i was born a sports fan. i spent the first fifteen or so years of life in denial.
in a town where local team scores often outweighed international affairs in the local paper, I rebelled against the constant sports coverage. on summer Sundays, when my family would come home from church, grill hot dogs, and settle down in front of the Cubs game, I would hang out in the family room with them (after all, i was hungry), but i would bring a book along and read the innings away. i would perk up, usually, for Harry Caray’s famous seventh-inning stretch, but not for much else.
Though I couldn’t care less about the RBI of Andre Dawson and Mark Grace, i was outfitted, along with my brother, in Cubs tshirts, and I knew where my loyalty was supposed to lie. We occasionally took family vacations to Wisconsin (it was an easy drive, pretty, and not too expensive), and since Milwaukee is infinitely friendlier to non-city drivers than Chicago was, my parents chose County Stadium for our first major league game, watching Paul Molitor and Robin Young play for the Brewers. From those trips, we had a secondary allegiance to Milwaukee’s team, and by sheer geographical proximity a warm fuzzy feeling when the Twins won the series for Minnesota in 1987, but the Cubs – the Cubs were always our family’s team.
Sometime in high school, I started to take an interest in basketball, football, and the actual mechanics of baseball. Home from college on holiday, I admitted to my parents that I occasionally turned on ESPN in my dorm room and watched a game, independent of familial coercion. I think their jaws dropped.
Now, in my late twenties, I am a confirmed sports fan living in a city that boasts teams for MLB, NHL, NFL, and the NBA. Aside from Chicago, my adopted home of Philadelphia may house the most tortured yet intensely loyal sports fans in the US – the Phils, the Eagles, the Flyers, and the Sixers have all avoided winning a cup, ring, trophy, or title since 1983, I think, and yet the town bleeds Eagles green, Phillies/Sixers red, or Flyers orange, depending on the season. But I have not forgotten my roots! Wearing my Cubs cap, I have boldly trod into Citizens Bank Park to cheer on the Cubbies for the last three years, finally and reluctantly missing their visit this year because of unavoidable work commitments.
Last weekend, I finally got to the park to see a game. The Phillies have had a pretty good season, but they were up against Randy Johnson and the D-backs, so … well, they lost. But it was fun, because I was there with friends visiting from England. As the resident Philadelphian among us, I was really beginning to feel like I ought to represent my adopted city properly. I’ve never had anything against the Phillies (their only fault is not being the Cubs!), and they’re such a part of the city I love, so…. I bought another hat.
It’s been four years now since I moved to Philadelphia; two since I moved into (nearly) the heart of the city. It’s about time I started to show some local pride, I think! I felt quite Philadelphian at the park, and on the Broad Street line, crammed against other Phillies fans, after the game. But when I got home, I almost felt the need to apologize to my old Cubs hat – to reassure it that my loyalties would always, ever, lie foremost with the boys in blue. So Phillies, I’m enjoying my rookie year as a proper fan. But forever and ever (amen), my loudest cheers, my deepest allegiance… well, you just can’t go against the way you were raised…