Last week, The Spike watched as the Arizona Diamondbacks lost the bid for the world championship. There was much drinking of beer, throwing of pompoms, and some smack talking involved, but The Spike tried to be a good sport -- after all, the Diamondbacks in five short years have made the playoffs three times, and have won the World Series once. The Spike still got to be a baseball fan a week into October. The postseason is like icing on the cake -- a free week of baseball no matter what.
Last week, some Tampa Bay Devil Rays fan watched reruns of Cops and listened to tropical storm warnings from the rabbit-eared TV. This guy's inaugural season poster of the Devil Rays was curling off the wall because of the dank Florida humidity, and the last thing on his mind was whether his team would win the big game. He knew from the first game that, once again, the Devil Rays were going to post more than 100 losses.
The guy in Tampa Bay would love just one day where he could even hope that his team might have a shot -- to be watching a rival team wipe the stadium floor with his team's bullpen in postseason play.
The Spike grew up in Phoenix -- the orphan city of Major League Baseball -- taking handouts where it could get them. The Spike used to go to spring training games -- naively thinking that the Oakland A's were the home team. The Spike dressed in green and yellow and wore a Jose Canseco jersey to every game. The Spike thought Oakland might be out by Peoria or something, in the land beyond the freeway. Then, The Spike showed a Mark McGwire foul ball to a cousin from California and was informed that, "You people don't have a baseball team. Oakland is in California. Phoenix is lame." The Spike was devastated.
So to get a baseball team in Phoenix was already a wet dream for The Spike. It certainly never expected in five years that its team would beat the cousin's Dodgers and go on to win the World Series. The Spike got a lot of "neiner-neiner" out of that win.
But now The Spike is a little worried about whether Phoenix merits being a baseball team city. In Tuesday's game, the Phoenix fans began clearing out as soon as it looked bad, which The Spike will admit was pretty much in the first inning. But by the seventh inning stretch, the stadium was only about half full. The Spike and companions had to sit alone behind Cardinals fans wearing red, waving the wrong color of foam finger, and shouting stupid things like "Go Pujols."
While The Spike understands that watching the 12-2 loss in the first game of the postseason was more painful than digesting a third Polish sausage, that's all just part of being a fan.
Being a fan is not just cheering when the home team wins and picking a favorite condiment in the mustard/ketchup/relish showdown. It's about supporting the team, cursing at the umpires, making up derogatory nicknames for the opposing team, and sometimes, it also means watching your beloved team suck so badly that it is almost audible.
The Diamondbacks sucked on Tuesday night. They sucked with an amazing level of precision. They got better Thursday and Saturday, but they still lost the chance to move on. The Spike is very upset about that. But if people in this city are only going to support the team when it wins, they are not fans. Maybe Phoenix was too long without a baseball team.
Even when the chips are down, half of our team is injured, and the Big Unit is having a bad night, the D-Backs can still kick the asses of the Tampa Bay Devil Rays. Leaving before they're finished playing like shit is like turning your back on a family member. It's like getting your kid into Little League and then saying, "Sorry, Junior, but you and the other kids suck, so Mom and I are going to taunt you, leave early, and start rooting for a better team."
Your kid needs you there even more when the team is down by 30 against the cross-town boys who already went through puberty. They need you there, saying, "We still love you." Even if, inside, you're thinking, "Christ, my kid is terrible," you put on that smile, you cheer anyway, and you never let on that you lost faith.
Fans who left on Tuesday night left our team when they were needed most. The Diamondbacks looked up into the stands and saw scads of empty green seats and triumphant, snotty Cardinals fans waving their damned red pompoms and acting like they were the reigning world champions. How can you expect a team to come back after that and win the whole thing for you?
The Spike would never advocate complacent fans who watched the team suck for a few years shy of a century and support them regardless. That would make us Cubs fans. But being a true fan means that, when push comes to shove, you're behind the team -- and if that support is so conditional that one game or even one season makes you leave in the sixth inning during the playoffs, you're just not a fan.
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So to the fans of the Minnesota Twins (The Spike's new favorite for the World Series), the New York Rangers, the Arizona Cardinals, the Chicago White Sox, the Tampa Bay Devil Rays, the Buffalo Bills, and the Diamondbacks fans still in the seats in the bottom of the ninth inning Tuesday night: The Spike applauds your dedication.
When the going got tough, you stuck in there. When everyone made fun of you, you still wore your big foam finger with pride. You are fans.
To the rest: The Spike hopes no one hurts themself falling off the bandwagon.-- As told to Quetta Carpenter
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