Yeah, gosh knows I'm a Rockies fan. I could say I didn't know how it happened, but that'd be a bit of a lie and would probably make this post a wee bit shorter than my style allows. So, humor me for a little while as I lead you the long way 'round to Coors Field.
I grew up in Chicago and, being born in the bicentennial year of the popularly assumed birth of our country, or in other words, 1976, there weren't really any Rockies to root for, obviously. I got introduced to baseball kind of backwards... in first grade at an amusement park in the Chicago area and meeting a "baseball player" named Bill Buckner. Turns out he was a Chicago Cub and turns out I had no idea what baseball (or a Cub) was. Now, I was a bit inquisitive at a young age, perhaps from reading too much Hardy Boys, but I eventually asked around (i.e. my parents) and went to my first game at Wrigley Field. I remember the Mets won, but I also remember being fascinated by the game of baseball and seeing those little men in their white uniforms run around after a little object I couldn't quite clearly see. Furthermore, it turns out I was now "old enough" to "play baseball". So I joined Little League... and my first season, they had baseball cards made of each player on the team. What's a baseball card? This thing with a bunch of numbers on the back, and being inquisitive and a weird enough kid to like numbers in general, I became hooked.
I opened packs, looked at the stats on the back of the cards, and dutifully sorted them by card number, noting the gaps where I didn't have a complete set. I also made sure to bug my friends to see if they had them. I don't remember watching games on television at that age though but devoured newspapers reading box scores. I also distinctly remember seeing Bill Buckner in a new uniform by the time I was done with second grade. Then I got "traded" as my family and I moved to California.
More baseball cards... and more games. My first autograph was the hottest one in baseball at the time, a rookie named Jose Canseco who was doing a signing along with some other A's and Brewers before the game at a card show at the Oakland Coliseum. Except, I didn't bring his card with me. I (or maybe it was my parents) had to pay a rip-off price of $7.50 for his card, and an extra $5 for him to sign it... except he said "Don't worry about it, kid." and signed it for free. Went to a lot of Giants games too but I still kept an eye on the Cubs.
By 6th grade, my grandfather on my mom's side wasn't in good shape so we went back to Chicago to take care of him... and we as a family were relatively broke. One of the first things that happened when I returned to Chicago is going into a store that sold window-anchored humidifiers because it gets pretty hot in Chicago, and seeing newly acquired Cub Andre Dawson bat for the Cubs on WGN-TV. I was mesmerized by his batting stance, he just looked so darned powerful at the plate. Baseball cards were a luxury we could not afford, but we had a TV and I watched more games. I read the newspaper and learned how he took a pay cut just to play on grass. In other words, I got the warm fuzzies. Then again, I was also a kid, and as much as I loved Dawson, I demanded to play second base in Little League like every Chicago kid who saw Sandberg did, and all in an attempt to avoid the stigma of how the bad kids played in the outfield. Meanwhile, as relatively unwell off as our family was financially, we still had an old Apple IIe where I'd draft up my own leagues and simulate out seasons of APBA or MicroLeague.
But we didn't go to games. Part of that was a family of five going to games is expensive... and part of that is my brother and sister were somewhat phasing out of baseball at that point, though they still played a tad. From 6th grade to 11th grade, I went to four Cubs games... and two of the arch enemy White Sox games, which is a story for another time. Other than that, lots of newspapers and lots of WGN-TV (Thank you Internets!)
During my senior year of high school, my parents moved to Colorado and, living in a school that had dorms, I stayed to finish my diploma. I went to college at UNM for two years, mostly failed, then dashed off to Colorado to recoup, arriving in Denver in 1996. I got a job working in downtown Denver as a 21 year old making $32k in 90's dollars and wondered how the hell I was going to spend all that money. So I started going to games at Coors Field.
Pretty park. Hated sitting on the first base side because the sun would be blinding. Pre-humidor games were fun to watch with all the home runs. That was the year of the Great Home Run Chase, these days known as the Steroid Era, and while I went to Rockies games, I'd go to the closest thing in my mind to my roots after each game, "Old Chicago" and catch up on how Sammy Sosa did because he kinda sorta but not really reminded me of Andre Dawson. The Cubs even had a good team that year.
I went to about 30 Rockies games between 1998 and 2000. I got a dose of Todd Helton who gave me a good impression of what Mark Grace would be like with power. I liked reading about how Darryl Kile, having horrible seasons for the Rockies, didn't make excuses and would do whatever was needed, including pinch hit (or lend others his bat) just to try to help the team win. But I was more of a baseball fan (and still a Cubs fan) then a Rockies fan.
Then I was off to Oregon for a few years and did a pretty good impression of a hippie sans the drug use. While trying to save the world with bad poetry and philosophical ramblings, I survived Bartman. Yet, analytically, I got miffed at Dusty Baker for letting Kerry Wood and Mark Prior keep throwing when they could barely break 90 mph... but hey, that's the life of a Cubs fan. It was almost a badge of honor to say that no matter what ever happened to me, I've always seen worse... and that kind of laid-back, no worry no cry attitude served as my personal uniform for awhile.
But then, I had a daughter, and living in Oregon, I had no job. So, I got my act together. Less invested in feelings so to speak because, hey, breakups can do that, my brother offered to let me take a "vacation" out to Denver. If I found work, he said, great. If not, just relax. I got back in 2004 and have been here since.
But my Cubs fandom wasn't in the trunk of my packed car. A bit less tolerant of the buntshift, Zambrano went from cute to curmudgeony. Mark Grace was no longer a Cub, Wood and Prior were always hurt and when Soriano wasn't hurt, he was skip-hop-dropping fly balls in left field. More versed in sabermetrics than I was as a youth, I internally cringed a bit when I realized how similar Soriano was to Dawson offensively, and that made me sad. So I called myself a Cubs fan but I went to a lot of Rockies games, though I'd still wear a Cubs jersey when the Cubs and Rockies played each other.
That changed in 2007. Darn that was fun. Rocktober was one month of the best baseball I had seen. I must've gone to at least ten games in that month and it seemed every time I went, someone (most likely Tulowitzki) would make a great defensive play or Seth Smith would get a huge clutch hit. My brother and I took the day off work to try to get World Series tickets... then again the next day when the system broke the first day. Good seats too.
I liked Seth Smith and Ryan Spilborghs from that 2007 team. Later on, those kids Fowler and Iannetta looked good. Once Derrek Lee left, I enjoyed the Cubs less than Lou Piniella did but I still called myself a Cubs fan and when I went to the Rockies vs Cubs series, I'd break out my Cubs jersey for the one time that year. The funny thing is I'd been so used to rooting for teams that lost badly that even the brief glimpses of the Rockies winning were enough to satisfy me. Then you'd also get the occasionally crazy Coors games where both teams would score a bushel of runs or some other weird thing would happen that you'd never seen before. Meanwhile the Cubs had become worse than depressing, they'd become dull... but I only had to put up with seeing them face-to-face about three times every two years.
Things smoothed out with my ex and my daughter started visiting for summers in 2010. You never know with kids whether they'll like sports. My niece, for example, does not. Turns out my daughter does, and she likes wearing a baseball cap (and the Rockies beads) and, when she's not munching on cotton candy or peanuts loves watching the game. So I've been teaching her the rules, showing her how the scoreboard works, and all that jazz. And she'd squeak out in her little voice and say "Oh no!" when something bad happened. When she was eight she said "Girls don't play baseball and I think that's wrong!" so I got her a glove and have taken her to batting cages.
And when the Cubs came to town and I took her to a game and I heard her squeal "Let's go Rockies!", time stopped.
You have this picture in your head, growing up, of what you'd want your family to look like. I think there was even a white picket fence involved. And, I know, being from Chicago, I imagined raising a Cubs fan. And then I realized that every summer when she came to visit, we went to Rockies games. So of course, she loved me, she knew I loved watching baseball, and by extension, being the only baseball she knew, she loved the Rockies. And I knew, living in Denver, that I'd been to one Cubs game since I graduated from high school. What da flarg, who I be kiddin'?
I have a plaque signed by Ernie Banks in 1987 declaring me as a "Die-Hard Cubs Fan". Not sure where it's at and I know there's a crack in the glass, but, I'm pretty sure it's still in a box somewhere. I do have a neat art piece from the first night game at Wrigley Field up on the wall. Somewhere there's also a picture of that entire 1987 team but I think it fell behind the couch. But, I do know I have a Rockies World Series pennant and some of the rally towels push-pinned in the wall and an assortment of Rockies hats and jerseys littered about my place. Copies of Rockies media guides and old Rockies magazines wedged into the bookcase between copies of Baseball Prospectus and Philip K. Dick. My daughter's stuff stays here, waiting for her to return each summer, and she's got a stash of Rockies baseball cards, pom poms, and the finger. She loves Tulowitzki though she can't spell it either, but I have the crayon-written proof that she's tried, push-pinned to the wall along with her other purple-colored craft projects.
If I for some ungoshly reason needed even more evidence, there is that Rockies Zingers thing, which happily has taken up all the time I used to spend chatting on the ESPN and Baseball Prospectus boards. Besides, the group here at Purple Row and at the other blogs provide some good ideas to analyze and discuss.
Maybe my trials as a Cubs fan gave me a bit more stamina for what the Rockies have endured, especially in recent years. As bad as the Rockies can be, for whatever reason, they're still interesting. You just never know what can happen in any game, and since I like the analyzing thing and get a little interested in life's turns and subsequently laughing at the irony, I'm entertained.
Now, don't get me wrong, the Cubs are doing much better than they used to be and I'm very confident they'll do well. I wouldn't be surprised in the least if the Cubs put together a run of a few years of quality baseball while the Rockies still try to figure out what to do with their own altitude-induced buntshift.
But hey, that's ok. People change. I've changed and some thanks goes to my daughter for that. And sometimes change takes awhile, as it might with the Rockies. It took me awhile to realize that I wasn't a Cubs fan anymore, that I'd gone to fifty times more Rockies games than Cubs games, or seen and enjoyed more jump throws from Tulowitzki or dirt-scoops from Helton than shoulder shrugging by Starlin Castro. It even took me awhile to realize that even the Cubs that I grew up fawning over have changed. The formerly beloved WGN-TV is getting phased out. Even though Wrigley Field is only 1,000 miles away from Denver, the remodeling makes it feel much farther. Besides, I don't need to go the long way round to enjoy some fun baseball with my daughter.