I’m a fair-weather fan. I admit it. My family knows it; all my friends know it. Once in a while, my buddies will give me grief. “Maddy, you’re such a fair weather fan!”
As David Puddy would say to Elaine, “Yeah, that’s right.”
It wasn’t always like this, but I remember the exact day it happened.
I was born in Minnesota and lived there until I was 11. My dad was a true-blue, dyed-in-the-wool Minnesota sports fan. He loved the Vikings, Twins, Timberwolves and Gophers.
As a busy pastor, he really didn’t have time for any hobbies. He didn’t hunt or fish or make things out of wood. His only hobby was watching and listening to sports. He rarely missed a game. (Well, unless it was my sister Becky’s high school basketball games.)
When dad would play catch with us or hit balls to us, he always carried his little black transistor radio so he could listen to the Twins. After my wife and I got married, mom and dad would come visit us periodically. In the summer time during baseball season, if the Twins were playing, dad would go out and sit in the car and listen to the Twins on his AM radio, WCCO out of Minneapolis. With all the static and screeching, you could hardly hear the play-by-play, but that didn’t dissuade him. If he came back in the house with a smile on his face, you knew the Twins had won. If they lost, all he would say is, “Oh, feeda!” a Norwegian expression of disgust.
My siblings and I inherited his love for Minnesota sports teams, especially the Vikings. I grew up during the Bud Grant glory years. Yeah, I know they never won the Super Bowl, but they made it there four times in ’70, ’74, ’75 and ’77. Call me crazy, but that was a pretty good run. Anchored by the famous Purple People Eaters and led by a couple of cagey quarterbacks named Joe Kapp and Fran Tarkenton, they kept us fans engaged for a decade.
My brother and I had all manner of sports paraphernalia in our bedroom. Pennants and posters hung from the walls. We shared and traded football and baseball cards. We even had a circular garbage can with all 22 of the Vikings starters from 1971. I can still name every player from that great team.
In late summer each year when we still lived in Minnesota, my dad would drive us kids two hours to Mankato, where the Vikings had their fall practice facility. We would watch a practice and then stand outside the locker room and wait for the players and coaches to come out. Without fail, guys would stop and visit with us and sign autographs. I remember talking to Bill Brown, the square jawed running back with a military crew cut. Alan Page stopped and talked to us one year. Even Coach Grant would spend time talking to the fans. The highest paid players on that team made $100,000 a year.
During the baseball season, dad would take us to Twins games at the old Metropolitan Stadium in Bloomington, MN.. We got to watch Harmon Killebrew, Tony Oliva, Rod Carew, Caesar Tovar and a host of other great players. I remember getting my glove signed by Ron Peranoski, Rich Reese and Leo Cardenas one year. Of course I left my glove out in the rain the day after we got back, so those didn’t last long.
When we moved to Wisconsin in 1971, we carried our love of Minnesota sports teams with us. I stayed true to my teams all through high school. But then, living in the heart of Packerland, I gradually morphed over to the dark side and became a Packers, Brewers, Bucks and Badgers fan. It was like slowly being overcome by an odorless, colorless green and gold gas. Before I realized it, I had rejected my family’s love of Minnesota sports teams.
To be honest, this never caused any rancor in our family. These days, there’s just a lot of teasing and smart talk between me and my two brothers when a Wisconsin team plays a Minnesota team.
Up until the year 2000, I still lived in the slightly delusional world of super fandom. I assumed that players on the teams I followed thought about me as often as I thought about them. On December 11th, 2000, that changed. That's the day I became a fair-weather fan.That’s the day Alex Rodriguez signed a $252 million dollar, 10-year contract with the Texas Rangers. It was a grotesque amount of cash promised to one overhyped player. And sure enough, within a couple years, he bolted from that contract to play for the Yankees who gave him another $250 million. That solidified for me the idea that professional athletes of the day were becoming more selfish and more disloyal to their teams, their cities and, most importantly, their fans. News flash! Players don’t really care about us fans! They care about their next fat contract and how much money they can squeeze out of the owners of their teams. Loyalty? It no longer exists. From that day on, I vowed I would stop caring so much if my sports teams won or lost.
Don’t get me wrong, I’m as excited as the next guy when one of my teams wins a big game. Tuddy shots! However, there are a few things that clearly identify me as a fair weather fan:
When one of my teams loses, I forget about the game in fewer than five seconds, and
1. I don’t ever think about it again.
2. I don’t yell at my wife and kids.
3. I don’t kick the dog.
4. I don’t bang my head against the wall.
5. I don’t throw rocks through my 84” flat screen TV.
6. I don’t miss three days of work while mourning.
7. I don’t require professional grief counseling.
8. I don't post rants on Facebook about the crappy officiating.
9. I don't call for the coaches to be fired.
10. I certainly don't lose a minute of sleep over it.
I guess there will always be a place for super fans, but I honestly don’t get people that would go to all the work of dressing up like this to attend a game. And, seriously, can you imagine sitting behind Mr. and Mrs. Frozen Tundra? Come on! Down in front!
GO, PACK, GO! ON WISCONSIN!