Sunday, June 15, 2008


My dear wife Susie and I have our differences. She likes it warm and I like it cool. She wants to save things and I want to throw them away. I like “Curb Your Enthusiasm” and she can’t stand to be in the room while it’s on.

So, you say, what else is new? How is this marriage different from any other? Well, there’s one more thing: I’m a Chicago Cubs fan and she roots for the Arizona Diamondbacks.

This is serious business, the stuff of which splits are made. Only my generous and forgiving nature has kept us together for, lo, these many years.

The situation is even worse than it may seem, because our different baseball allegiances stem from fundamental differences in our natures. I’m Chicago born and raised, and while I’ve lived in other cities-- Scottsdale, AZ, being the latest— I’m true to any team that wears the Chicago name on its jerseys. Period. End of story.

Susie, on the other hand, is as changeable as the winds. As a girl in Toledo, Ohio, she favored the Tigers, which makes sense because Detroit was the nearest Major League city. But she also rooted for the Dodgers because they frequently played the New York Yankees in the World Series during her formative years, and she hated the Yankees.

Her list of favorite teams expanded to three when she began visiting her uncle Sam in Chicago. He rooted for the White Sox and she followed suit. Like many another primitive Sox fan, that also meant she hated the Cubs. Susie and I lived together in Chicago for 17 years, and you can imagine what things were like around that household.

Since arriving in Arizona she’s become a lifelong D’backs fan, with the White Sox playing a faint second fiddle. The loyalty transfer took about a week. Actually, since the Sox wear “Chicago” on their jerseys, I like them, too (although not as much as the Cubs), and these days I’m a bigger Sox fan than she is. How’s that for a switch?

But like I said, I’m a generous fella, and a fan of baseball generally, so Susie and I go to D’Backs’ games together fairly frequently. A big reason I like to go is that it’s easy. Phoenix’s downtown empties after 5 p.m., so it’s usually a breeze to drive to the stadium and park for a night game. Once there, our favorite cheap seats ($16 per) in the upper deck behind home plate always await us. That’s because the Diamondbacks draw poorly, with crowds averaging less than half the 49,000-seat capacity of their retractable-roofed and industrial-looking home, currently named Chase Field.

Phoenix’s sports teams have a tough time securing a fan base because just about everyone here comes from somewhere else, but there has to be more to it than that. While the Diamondbacks’ history is brief (10 years) they won the World Series in 2001, seven years ago but a mere wink in the geological scale by which Cub fans measure such things. They’ve had other good teams including last year’s, which had the best regular-season record in the National League despite having the lowest team batting average and scoring fewer runs than they allowed. That’s miraculous, and would have stirred fan interest in other cities, but Phoenicians merely yawned, and the team’s 2007 attendance ranked 20th among the 30 Big League clubs.

The yawning continues at the park. D’Back fans come late, leave early and are the sweetest and quietest in baseball. Noise must be coaxed from them by messages on the giant electronic scoreboard that dominates the premises. About their only spontaneous outbursts are for the between-innings t-shirt giveaways and video hot-dog race. By contrast, in Wrigley Field where my Cubs play, and where the scoreboard merely displays the scores, full-house crowds fairly throb with excitement these days, and cheers, chants and boos are strictly extempore.

This season is shaping up as a particularly tense one in Chez Klein. The Cubs and Diamondbacks had the best records in the National League for the first two months of the campaign, and while the D’Backs have slacked off lately the two teams still are good bets for the playoffs. The Cubs’ lineup has the more thump but the D’Backs have baseball’s best 1-2 starting-pitcher combo in Brandon Webb and Dan Haren, a good closer in Brandon Lyon, and the sort of young, lively and motivated (i.e., not terribly overpaid) players that can take them far.

They beat the Cubs in last year’s playoffs and I give them the edge in any showdown this year.

But don’t tell Susie I said that.

1 comment:

Mike Klein said...

Dad, this could be far worse. Mom could be a Washington Nationals fan. The Diamondbacks are at least a real team, with some genuine fans, and they have the added benefit of not having been stolen from some charming but declining cold-weather burg.

Of course, I'd prefer it if the Diamondbacks were called the Razorbacks (or, more appropriately, the Javelinas), but that is another issue.

Still, I bought my first Cubs hat as an adult on my last Chicago trip. Let's Go Cubbies!!!