Here's a Thought: The Experience Of Being a Far-Away Fan
Many of you know me as the Featured Columnist for the Oakland A's. I'm a dedicated fan to the team and watch most of their games. While I look at baseball in an objective, impartial way, I certainly am every bit as rabid of a fan for my favorite team as anyone else.
What sets me apart from that is that I don't live anywhere near Oakland, and never have.
I've lived in Virginia since I was six months old (I was born in Philadelphia, for what it's worth), but, for whatever reason, I never really connected with the local teams. I lived my early childhood in the southern part of Virginia, three hours from D.C, so the closest teams were still far away.
Nevertheless, I was a huge sports fan growing up, but since I didn't really have that home team rooting interest, my favorite teams often changed when I was very young.
In football, I started out liking the Seahawks and eventually switched to being a Rams fan when I was in fourth grade. It was a good time to switch—I became a fan of St. Louis toward the end of their 4-12, 1998 season, and they won the Super Bowl the next year.
In basketball, I started out liking the Sonics (for whatever reason, I liked all the Seattle teams at age six) before later cycling through the Lakers, Pacers, Knicks, and Clippers (I somehow managed to deal with being a Clippers fan for two whole years). I eventually settled on being a Warriors fan a bit before high school.
In baseball, I started out liking the Mariners, then went through the Rangers, a terrible Tigers team, the Cardinals, and the Cubs. One day in late 1999, I saw Matt Stairs hit a long homer on a highlight reel, thought he was a cool-looking guy, and became an A's fan.
So my favorite teams are the Rams, Warriors, and A's, and it's been that way for about a decade now, so my jumping-around days of age six through age nine are long past me.
Why am I bringing this up now?
Well, yesterday, I finally got to see an A's game. I live in the northern part of Virginia, about 45 minutes west of D.C, so it was a two-hour drive up to Baltimore to watch the visiting A's take on the Orioles.
I've been to plenty of baseball games before, but I never really had a rooting interest in them. All I went to the ballpark for was to get the "ballpark experience" and see some good baseball (which is pretty tough to see when the Nationals are the closest team around).
The A's won 9-1, and I was treated to watching a dominant start by Gio Gonzalez and good at-bat after good at-bat by the A's hitters. I've been an A's fan for 10 years, and with my attendance of a game that long in the making, I sure picked a good one to attend.
It was extra-special to see my favorite player, Tommy Everidge, on the field, after I've been pulling so hard for him over the past year. He went just 1-for-5, but hit a couple of flies that just missed leaving the ballpark.
I don't know how many of you who live near your favorite team often see games where you don't care who wins, but it's a much different experience.
It's obviously much more emotional to go to a game where your favorite team is playing, but it also changes what you want to see in the game.
For example, I went to a Blue Jays-Nationals game two months ago. If someone made an error in that game, I would think "Wow, that was a terrible play." In yesterday's game, if an A's player made an error, I would be disgusted and frustrated, but if an Orioles player made an error, I would be ecstatic.
Obviously, the ecstasy/disgust reactions are far more extreme than the objective "He messed that up" response.
And of course, the emotions are somewhat similar when you watch a game on TV (I have MLB.tv, so I still catch all the A's games, and I can see many of their AAA affiliate's games on MiLB.tv as well), but there was something different about it. Seeing the players themselves is far different from seeing images of them on a screen.
As much as I love Tommy Everidge, when I see him get a hit on TV, I'm happy, but not to the point of yelling. Even when he hit his first big-league homer a couple of days ago, my reaction wasn't as strong as actually seeing him line a single to right field off of Jeremy Guthrie yesterday.
It's cool to watch Everidge on TV, but it doesn't begin to compare with sitting 20 feet behind him when he's in the on-deck circle.
Even being a fan of the away team didn't really subtract from the experience. I was pleasantly surprised to see that about 25 percent of the fans at Camden Yards were wearing the green and gold of Oakland. I didn't expect that, given the A's low home attendance, but the presence of other A's fans made me feel more at home.
As someone who has always had that long distance between himself and the teams he loves, it was a really amazing experience to get a view of the A's in reality. If you, like me, live far away from your favorite teams, I strongly encourage you to make an effort to go see them and have this incredible experience.
Since I don't regularly see the A's, I don't know if the awesomeness of the experience becomes slightly more subdued the more games you attend. I do know, however, that it's an experience to be cherished and treasured, because there's nothing like it. If you do often get to see your favorite team, don't take it for granted—plenty of people, like me, would kill to attend even five games a year.
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