How many of you have infant children or toddlers? How many of you have baby Padres gear tucked neatly under the Christmas tree for your kids? I know I do. That’s what being a parent and a sports fan is all about. It’s about passing on your beliefs, your values, and most of all your sports teams. We hope that our children will love the game the same way we do. We hope they will adopt our team so they can cheer right along side us. We dream of father-son (or daughter) baseball games decked out in Padres jerseys and caps, a little version of ourselves sitting next to us with a hot dog, a baseball glove, and a love of the same team. My son, while too young to talk let alone cheer, has his Padres outfit, he has his pennants hanging in his room. He’s got the Padres memorabilia adorning his room like his very own man cave. And he will get more. As I wrap his gifts for Christmas, I can only hope that one day he will become a Padres fan like me.
Unfortunately, that’s not always the case. People move around so much in this day, it’s hard to be loyal to the same team as your parents. Living in one city for an entire lifetime is almost unheard of now. So our chances of building mini versions of ourselves, of building the Padres fan base through our kin, are greatly reduced. I was lucky – or my Dad was lucky depending on how you look at it – to become a Padres fan. I spent the summers in San Diego, watching the games on television, listening to them on the radio, grabbing my Dad’s copy of Baseball America the minute he was done with it. When not in San Diego though, I was living in Arizona. I became a Padres fan before the Diamondbacks came to the state. Perhaps that was the difference. Had the Arizona Diamondbacks been a franchise all along while I lived and grew up in Arizona, maybe the Padres would have been just an N.L. West rival my Dad cheered for. Maybe the 2011 season would have been a celebration for me rather than a disappointment. Maybe my memories and knowledge of baseball would have been shaped in a completely different manner.
And if all that had happened, my father and I would have both missed out on something special. Being a Padres fan is a bond, a bond further supported by the father/son relationship. Would he have been able to teach me about the game the same way as he did while we attended games at Jack Murphy Stadium/Qualcomm/Petco Park? Would he have felt the connection necessary to pass on his knowledge of the game to me? I have no doubt he would have taught me baseball. But it would have been different. So, it’s safe to say both my father and I got lucky in becoming fans of the same team.
I can only hope the same thing for my son. If he grows up a Diamondbacks fan, so be it. If he becomes a Rangers fan, an Angels fan, a Brewers fan, or a Rays fan so be it. If he becomes a Yankees fan, that’s a whole different story and we won’t go down that horrible path. I will teach him about the game, let him decide if he loves the sport like I do, like his grandfather does, like his great grandfather does. I’ll impart my knowledge of the game on him the best way I know how. I’ll attend games with him even if it means watching my rival in their home ballpark. But I can still hope and dream of the day when I see my son cheer out jubilantly for a great moment during a Padres game. I can look ahead and hope for the moment when we can share in a walk-off home run, an extra-innings win, or heaven-forbid, a Padres play-off trip.
So regardless of where we live or where we move to in the future, I, like many other fathers and Padres fans, will neatly wrap my son’s Padres gifts and slide them under the tree. Knowing full well the Padres are not a team like the hated Yankees, the Red Sox, the Cardinals, or any of the other teams with rich history and tradition, I can only hope to force my son’s fandom through subtle product placement. A Padres outfit here, a baseball there, a Padres logo above the crib, and Padres presents under the tree. For I am a father, and this is a Padres fan Christmas.