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.
As 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.