Tradition and the baseball fan

Why can’t I bring myself to like the Twins?

Jason Stahl

I can’t avoid Twins fans. You’re everywhere – taunting me with your Most Valuable Player and your Cy Young Award winner. I can’t drive through downtown Minneapolis without having to watch your happy faces headed over to the dome to watch another inevitable win on the way to another inevitable playoff spot. Your happiness sickens me. It must be so tough rooting for a team where your biggest worry is whether you’ll get the division championship (We won one last year, ya know!) or “only” the wild card spot. It must be tough having a World Series win in each of the last two decades. Oh yeah, and it must be tough sweeping your home opening series Ö again. Yes, it must be tough to be a Twins fan. Yeah, well, too bad your ballpark sucks.

I’m sorry, you’ll have to excuse that last paragraph. I am a Cubs fan, so I would be bitter about any good team and their fans. In particular, you’ll have to excuse that last line as the ball park is the only thing Cubs fans could possibly hold over Twins fans (you must admit that a day at Wrigley sounds better than a day at the Dome). In fact, I have nothing against the Twins. I’ve even tried to like the Twins. When I moved to Minneapolis in 2001, I decided that the Twins would be my “American League Team.” I figured that I could root for the Twins so long as they weren’t playing the Cubs and all would be well. I could have a “second team” which actually won things every year. Mrs. Stahl urged me on. She bought us tickets to Twins games and tried to convince me how nice it would be to finally root for a team which was not necessarily destined to lose.

But I couldn’t do it. I realized this in 2002 when we got tickets for a game against the White Sox in the final regular season series of the year. If I remember correctly, the Twins had already clinched a playoff spot while the Sox needed to win the series to secure a spot. It seemed like a perfect opportunity to root for my new “second team.” As a Cubs fan, I hated the White Sox, so this would be great – I could root for the Twins to keep the Sox out of the playoffs.

But a strange thing happened. I started cheering for the Sox. I was chastised by Mrs. Stahl who was dutifully rooting for the Twins – but in the end, I just couldn’t help myself. A part of me wanted the Sox in the playoffs. I genuinely wanted the Twins to lose. So much for my second team.

However, I think this reveals something about the nature of sport – and particularly the sport of baseball – in the United States. So much of how we relate to baseball and to the teams we root for is based on tradition. Like it or not, I have a tradition with both the Cubs and the Sox. I grew up an hour from Wrigley Field and 45 minutes from the Sox park (Comiskey). So while my grandpa told me that I was only to ever root for the Cubs, we still went to many Sox games as well. Because of this, I have memories of Wrigley in the summertime, but I have equally as many memories of old Comiskey park.

These memories created an attachment to the Sox which I never fully realized until I sat down at that Twins game in 2002. I desperately wanted to cheer for the Twins, but I just couldn’t. I had a tradition with the Sox that couldn’t be ignored, whereas I had nothing with the Twins. I saw the World Series banners in the Dome, but they meant nothing to me because I had not lived through them as a Twins fan.

So the question I’m left with is can a person, particularly an adult, create a tradition? In other words, is living in Minnesota long enough – and going to enough Twins games – the key to becoming a fan? Or am I forever destined to agonize over the Cubs in the hope that they’ll win a World Series before I die?

For now, I think I’ll wait out the Cubs and hope that I eventually develop a “Twins tradition.” If I’ve learned anything from coming to Minneapolis and trying to like the Twins, it is that tradition can’t be forced – thus, I can only hope that one day in the future a Twins win will mean as much to me as one by the Cubs.

Until then I will suffer watching all the happy Twins fans.

Maybe one day I’ll be one too.

Jason Stahl welcomes comments at [email protected]