The truth behind being a San Diego Padres fan was recently brought to my attention in a seemingly innocuous situation. I was gathered with people who enjoy sports and baseball in particular. As is often the case in these circumstances, us fans from all backgrounds and origins began assessing each other’s fandom. And that of course begins with the team each person pledges their allegiance.
So around the room we went. Each person took their turn declaring their undying support. A Yankees fan announced his love for all things pinstripes to a mixed reaction of supports and denigration. A Red Sox fan was accused of being fair-weathered, an accusation along the lines of capital murder. A Phillies fan celebrated his team’s World Series triumphs, a Diamondbacks fan declared the snakes top dog, and a Cubs fan was showered with empathy (or maybe pity) by all. Then it was my turn. It was my time to let the world know of my delirious obsession over all things Padres.
But a funny thing happened. No one cared. No one dared mock my team. No one boldly accused me of being a fair-weather fan. No one jeered my beloved Padres, and no one cheered them either. Instead, I was passed up like the fat kid waiting to be picked for kickball at recess. The discussions and debates carried on as if my declaration of support had fallen upon deaf ears. And that’s when it truly hit me, no one outside of San Diego, or those with ties to San Diego, cares about the Padres.
This is a team who hasn’t seen too much failure, but hasn’t seen too much success either. This is a team devoid of scandal, but equally devoid of praise. Their most recent Cy Young award winner is possibly more famous for an injury no one in baseball had ever seen before. Their one MVP was addicted to drugs and alcohol, a combination that ended his life much too soon. Their most famous player is often overshadowed by his Hall of Fame class member, Cal Ripken Jr.
All of this may depress the average fan. It could bring a weaker following to its knees and cause them to question their purpose. But not for us. Not for San Diego Padres fans. Such conceived slights and passive insults only serve to strengthen our resolve. To be ignored makes it all the better when our team rises up and shocks the world. Our pride as Padres fans is fueled by the knowledge that it takes so much more to love a mediocre team than it takes to love a juggernaut.
To the world, I say have your Yankees and have you Phillies. Have your perennially successful teams and your lovable losers. I’ll take my Padres any day of the week. You know why? They are an institution of innovation. They, like the fans who follow them, must jump through hoops, find new ways, scratch and claw, and make themselves a success.
Pass me over all you want fans of other teams. I have a pride that you can never know or understand. I am a San Diego Padres fan.