I am one of those people who always roots for the ‘home team’ wherever I happen to be living.
Growing up on Cape Cod it was, naturally, the Red Sox in baseball. When I was in the eighth grade I won a pair of tickets to a Sox game. My buddy Harry Bennett and I were put on the train in Hyannis for the ride up to Boston’s South Station by my mom with written instructions on how to get to Fenway Park and the oral admonition that when ordering lunch that Salisbury Steak was really just hamburger. The Red Sox ended up losing both games of a double header to the Orioles.
Through high school our DeMolay group would take the, then, three hour car ride up to Boston and visit the ‘Garden’ to see the Bruins play.
I never got into basketball very much, but I kinda followed the Celtics. After all, they were sort of the Yankees of their sport winning championship after championship and, at that time they had players like Bob Cousy and Bill Russell.
When Boston got an NFL team and I started cheering for the ‘BOSTON Patriots.’ Actually it was the old AFL then. When I moved to Miami I was torn. Of course the Dolphins were now the ‘home team’ and I pulled for them to win but was conflicted when they had to play the Patriots twice each year since they were in the same division. Eventually I sided with the Dolphins through it all, and when the two teams met I could live with whichever team came out on top.
I absolutely HATE IT when those sick bastards who moved down to south Florida from New York go to Joe Robbie Stadium and cheer for the stinking Jets. They shouldn’t even be allowed out of their homes during Dolphins/Jets games if they aren’t going to root for the Fins.
I lived, off and on, for five years in Chicago. Two years full-time and then just in the summers for three. I always rooted for the Bears, of course, but I never could work up any enthusiasm for the Bulls. Basketball, no matter where I am just doesn’t do it for me.
All the time that I lived in Chicago I wasn’t too far from Wrigley Field so, by default, the Cubs were my home team over the White Sox on the south side of the city. Though baseball is not ‘my sport’ I did go to several Cubs games during the summers of ‘75 and ‘76. Back then Wrigley was the lone hold out for installing lights and their games were played in the afternoons the way God intended it to be played. I’d usually twist up a couple of ‘fatties,’ and puff one before setting out. You could get a seat in the grandstands then for $2.00 and sit in the shade, watch the game, the pretty girls, and as the munchies set in people would bring you food and beer. My ‘seventh inning stretch’ was usually finding a spot away from everyone else and firing off the other doobie.
While I’m not what you’d call a ‘rabid’ fan I do like watching American football. Not soccer. That’s the sort of akin to watching paint dry. Wait a minute! Watching paint dry is MUCH MORE EXCITING than soccer. Anyway, I know the highs and lows of watching and cheering for a favorite team. I happened to be living in Fort Lauderdale when the Dolphins had their miraculous undefeated (17-0) season in 1972, led by Earl Morrell after Bob Greise broke his ankle in the third game against San Diego. (Earl died Friday, May 25th, at age 79.)
And I know the downside, too. I was living in New Orleans in 1980. The year the Saints became the ‘Aint’s’ losing 14 straight and fans sat in the Super Dome with paper bags over their heads. They only won a single game that year. Then the team acquired Kenny Stabler to replace the long-suffering Archie Manning. You’d have thought the heavens had opened up and that Jesus Christ, himself, had descended to lead the team to fame and glory. But Kenny was long past his prime and played on shaky knees so the humiliation continued.
I saw a lot of games in the Dome in the early ‘80s. Back then I was captain of the ‘Lady Ann,’ a yacht owned by New Orleans Tours.
We used to do cocktail and dinner charters on Lake Pontchartrain. New Orleans Tours also had the contract to meet all the visiting NFL teams at the airport, take them to their hotel and then to the Dome for the games. The bus drivers were allowed into the games for free and were allowed to watch from the ‘wheelchair’ section which was actually on the 40-yard line and nestled among the $40 seats.
Well, it didn’t take long to figure out how to scam the system. I’d put on my work shirt that had ‘New Orleans Tours’ embroidered on it, take off the captain’s epaulettes and buy the cheapest ticket there was, $15, up in the ‘nosebleed’ area of the Dome. Then, once inside, I’d go to the wheelchair section, tell the guy with the clipboard guarding the entrance that I was with New Orleans Tours and point to my chest and be admitted. Then I’d find someone who was actually IN a wheelchair, introduce myself and tell them that if he wanted anything during the game I’d get it for him. Now, if asked what I was doing there, I’d just say ‘I’m helping him.’ Those were the good old days. Like everyone else who ever rooted for the Saints, their Super Bowl victory was sweet indeed.
I need to back up, here, and get back into baseball. Back in ‘96 or ‘97 my buddy, Soby, the dock master where I lived on my boat at Marina Bay, asked if I’d like to go see a Marlins game. His girlfriend had season tickets. I said, ‘sure, I’ve always wanted to see what Joe Robbie Stadium was like on the inside.’ (Sidebar: Joe Robbie owned the Dolphins and he built that stadium with his OWN MONEY. No scamming taxpayers to pay for it as everyone is doing these days. When Wayne Huizenga bought the team, and the stadium, he sold ‘naming rights’ to the place and it has carried half a dozen different names since then. But to thousands of us, no matter what the sportscasters call it, the place will ALWAYS BE Joe Robbie stadium, and when it’s finally torn down we’ll point and say ‘that’s where Joe Robbie Stadium used to be.’)
I hadn’t been to a baseball game in over 20 years before Soby, his girlfriend and I went and sat through, no lie, the longest game ever played in the history of the National League without going in to extra innings. Five plus hours of batters racking up 3-2 counts to where you wanted to scream ‘Swing at it, you jerk.’ Both teams went through their entire pitching rotations and the Marlins ended up blowing a three run lead to eventually lose by three or four runs. I tell you, if I’d had my own car with me I would have left after the third inning. But the stadium WAS real nice.
Baseball is a big deal down here in Panama. They show major league games from the States several times a week on the T.V. and all the team scores and standings are in the newspapers. Carlos Ruiz, the starting catcher for the Phillies is from right here in David (pronounced Dah VEED) and his mother lives on my street on the other side of the Boqueron road and one of his cousins is my next door neighbor. I met Carlos over there a couple of years ago.
Panama has sent a bunch of players to fame and glory in the States. There’s Carlos Ruiz, as I mentioned. He has a World Series ring and was in the All Star game two years ago (injured last year). Mariano Rivera just retired from the Yankees and is destined for Cooperstown. He was a reliever. Thirteen All Star appearances, five World Series rings. He is MLB’s career leader in saves (652) and games finished (952). There was Rod Carew, a former Major League Baseball (MLB) first baseman, second baseman and coach. He played from 1967 to 1985 for the Minnesota Twins and the California Angels and was elected to the All-Star game every season except his last. While Carew was never a home run threat (only 92 of his 3,053 hits were home runs), he made a career out of being a consistent contact hitter. He threw right-handed and batted left-handed. He was inducted into the National Baseball Hall of Fame and the Caribbean Baseball Hall of Fame. Carew served as an MLB coach for several years after retiring as a player. The Panama Metro field is named for him.
Each of the provinces here has their own baseball team. Probably equivalent to minor league teams in the States as far as skill is concerned. The games are broadcast on T.V., in Spanish, of course, but you soon learn that the outfield is ‘el jardin’, the ‘garden. The infield is the ‘cuadro interior’ the ‘inside quarter.’ The pitcher is ‘el lancedor’ and you can think of it this way…a lance is thrown. My favorite, though, is the catcher. In Spanish he is the ‘receptor.’ The basemen are known as ‘defenders of the respective ‘sacos.’ Primero, segundo, trecero. The lancedor throws ‘stikes’ and ‘bolas.’ Three ‘outs’ constitute an ‘episodio.’ Other tough terms to understand are ‘foul bol,’ ‘home plate,’ ‘home run,’ and sometimes a batter hits into a ‘doble play,’ or a sacrificio.’
Baseball season here is held during the ‘dry season’ where there’s less chance that games will get rained out. Right now they are playing the Republic’s version of the World Series. Defending champs, Chiriquí, my home team since I live in Chiriquí Province, are battling the 2012 champs, Bocas del Toro. Instead of playing at each teams home field the games are being played at Rod Carew Stadium in Panama City since it’s the largest in the country.
Last night Chiriquí won a squeaker with a walk-off double in the ninth to win the game 2-0 and now leads the best-of-seven series two games to one.