Tuesday, July 10, 2012

Baseball: Family Ties

A little rumination on our national pastime during the All-Star Break...

As I young child growing up Southern California I rooted for both the Angels and Dodgers, but eventually I became aware that my family was Angels' fans, and for reasons I never entirely determined they didn't root for the Dodgers and without specific reasons my affinity for the team playing in Chavez Ravine fell away and preference for the team playing at "the Big A" was set. It made no more sense than that. And although I went to games for both teams it was only the team in Anaheim that had my heart.

Should family ties have held such sway over me? Perhaps not, but I imagine that's how most sports affiliations start; either one is indoctrinated into rooting for the team one's family roots for, or one goes contrarian and specifically goes against that team—perhaps to spite the family or merely to forge one's separate sports identity. I had insufficient reason to rebel at that tender age, so there you go. Then my family had a share of Angels season tickets and we went to numerous games each season (and Dodger games were only once in a while) things in my mind were set.

In high school my friends were more Dodger fans but we'd go to opening day for both teams each season (because we lived close enough to two major league teams, so why wouldn't we?); when at Dodger Stadium I'd certainly half-heartedly root-root-root for the home team because at a game to not root for either team is rather pointless; the event is an exercise in picking a side (even if not with any significant emotional investment) and being elated when that team succeeds or being dejected when they fail. But when at a Dodger game a loss was not as saddening as the same result at an Angel game.

After the 1986 season, when the Halos were literally one strike away from going to their first World Series and blew it (which I got to witness from the upper deck), I had to remove my broken sports heart from actively rooting for them; it was simply too draining to put my allegiance behind them. It might have been rising maturity or mere pragmatic necessity but I simply could not allow myself to be that devastated again.

Later in adulthood I came back around to rooting somewhat more equally (albeit more reservedly) for both of our local teams, but with the introduction of regular season interleague play (where the teams would square off in series twice each season) I'd still be pulling for the team with the "A" on their caps more than for the ones with "LA" on theirs, but outside of that I'd hope the boys in blue would win. Just because decades earlier my family preferred only one team didn't mean I couldn't put my (emotionally restricted) support behind both. Perhaps had I never been heartbroken by my childhood team I'd have seen the other as too much of a rival to feel anything but quasi-hate toward them merely on principle, but given how things did play out I could go back to what surely must be the most na├»ve position one can have—the one I'd started with as a young child.

There's something to be said for being too young to know better.


Of course, in more recent years I've added a third team to that equation. Because my wife hails from the Motor City I have adopted the Tigers as one of the teams for which I root as well. Granted, the Tigers weren't ever a team against which I'd rooted like, say, the Yankees, so bringing them into the fold was not a challenge; it certainly was easier than rooting for the Angels has been for her, for example.

Now, when the Tigers play the Angels (or even the Dodgers) it's still something of a challenge to favor them over our home town clubs, but it is such that when the players with the "D" on their caps are victorious I'm not that bothered; whatever the outcome, one of my teams got a win.

Should marriage have that effect of essentially resetting the sports allegiance?

Only if you're married to the right person.


This spread allegiance does hold its drawbacks, of course. A few years ago my wife and I went to Dodger Stadium with a friend of ours who is a big Dodger fan, for an interleague game against the Tigers. So I was essentially rooting for each team alternately; when the Tigers did something well I'd cheer for them, to the dismay of our friend, and when the Dodgers did something well I'd cheer for them, to the dismay of my wife.

That was a bit of a lose-lose scenario.

There's undoubtedly a reason we haven't been to any Dodger games since. (And the Angels? Don't ask. I don't remember, but George H.W. Bush may still have been in office the last time I set foot in their stadium. As I said: heartbroken in '86.)

(Not that I wasn't pleased when they won the Series in 2002. As I said, still a tempered fan, just not one who feels compelled to be there in person.)


The last baseball game we actually attended was last year when down in San Diego. Our hotel was in the Gaslamp district, literally a block from Petco Park. Given the proximity we took in a midweek game against the Phillies, and we adopted the Padres as our team for the night. Of course, the Padres were (and continue to be) pretty bad, so it was as much rooting for the underdog as the home team. It was a nice stadium, and when buying a hot dog I could see our hotel from over the railing, so it was certainly the easiest time I'd ever had getting back from a game to the place where I would sleep that night. As such, it allowed us to partake of several beers without having to worry about driving home afterward.

Getting a responsible buzz on: there's something we all can root for.

1 comment:

  1. The Dodgers ceased to matter when they left Brooklyn. ;-) Not that Brooklyn is wonderful, but baseball is all about tradition. You don't move a baseball team from its hometown.


So, what do you think?