There is a good chance that I am about to anger some people.
It’s not easy being a Padres fan. I’ve said it before, it’s rough when you consistently have a team that you know is going to underperform. We have spurts of greatness- 1998, 2005, 2006. Realistically, those have been just chance years. We can never expect to have a good season. We hold onto hope, we keep the faith, and the true fans cheer all season long. That’s what makes Padres fans great baseball fans. In fact, that’s what makes all fans of the consistently terrible teams such great fans. We punish ourselves by hoping every year for something different. I suppose that makes us insane. I call it hopeful.
Then there are fans of the good teams- the Yankees, for instance. The teams many consider the spoiled brats of the MLB. The teams that typically get what they want, when they want it. The owners’ pockets seem bottomless, and they have players making a higher salary than some entire teams’ budgets. The fans don’t suffer. Sure, they may have one or two off years (which one can hardly define as “bad”), but ultimately, the fans don’t have to wonder. They know they will be great again in less than a year’s time. These teams don’t have slogans like “Keep the Faith,” because they never have to worry about losing it in the first place. I was reading that the Yankees slogan this year is “Heroes remembered, Legends born.” I think I just threw up a little. That made the franchise sound even more conceited than they already did. Why not just say, “our players are better, because we have the money.” It says the same thing.
I wonder what would happen if the Yankees came in dead last? As I type this, the Astros are 32 games back in the NL Central and 26 games back from the NL Wild Card. How would Yankees fans react? I’m sure some would hold onto the blind hope that we have, and think that there is still a chance (hint: there pretty much isn’t at this point). Most “fans” wouldn’t know how to handle it. They would complain, they would be angry, they would yell, and mostly they would stop coming to games until the team was returned to it’s former greatness- next season.
We have those fans in San Diego, but it’s a reality that San Diegans have coped with. We care more that the games cannot be seen on Time-Warner than the fact that we’d be watching a loss anways. We know our team is bad. But we still come, we still watch, we still cheer. We still hope.
Baseball-reference.com tells me that the Yankees have 17 retired numbers, including Jackie Robinson’s #42. The Padres have 6, including Jackie Robinson’s #42. Granted, the Yankees did become a team a full 68 years before the Padres, it’s still not the point. The Yankees have a full 27 World Championships to the Padres 0. But our fans hold on tight and hope that one day it will change.
The Padres are now the only team without a no-hitter. The Padres and the Marlins are the only team sans a cycle. But, that won’t last forever, we hope.
With every change, we tell ourselves, “This is it. That is what we needed.” It usually isn’t, but we still hope.
Now, with new owners waiting in the wings for the go-ahead to take over, we’re hoping again. We’re hoping that some money, some interest from our owners, even just a new face will be the refreshing change we need. I’m hopeful.
This isn’t a complaint about money. It’s a compliment to Padres’ (and all the painfully bad teams’) fans out there. We endure because it makes the wins and the great seasons feel so much better. It’s a nod to those fans who sit, and wait, and hope. This is not meant to bash the Yankees, those fans can’t help that their owners’ pockets are deeper than a crater on the moon. It is meant to show that there is another type of fan out there. A fan of the game, and not the money being thrown at it. A fan of the origin of the sport, before we had A-Rod and Jeter and Pujols making more money in a year than most people see in their lifetime. It’s proof that there is still hope found within the sport.
I know some people are probably thinking I’m jealous of the Yankees. I’m not at all, actually. The Yankees happened to be the first team that came to mind. I don’t think I could stand being a Yankees fan. I’ve never been taught to be entitled. I enjoy the ups and downs of the game. Not just the ups.
Go to Petco Park on a Tuesday night, you’ll see some fans with true heart. Heart for the game, and not simply a winning record. Those fans may even convince you to hold onto hope just a little while longer.