When the Fit Hits the Fan

I have been an Arizona Diamondbacks Season Ticket Holder for the majority of the Diamondbacks existence. I was there the no-hitter by Jose Jimenez in 1999 and I saw the bloop hit by Luis Gonzalez to win the 2001 World Series. I endured the 2004 season; all 111 losses. And I was there last season as the Diamondbacks won their fourth National League Western Division title returning to the post season. Over the course of 81 home games each season I have pretty much witnessed just about everything that a fan could possibly see at a baseball game. So you would think that there wouldn’t be much that would surprise me. But there you would be wrong; I find myself experiencing something completely new and different at every game. Most of the time the game experience is relatively normal but the last couple of games have even left me scratching my head wondering what is going on with Major League Baseball fans.

The thing about Phoenix is that you rarely find someone who is actually from there. Most of the population are transplants who have come to the desert from somewhere. As such their allegiances are with a team other than the hometown Diamondbacks. I am not sure I quite understand it. They gush over how great it is to live in Arizona and how they just love the Diamondbacks; except when they are playing their favorite team. As if we should somehow find comfort in the fact that they are Diamondbacks fans for 156 games or something like that. That’s kind of like saying you’re not pregnant except for those 9 months when you are carrying a baby. So when a fan starts a conversation telling me how they are almost a Diamondbacks fan I have learned to just be prepared for an unusual exchange. Take the guys sitting next to me last night. They both were wearing Philadelphia Phillies hats but proclaimed themselves Diamondbacks fans except for this 4 game series. They went on to tell me how they followed the Diamondbacks closely and try to attend as many games as possible even when the Phillies are not playing in Phoenix. I congratulated them and said I too tried to attend a few games each year. Hearing that I attend just a few games they offered to assist me if I had any questions about the team or the field. With as straight a face as I could muster I thanked them for any help they could offer. The two men went on to discuss how this was the first game this season they had actually been to in person. I guess “most games” came with a qualifier after May 6. My two section mates began to marvel at the new scoreboard. They were amazed at the clarity of dbTV and how it was so much better than the old scoreboard. I hear that a lot and while I agree wholeheartedly I do find it sort of disturbing that the scoreboard overshadows the fact that the Diamondbacks have the best record in baseball this season while having several players who have not yet hit their strides offensively. It was in the midst of their discussion of dbTV that things turned extremely strange. These two self-proclaimed authorities began arguing that the new scoreboard was in a different location than the old one. One gentleman firmly believed the old JumboTron was located in right field while the other was positive it was more in left field. I didn’t have a mirror and thankfully my expression was not caught on the aforementioned dbTV as I must have looked like a deer about to be hit by a semi. I politely tried to explain that the scoreboard was in the same place it has been since 1998 but they both agreed that I had no clue what I was talking about. The scoreboard location continued for 4 innings and they finally decided that maybe they both were correct. It started in right field but was moved to left to make room for the swimming pool (which neither remembered being in the stadium when it was first built). I would normally chalk this up to an alcohol-induced education. The problem was that neither of these guys was drinking except for a bottle of water. I now understand why the Diamondbacks insist that water bottles be sealed to come into the stadium. There HAD to be something in their water, there was no other explanation. Usually I would think this was a random occurrence except for the fact that the night before I had to endure another experience of fan weirdness.

The first game of the series between the Diamondbacks and the Phillies was painful to attend. Not because the Diamondbacks were beaten 11-4 although that hurt pretty good by itself; no the real pain sat behind us for nine of the longest innings of my life. We got to the stadium early to watch batting practice as we always do. Things were looking pretty good and I was excited to see Max Scherzer make his first major league start. As we were watching warm-ups a couple came and sat down behind us. They had with them a sign proclaiming that it was their wedding anniversary. What a great way to spend an anniversary I thought. I made note to suggest a similar evening for Trina and I but without the sign. I asked how long they had been married. The wife proudly proclaimed it had been 15 years. The husband leapt into the conversation to state that it should have been 23 years. This led to a fairly long disagreement about why they didn’t get married earlier and I was sorry I had even asked. Luckily the fight was broken up when the Fan Foto guy came by and asked to take their picture. The Fan Foto guys are at every game and take pictures of the fans in the stands and put the pictures on the Diamondbacks web site. This was my idea several years ago (although I don’t get credit for it). It is kind of a cool deal but there are just so many times you can have your picture taken while you are in the stands before it begins to lose its luster. My newlywed friends with between 15 and 23 years experience were thrilled to have their picture taken. After the photographer left the wife got on her cell phone to call all her friends and tell them that her picture was going to be on the Diamondbacks web site. I didn’t have the heart to break it to her that there are literally thousands of those pictures each game. As the game started the couple cheered with the wife letting everyone in the stadium know it was their anniversary and that the Diamondbacks were playing for them tonight. This of course turned really ugly as the Phillies began outplaying the Diamondbacks and the game got out of hand early in the contest. From that point this woman was all over the players ripping them for not hustling or when they did hustle she complained that it had taken them this long to start hustling. She was mad when the players hit ground balls then was ticked off when the ball was hit in the air. She yelled that the Diamondbacks needed to quit trying to kill the ball then when Chris Snyder hit a home run she yelled asking why the other players couldn’t do that. I had a new appreciation and respect for a man who could stay married to a woman like this for any amount of time. I also understood the disagreement in the length of their marriage. Nine innings felt like half a season so I could easily see how he would think 15 years felt more like 23. After each pitch no matter whether the Diamondbacks were up to bat or in the field she would let out this massive groan. Initially I thought she was having a heart attack or some kind of seizure but no she was just annoyed. Her husband fancied himself some sort of color commentator who had facts and information tidbits on every player. Unfortunately they were all wrong. I figured he was delusional enough that it was best to just let him live in his own little world and not disturb him. It was funny that the people sitting next to them on the row got up after the third inning to leave. The couple questioned why they would leave the game this early. The two guys looked at each other and the first muttered that he was worried about getting hit by a foul ball and they were going to request a seat that was in a safer location preferably on the other side of the stadium. Thankfully the game ended and we began to make our way out of the stadium. I figured my time in the fan twilight zone was finally over. Yeah except for the guy sitting next to me who had been quietly watching the whole game without saying a word. As the Diamondbacks played the exit music they always do after a loss he turned to me with a sad face and said, “I hate this song. Every time they play it the Diamondbacks lose the game.” Um, yeah I know. Maybe tomorrow night things will be better.

1 Comment

  1. I don’t get to go to the games that often, but I either watch on TV or listen via Radio. Last night without notice my friend said he got two suite tickets and invited me up.

    I notice fans the same way you do. Everyone but the two of us left in the seventh inning.

    I don’t understand why Arizonans are the way they are with sports teams. I mean, I’m an Arizonan, but I’ve grown up with the Diamondbacks. I was there for the first game (hey, you could have met me when I was 13!) and I go whenever I can.

    I’ll never forget going to game two of the NLDS in 2001. I skipped my high-school classes that day just to go. And the ballpark was nearly empty. I don’t know if it’s lack of passion or what. But I get excited when I meet someone that’s just a baseball fan these days; Let alone a Diamondbacks fan. Usually I’m just disappointed.

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