Moving On

Over the last couple of weeks, I have read quite a bit about supporters becoming more and more disenfranchised with their favorite clubs. Coventry City, Cardiff City and even my beloved Arsenal. They feel that their clubs are moving to a place – literally or figuratively – where they will no longer be able to support them. The barriers – financial or otherwise – are becoming too large. They feel as though their clubs have turned their backs on them, their most faithful supporters. And while true boycotts are few and far between, most of these supporters are nearing their breaking points.

All sports fans know that their favorite teams exist for one purpose: to make money for the team’s shareholders. We are not fans, we are products sold to advertisers. We are a demographic. We understand that, and for the most part are able to co-exist with it. It becomes a problem when – as Tim from the Arsenal blog 7amkickoff points out – you are no longer a prime demographic for the club. Because you don’t make enough money, or have the right degree, or live in the right time zone. And once that happens, your club slowly drifts away from you, and you are left with a choice: accept the new terms, or move on.


Antoinette Mueller (aka @mspr1nt) discussed in a wonderful piece what cricket fans can learn from what is happening at Coventry City. So I am not going to do that here. Instead I am going to tell you my story about how I have – slowly, but surely – walked away from a team I once adored.


I moved to Minnesota in December of 1987, two months after the Minnesota Twins won the World Series. They were a scrappy bunch of has-beens and never-will-bes (plus Kirby Puckett) and they were a true Cinderella story. I watched those playoffs from the sunroom of our house in Michigan and I instantly fell in love with them. These were my guys. This was my team.

As we all know, we do not choose which teams to support – the teams choose us. And the Minnesota Twins had chosen me.


The Metrodome, now a laughing stock, was for me at the time a shining beacon of hope. It was loud and different and quirky and possessed a sense of magic that only little kids could sense. Furthermore, I was not happy in Michigan, and the move west was a chance to reinvent myself.

When we moved that December, we approached the city of Minneapolis from the north, and drove right past the “Dome”. It was a moment I will never forget. There it was. That inflated Teflon lid that had housed all of that October magic. Before that moment it had only existed on television. But then there it was. In all its glory.

It was evening. I can still picture it.

ows_136150308178517As a family, we would attend many Twins games at the dome. Sometimes just my dad and me, sometimes the whole clan. And from my basement bedroom, two years nearly to the day after my dad had passed away, I watched the Twins win another World Series in what was affectionately known as the “Homer-Dome”.

In the mid-to-late 90s, Twins fans – including me – suffered through some horribly lean years. The dome held 50,000 people but most home games saw crowds as small as three or four thousand. A few hopeful faces amid oceans and oceans of those uncomfortable blue chairs.

From 1997-1999, I lived in a studio apartment that looked out over the Metrodome – pretty much the same view you see above. The Twins – and the Dome – were a near constant presence in my life those days, even if the team was simply terrible.

But then in 2001, the Twins all of a sudden were good again. My wife and I were living downtown and for the next few seasons attended games almost weekly. Sometimes it was just us – other times we were surrounded by friends. I remember so many wonderful walks to the Dome on perfect summer evenings. And I have oh-so-many fond memories of the Twins winning in brilliant fashion and leaving the stadium surrounded by joyous fans followed by an elated walk back home.

It was one of the happiest times of my life. Young love. Baseball. In the heart of the city.

We would always go to games on Tuesday nights – for it was half price night. Seats in the outfield bleachers were only seven dollars. And that’s the thing: the Twins at the Metrodome were always a bargain. And because of that they attracted a more blue collar crowd – a younger crowd, a more urban crown – than the gridiron football team in town, the Minnesota Vikings. They were our team. They belonged to us. The suburbs had the Vikings. We had the Twins.

You would go to indie rock clubs on Friday nights and the bass player of the noise rock band you came to see would be wearing a Minnesota Twins cap.

It was things like that made me love my city, made me love the Twins. They were mine. They had always been mine.

And then, all of a sudden, they weren’t.

In 2010, after years of wrangling, the Twins opened Target Field and left behind the Metrodome forever.

Target Field is a beautiful ballpark. A top notch facility in every way possible. But the team it hosts is no longer my team. They are a rich person’s team. I have been priced out. I was no longer their prime demographic and I was given the choice mentioned above: accept the new terms, or move on.

And in the last few months, I have chosen the latter.

Sure I have been to a few games at Target Field – and had some really great times – and I still check the box scores occasionally – and I still love baseball – but the Minnesota Twins are no longer my team. And they never will be again. They moved on, and so have I.


The Minnesota Vikings – who shared the Dome with the Twins – had their new stadium approved in 2012, to be built on the same land as the Metrodome. And so my beloved old ground is being slowly dismantled. Every time I go by it, a little bit more of it is gone, and I think of all the memories and ghosts and moments – some baseball related but also many, many non-baseball related – friends now lost, summer nights, dads, and the magic of being young and in awe of sport – that were housed there. Those memories will be around long after the last pillar is demolished, of course, but the physical connection to those memories will be gone forever. And that breaks my heart.

The dismantling of the dome is a physical manifestation of what happened to the love I used to have for the Minnesota Twins.

They were my team.


But not anymore.



Us, and our teams

They came to be elated and uplifted…raised up out of their lives by the rare spectacle of victory. ….

Win for me. Win for my kids. Win for my marriage so I can carry your winning back to the car with me and sit in the glow of it with my family as we drive back toward our otherwise winless lives.

– Dennis Lehane,from Mystic River

Yesterday Arsenal lost 5-1 to Liverpool at Anfield. It was a dismal performance and very difficult to swallow.

Since the match was at 6:45am here in Minneapolis, I was forced to dwell on it all day long – and it cast a real pall on my day. I was in a funk from the first minute when Skrtel scored all the way through to much later in the evening when I finally had enough wine and non-football-related conversations to rid myself of the stink of the loss.

For the most part, I am able to shake tough losses, but yesterday was different for some reason, I am not sure why. It was the worst I had felt after an Arsenal loss since their 4-2 loss – again to Liverpool – in the 2008 Champions League quarterfinal.

I tried to watch the highlights of that 2008 match last night. I saw Diaby’s goal, and Hyypia’s leveler, and then Gerrard’s rocket. And then there was Walcott’s run. Charging through the midfield. Shaking off one, two, three defenders. Only 20 years old and playing with the kind of un-jaded freedom and joy that only the young possess. Pulling it back to Adebayor. Goal. 2-2 on aggregate. And Arsenal through to the semi-finals on away goals. But then tragedy. And I closed the browser window. I couldn’t watch Toure give away the penalty. I couldn’t watch Gerrard’s conversion. It was too much to bear. I have not watched the penalty since I saw it live. And I probably will never watch it again.

It is still so, so painful. All these years later.

We all know that feeling, of course, as sports fans. That gross pit in our stomachs after watching our side utterly collapse right before our eyes. Those lonely and cold and depressing walks from the stadium to the train station or the parking lot. Half drunk and grumpy and surrounded by strangers. And how that feeling sits on our shoulders for hours and days – and sometimes even years.

But why do we allow these silly little games to affect us so? And why are some tougher to swallow than others?

I guess I don’t have the scientific answers to those questions, as I am not a psychoanalyst, but I think Lehane was half right above – as sport is the only place on earth where, vicariously at least, we are able to experience true victory. Our lives are, for the most part, winless. Unemployment. Car crashes. Deaths. There are victories, sure, but they are often tainted, often colored by tragedy.

“Life isn’t,” wrote Nick Hornby in Fever Pitch, “a 2-0 home victory after a fish and chip lunch.”

And so I see why we celebrate our teams victories, as it allows us to taste pure winning.

But why then do the victories crush us so? If we only know defeat in our lives why are we so utterly saddened by the defeat of our teams?

I think it is because we have – as sports fans – come to rely on that vicarious winning, and when our teams do not deliver, we mourn not the loss of the game on the playing field or on the television, but the loss of the chance to feel truly good about something.

We are not sad because Arsenal lost. As there will always be another match. And Arsenal lose a lot. We are instead sad because the opportunity to feel the untainted and limitless joy of victory was taken away from us. And we are forced back into the drudgery of Monday, of February, of work, without having tasted of that joy.

“Win for me. Win for my kids.”

It’s silly, of course, because non-sports-fans go their entire lives without experiencing any of the above. They know joy and sadness and victory, too – just in other pursuits.

But I will say this, at the risk of being controversial: sports fans experience higher highs – and lower lows – than non sports fans.

I think this is similar to parenting. People that have children – while not necessarily happier than people who do not have kids – do experience higher highs – and lower lows – than childless people.

Again, Nick Horby:

…So please, be tolerant of those who describe a sporting moment as their best ever. We do not lack imagination, nor have we had sad and barren lives; it is just that real life is paler, duller, and contains less potential for unexpected delirium.


But why do certain matches affect us more than others? It surely has more to do with how big the game was, with how much was at stake. And it again surely has more to do with how your team loses – 5-1 is easier than 2-1, for instance.

I guess I don’t have the answer to that question either. I don’t know why yesterday’s loss bummed me out more than, say, the 1-0 loss to Manchester United or the disastrous 3-1 home loss to Villa. I don’t know why I needed to taste joy yesterday morning more so than any other Saturday kickoff.

I guess maybe it has just been a dark winter. Full of drudgery. And I needed a little light. And I didn’t get it. And it bummed me out. And I mourned the loss of the chance for that light. And I will continue to mourn it for a long time, just as I continue to mourn the missed chance for joy that that Champions League quarterfinal had promised.


Listen. Sports are stupid. And we are idiots. But I truly believe in all of the above. We all – sports fans and non-sports fans alike – are searching for meaning in our lives. We live for 70 years (if we are lucky) on a planet that is 4.5 billion years old and is spinning on the loneliest edge of an incomprehensibly vast, dark and cold universe. We do all that we can to eke out an existence for ourselves, our children, our friends. Hoping to leave something behind that says that it all mattered.

Life is hard. And there are vast chunks of it that lack any sort of meaning, but sport helps us find a pattern in the void, in life’s wallpaper.

And I don’t there is anything the slightest bit wrong about that.

On England: One Bad Patch

George Dobell, on Cricinfo:

This England environment, in recent times, has a record of ruining players. A confused Steven Finn has regressed, an over-used Swann has retired, an exhausted Jonathan Trott has taken time out and the loss of form of the likes of Cook and Joe Root suggests that the schedule is part of an unsustainable business plan that risks running the greatest assets of all: the players.

The article is about Kevin Pietersen of course, which is why he doesn’t mention him – but he does oddly omit any mention of Andrew Strauss, who went from world beating captain to disgraced outsider all in less than 18 months.

And so what has happened to this England – this machine, this juggernaut – that created such a poisonous environment?

Nothing all that out of the ordinary, actually – at least in my opinion. Sure, they hit a bad patch of form – a bad patch greatly exaggerated because it was against the old enemy on cricket’s biggest stage – but this is not their first bad patch since reaching what most would see as the pinnacle of recent years: beating Australia in the fifth Test of the 2010-11 Ashes at the Sydney Cricket Ground.

In fact, it’s their third since the SCG Test. I even plotted it out for us all to see:

England Test recordWith each bad patch came a series of knee jerk reactions from the ECB (Eoin Morgen’s last Test for England was against Pakistan in Dubai and Andrew Strauss’s lest Test for England was against South Africa at Lord’s – to name just two).

And now they are dismissing Pietersen.

Again, from Dobell:

It is increasingly hard to avoid the conclusion that it is the institution at fault, not the individuals.

I cannot agree more.

The ECB, through mismanagement, and just since 2011, has ruined the careers of a half dozen of the greatest English cricketers of the last 50 years.

But a caveat:

As seen in the graphic above, each reaction from the ECB was followed by a period of relative success at the Test level – that cannot be disputed. And so maybe, despite what we all may think, the ECB upper management knows what they are doing better than the armchair journos, as they have the results on the pitch to back them up.


But probably not.