshine, Cleveland baseball fans can count on John to lead them in cheering on their favorite team. In that time, John has become the only fan to have a bobblehead created in his honor. And the locally-owned Great Lakes Brewery has even created a beer named after John, called Rally Drum Red Ale®.
I heard about John’s legendary status and came to know him personally as he lives across the street from me in Brecksville, Ohio, a suburb of Cleveland. During the Indians’ impressive recent 22-game winning streak, John and I exited a game, and I noticed dozens of fans coming up to get their picture taken with him.
I sat down with John recently to learn more: How does one become a legend, and what life lessons would he want to share with others? Below are a few lessons he outlined from our chat:
1. March to the beat of your own drum — discover your dreams, and have many of them.
John used to play a drum with the cheerleaders in high school to get a crowd going, and he knew he loved to play that role, so he continued on a grander scale with a major league team.
Beyond this, John also lived out his passions in his career (a day job that paid the bills) and through pursuing many roles in the volunteer sector. He believes passions can be found in all areas: work, hobbies, volunteering and relationships with friends and family members.
All passions should be lived out for fulfillment. You might say that John’s advice can be summed up in the phrase “march to the beat of your own drum.”
2. Don’t listen to those who try to discourage you.
John states, “I guarantee someone will tell you it can’t be done, or you’re a fool. They’re wrong. If everyone were afraid of being laughed at, we wouldn’t have inventions like electricity. That’s what life is; nothing existed until somebody did something.”
3. Go out there and do it: Just get started.
Once dreams are identified, it’s time to go out and start making them happen, one step at a time.
4. Don’t give up — persist.
Some dreams take longer to fulfill; stick with it.
5. Becoming a legend is not intentional; it’s a by-product of doing what you love.
John added, “I never set out to become famous or to become a legend. It just happened as I just set out to do what I loved.”
6. Be flexible; things don’t always go as planned. And be prepared for opportunities.
“You can plan all you want in life, but life tells you what is going to happen,” John asserted. “Education gives you the tools to do multiple things and do what you want to do. My dad told me, ‘everyone says they’re waiting for their ship to come in, but if you don’t have a dock ready, it never will.’”
7. Have fun and keep your priorities straight.
John stated that the reason he’s kept going and has rarely missed a game in 44 years is not so much dedication as it is the “love of the game” and “having fun.” He states, “If I ever stop having fun, I will stop going to the games.”
It’s important to have the right priorities. John says he has never missed work because of a game, but he has missed a game due to work or volunteer teaching. Life and work must be balanced.
As we ended our interview, John shared some stories about baseball games and people he has met over the past four decades. “I’ve met people from every continent except Antarctica — because no penguins have come to our baseball games,” he joked.
He recalled Len Barker’s perfect game on May 15, 1981, and previous trips by the Indians to the World Series in 1997 and 2016. A difficult night was game seven of the World Series in 2016, in which the Indians narrowly lost to the Chicago Cubs.
The Indians made it to the 2017 playoffs, but were eliminated in the final game of the Division Series by the New York Yankees. They last won in 1948, making them the team with the longest championship drought in major league baseball. Win or lose, you’ll find John living out one of his many passions, banging his bass drum and leading fans to cheer on his favorite team.