By Lance Richardson
I was born in January of 1969. My stay on this planet coincides perfectly with the San Diego Padres’ unfortunate membership in the National League.
More than even you, I love baseball. Adore it. Breathe it. Read about it, talk about it, dream about it. Occasionally write about it. My obsession with baseball pales, however, in comparison to my devotion to the San Diego Padres. The Padres and I are proverbial conjoined twins. We cannot be separated without ensuring the demise of the less viable twin. Doctors have yet to determine which of us is the weaker, so I root on…
Engaged in a recent session of cable-channel surfing, I stumbled upon Wait ‘Til Next Year, a documentary account of the travails of dedicated Chicago Cubs fans. As I listened to ex-players, journalists, novelists, politicians, and other assorted Cub-devotees expound upon the agonies of the Padres’ conquest of the Cubs in the 1984 NLCS, I was stricken with a profound realization:
Nobody cares about the San Diego Padres. Nobody cares about fans of the San Diego Padres. Seriously. Nobody gives a damn. Some clubs’ followers publicly wallow in the ineptitude of their chosen team, garnering the sympathy of sports fans across the country. They and their teams are celebrated for their collective misery. The plight of Padre followers, however, goes unnoticed.
The 1984 Cubs were a good, but fairly ordinary, team memorable primarily as the first Cub squad to reach the postseason since 1945. A multitude of books and films, as well as a nation of “Bleacher Bums” scattered throughout the country, have celebrated the team’s success while more loudly mourning its failure. The common perception of the Cubbies and their followers as “lovable losers” persists to this day. To legions of baseball fans, the Cubs matter.
The 2004 Red Sox famously lifted the “Curse of the Bambino” with their World Series victory. Finally validated, the long-suffering Red Sox Nation could at long last rest. ESPN.com’s Bill Simmons, in addition to writing his own book chronicling this club, has likely read several dozen others. Win or lose, the BoSox matter.
The Cleveland Indians have not won a World Series since 1948, but even the Tribe matters. Movie-goers shared the troubles of Indian fans through the Major League films. One of the films’ central characters, fire-balling reliever Rick “Wild Thing” Vaughn, remains a bigger celebrity than any of the Padres’ four Cy Young Award winners, and he’s not even a real guy! Rapid Robert. Larry Doby. Duane Kuiper. Manny B. Manny. The damned Indians matter more than the Padres could ever hope to.
And still my Padres soldier on, occasionally winning, but mostly losing. At our most visible, Gary Coleman stars as the Padres’ manager in a made-for-television movie, or the Famous Chicken returns home to entertain us. Sometimes one of our moundsmen captures a Cy Young, or Tony Gwynn wins a batting title. Maybe Butch Metzger or Benito Santiago is voted Rookie of the Year, or Ken Caminiti eats a Snickers bar in Mexico on his way to an MVP award.
Mostly, though, it’s disappointment. My team has never won the big one. I suspect I might spontaneously combust from sheer joy should my team ever win the World Series.
A while back, I read a comment at Joe Posnanski’s blog suggesting Royals fans refer to themselves as “Long-suffering Royals Fans.” Such self-pity is obviously ridiculous, and not worthy of sympathy. I’ve rooted rabidly for the San Diego Padres for as long as I can remember. Oddly, I’ve loved every minute of it. I can’t recall the experience resembling “suffering.”
Not even for a moment.
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Lance Richardson was born in San Diego, California, a scant 87 days before Dick Selma pitched the Padres to victory in their first National League game. Lance still lives in San Diego County.