I looked at the baseball standings in today’s paper and saw that the team I grew up with, the team that taught me what fandom really is, the team that showed me the highs and lows that are mirrored in all aspects of life, is doing really badly.
The Minnesota Twins are not only the worst team in the American League Central, they are the worst team in the American League and, alas, the worst team in baseball.
But that’s okay. I’m still rooting for them, as any good fan would do. I’ve been through the glory years of 1987 and 1991 with the Twins and the lean years of the mid 70s and 80s. You don’t dump a team when they are besieged in trouble. And you don’t jump on the bandwagon and root for them if they win, unless you're a Red Sox fan.
The Twins were the first team I became conscious of when I learned of baseball. My family moved to northern Minnesota in 1966, a year after the Twins lost to the L.A. Dodgers in the seven-game World Series. I was a mere child of six when I became interested in the game.
I was entranced by the Twins’ old logo of two big baseball playing guys shaking hands across the Mississippi River. The guys represented Minneapolis and St. Paul, but I recognized the shape of the state in the logo and knew I lived near the notch in the northern edge.
My father and I watched Twins’ games on television and I learned both the strategy of baseball and the characteristics of the players. I loved Harmon Killebrew for his home run power, but also because his initials are the inverse of mine and we share the same birthday.
I lived in Minnesota for only eight years before my family moved to Arkansas. I stayed in the state for less than 20 percent of my life, but it stayed in me. I learned to speak there and carried the “You betcha” Fargo-like accent for years. I still say words differently at times; I catch myself saying “oot” for “out.”
Maybe the fandom comes from being a Minnesota native. There’s the subdued emotions, the muted evaluations of everything. The Twins win the World Series in 1991, which many consider the best Series ever, and the true Minnesotan will say, ‘Yeah, that was a pretty good one, there.”
So, maybe the attraction for the Twins comes from a deeper love to the state, or to my upbringing there. And the support I still have for the team is also an acknowledgment of the appreciation of how Minnesota helped shape me.
And maybe fans of other teams, say, Cleveland, Detroit, Seattle, feel the same way for their teams. Do we root for a team because we like the players or because it was such an integral part of our growing up?
My Minnesota years are remembered by my grade school friends, the college where my dad taught, the winters and of watching the Twins on television in the summer.
So, the Twins are doing pretty poorly this year. But the lesson here is that you hang on to your team through good and bad. You grasp onto the deeper meaning of what being a fan is. It’s not just wins and losses. It’s the meaning of growing up.
The Twins will back again. Remember in 1990, they were the second worst team in the league. A year later they won the World Series.
Oh, they’ll be back, you betcha.