By Brian Bujdos
I was fully prepared to fill this space with a rant about $10 beers and $9 Philly cheesesteaks, but then she appeared on the scoreboard. It figures. I had just left section 329 to head downstairs to see if I could find a $50 beer near the good seats.
As a side note, I knew the hottest team in baseball would lose no matter what day I decided to go (and they did) but I was set on finding this woman nonetheless. Maybe you've seen her, the older lady with all the flags, the one who dances and gyrates around upstairs in the cheap seats, occasionally throwing a pom-pom or two into the routine, but mostly it's the flags. I've always just thought of her as "the flag lady."
When I see someone like this, I wonder what would possess someone to be such a fanatic. What would I find if I spoke with this lady? How weird could she be?
Her name is Cindy M. but her stash of flags and other memorabilia takes up enough room for Cindy A. through Cindy M. There are, seriously, 13 seats' worth of stuff spread all around in two different rows. I mean, there were more flags than at the United Nations.
To make a long blog a little shorter, she has been a season-ticket holder since 2002, the year after she and her husband divorced. In case you haven't seen her, she wears glasses, and her blond hair is cropped short and conservatively. She's polite and short, but not at all short on words.
In the matter of an inning and a half, I learned a lot about Cindy. She told me she now works two jobs as a dental assistant so she can pay for her tickets (she and her husband used to run a furniture-repair business), as well as an occasional road trip. It seems she knows most of the Diamondbacks on a friendly level, and vice versa. She even has team president Derrick Hall's cell phone number.
Turns out that Cindy has large (huge, 4 feet by 3 feet, I am guessing) individual flags for many of the Diamondbacks, and these satin pieces are always under construction. She explained to me the special meanings/designs of flags for Conor Jackson ("He soars"), Orlando Hudson ("As he goes on, he gets better"), Justin Upton ("He can't be boxed in") and Stephen Drew ("His is based on his faith, 40 tests and trials").
Apparently, Cindy has spoken with the Diamondbacks about how she designed each of these especially for them. She said Stephen Drew (the Diamondbacks' shortstop) and his wife, Laura, have requested for her to make three more flags, just like the one she waves for Stephen at the games, for their family.
Cindy said Luis Gonzalez (Game 7 hero of the 2001 World Series) asked for his flag when he left the team a couple of years ago, and has it framed in his office. Best I can tell, Cindy is not an unwanted presence at the games. In fact, in order to bring in an army's worth of wavable material, she must be accepted with open arms. She usually gets quite a cheer from fans when the cameramen show her on the scoreboard.
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"Some people have a creative vent and some don't," Cindy said. "I don't like to just sit down. I look at some of these fans around here and they're not having any fun, they're not even cheering."
Cindy volunteers some of her time with a girls ministry that focuses on the deaf, which she said is called Singing Hands. She plans to continue taking classes for sign language, and it seems many young people are drawn to her. Two boys named Taylor and Jesse were sitting with Cindy when I approached her, and like many of her D-Backs acquaintances, she has gotten to know them very well over the past five years. There's another family with a boy named Timmy that was 9 or 10 months old when Cindy met him, and now she attends his birthday parties.
As Cindy will tell you, "I don't smoke, I don't cuss, and I don't drink. I try to stay out of people's way." If Cindy has a vice, it's watching too much baseball. Even if the designs on those satin flags don't make any sense to me (and the Diamondbacks), it's easy to go along and smile.
Bottom line: Fanatics come in a variety of sizes and levels of sobriety. Believe me, I'd rather share a section with Cindy M. (and the United Nations) than Raider Nation any day.