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I often find myself marveling at the emotions that are invested by fans into a sport. To those that aren't fans, the passion seems as a wasted use of time and attention. To those of us that steadfastly follow a team, our mood can be tied to the outcome of a game, a home stand, a season, or in the case of Rockies fans, almost a decade of seasons. Is this passion and emotional investment short sighted or is it something we share collectively yet tie into our own lives on a personal level?
I've been following baseball, much like many of the fan posters on Purple Row, for as long as I can remember. I spent my early youth of the 90's living in Minnesota and Texas following the Twins and Rangers. My earliest memories revolve around the bridge of my nose being pink with sunburn from a hot Texas sun, the corner of my mouth crusted with mustard from a bite of an oversized hotdog, and my eyes fixated on Pudge Rodriguez at bats. When we eventually moved away from Texas and to the Rocky Mountain region, I felt like I had lost something. Only being eight years old at the time though, my baseball loyalty was not set in stone.
I first became associated with the Rockies when I stumbled upon the baseball cards of Preston Wilson and JD Closser (wow, there's a name I haven't thought of in a while). Knowing nothing about the team, I assumed these were their best players and that was all that I knew of this purple clad baseball team. Upon my first visit to Coors Field, I quickly became aware of the aura that Todd Helton carried with Rockies fans and have been a devout supporter of The Toddfather ever since.
The moment the Rockies became "my team" however, was an early April day in 2005. When Clint Barmes stepped to the plate on Opening Day and hit a walk off home run off a daunting figure like Trevor Hoffman, I was hooked for life. As Drew Goodman exalted on the telecast "I don't know what the rest of 2005 holds, but I won't soon forget game number one.", I felt myself sharing the same sentiment. I didn't know at the time that my new fan hood would soon be rewarded.
When the 2007 season began to take shape, I was ecstatic at what I saw. A home sweep of the Yankees, the emergence of Troy Tulowitzki, and the nervous excitement of Manny Corpas and Brian Fuentes closing games. When Helton went screaming into home plate on his walk off of the Dodgers and Takashi Saito in mid-September, it was the beginning of a whirlwind of emotion in my life. The kind of emotion that I mentioned in the beginning, that is deeply personal and whether intended or not is aided by the excitement of having sports in your life.
As the 13 of 14 game winning streak rolled by, and the Jamey Carroll sac fly delivered a hand touching home plate, Rocktober came to life as mine seemed to be unravelling. As a young teen in early October 2007, I dealt with a close friend committing suicide right before the playoffs and my parents getting divorced right after the playoffs. At a time when nothing seemed to make sense to me, my passion for the Rockies aided me and gave me something to make sense of. Sports are not just an empty vessel we throw our hearts into; they are a catalyst for raw emotion that sometimes, in the despair of real life, gives us an escape and something to be eternally optimistic for. The Rockies run that year was more than just a playoff run: it was my saving grace that relieved the immense sadness and anxiety my teenage self was not fully able to process. While I bit down hard on my Rocktober rally towel as Jonathan Papelbon closed the door on the World Series sweep, I look back a decade later and realize just how important having the Rockies in my life were to help me through that time and how it would not be the last time they gave me solace.
Since that time, the Rockies continue to be an important facet of my everyday life. Senior year of high school I convinced a few friends and our dates to skip our boring small town prom, and instead make a weekend trip to catch the Rockies play the Marlins in Denver. We still fondly remember it as a great decision. I truthfully skipped various outings with friends to watch Rockies games where Ty Wigginton was starting at third base. I blatantly didn’t study the night before a mid-term in college because I just had to watch Todd Helton’s final game at Coors Field. These are just a few of the moments I reflect on in my dozen plus years of Rockies fandom that may be crazy to some, but very much normal to people that peruse Purple Row on a regular basis.
Sports fandom can be crude in times of poor team performance (I don’t know how BK and the Purple Row staff deals with the Rockies twitter trolls on a regular basis) and joyous in times of success, but it is the ride of the wave of sport emotion and how that sometimes parallels life that makes it all truly meaningful. The value of baseball and the love of the Rockies is shared together in the Rockies fan community and deeply personal to each individual at the same time and I look forward to sharing that with you all for years to come.