Why I’m rooting for the Padres against my “hometown” Phillies
Almost as soon as the Phillies and Padres clinched their spots in the NLCS, I started to get messages from my Philly friends. “Who ya rooting for?” they asked.
My answer surprised a lot of them. I’m rooting for the Padres. Hard.
This drew a mix of incredulous and vulgar remarks from my Philly brethren so I figured I needed to explain myself. Despite having grown up in Philadelphia, my allegiance changed as I moved around the country. Here’s why.
After I left Philly at age 32 I moved to Fort Lauderdale, then to Dallas, then back to Fort Lauderdale, and finally, in 2008, here to San Diego. I’ve been rooting for the Padres, (yuck) Marlins and even the (way yuck) Texas Rangers ever since 2002, when a friend changed my mind with this argument:
“You seem to like living in Fort Lauderdale,” he said as we watched a Phils vs. Marlins game from the air-conditioned comfort of his condo.
“Yeah,” I answered, “I love it!” (That same friend correctly predicted I’d reach my Florida expiration date within 10 years.)
“Well, everybody who lives here is like you,” he continued.
“They’re all from somewhere else. And they love it here, but they all root for the team from where they grew up. Until several generations are born and stay here, this team’s not going to have a fan base. A small-market franchise like Miami will be bankrupt and gone long before that.”
Damned reasoning. He had an irrefutable point. I had been attending games at the miserable Pro Player Stadium among fans from cold-weather climes such as New Jersey, Pittsburgh, and Chicago. Opposing jerseys outnumbered Marlins jerseys two to one at those games. When the Mets, Braves or Phillies came to town, that ratio got even more lopsided. The Mets fans were the worst. The most obnoxious and the most plentiful. In protest, I bought myself a classy “Muck The Fets” T-shirt to let them know my chosen hometown wasn’t “The 6th Borough.” (Spoiler: it is.)
When the Phillies came, I just skipped the games. I didn’t want to root against the team I grew up cheering for so I simply abstained. Now, it’s not like the Phils brought me lots of winning seasons. Other than the 1980 championship, they won nothing in the other 31 years I lived there. Despite being a big market, ownership was cheap, Veterans Stadium was a dump, and Philly’s boo-birds had plenty to rail against. A year later, the Marlins squeaked into the Wildcard slot and wound up beating the Yankees for their 2nd World Series. I was there. I was stoked. And I will never forget that feeling.
I’m not skipping this series. I watched all 162 of the Padres’ regular-season games and most of the pre-season, too. I’m heavily invested in time, emotion and civic pride. I can’t wait to see my squad take the field in those sharp uniforms in front of 43,000 wild fans, desperate for just a taste of victory. Older Philadephians can commiserate. All of which brings me to my…
Five Reasons you should root for San Diego:
- F — — Tatis. Most fans were willing to forgive the young star about how selfish and reckless he was breaking his wrist in an off-season motorbike accident. Winning a World Series without him on the roster would leave a permanent hole in his soul, more punishing than anything the league could hand out.
- This city deserves a winner. There used to be a Museum in Balboa Park called the Hall of Champions. For obvious reasons, it recently reopened as the Comic-Con Museum. Despite SDSU competing in D1 athletics for a century, and UCSD and USD both being powerhouses in certain sports, no San Diego team, collegiate or professional, has ever won a major championship. Ever. The Sockers titles don’t count, sorry.
- The Padres are it. Look, San Diego isn’t a great sports town like Philly. There, I said it. But the Chargers’ rabid fans burned jerseys and merch when they ‘bolted’ for LA. Wave FC, our NWSL team, routinely draws 20,000+ fans. But for major sports, we’ve a sieve. The LA Clippers started in SD, then sailed to LA, just like the Judases, er, Chargers. The San Diego Rockets blasted off for Houston. We have fewer pro sports teams than Anaheim, New Orleans, Charlotte, or Miami, none of which non-residents would consider “great sports towns.”
- It’d be great for baseball: Why is L.A. good every year? Well, it’s a well-run club…and the Dodgers signed an $8B dollar deal with the network that carries their games. A lot of that money wound up on the field and voila, winning ensued! Here, after decades of frugality, the Padres’ current owner has allowed his aggressive GM to go shopping for talent and he’s gotten it. If the Padres take the title this year, other small-markets may make similar moves to become competitive, which would create more parity within MLB.
- A shared inferiority complex. Philly is sandwiched between the media capital of the world, and the White House. It commonly gets skipped on national maps. When it does get mentioned, it’s often for the wrong reasons. Well, San Diego is the West Coast Philly. The 8th largest city in the US lives in the long shadow of L.A. Half of my Philly friends couldn’t find SD on a map. We want on that map. We want something to wave in L.A.’s face. A pennant will do, but a ring would be better.
So there you have it. If the Phillies win, I’ll be disappointed but absolutely will cheer them on in the World Series. And if by some chance these Padres bring home the crown, they’ll wear it well. Best of luck to everyone (except you, Bryce Harper).