In the Cold, Cold Ground (Or: How I Became a Twins Fan)

Some ample parking in Saint Paul today!


So, I thought I'd tell the story of how I became a Twins fan. Because it's cold outside, and I have nothing else to do. When I moved to the Twin Cities in 2000, I experienced my first winter and bitched about it on the phone to my mom, one night when it got to be, say, 10 degrees above. She'd grown up in Chippewa Falls, WI. She said, "there will be days when you think of zero as warm." It sucks when your parents are right.

It's not in my nature to like sports. Or, rather, it was, but it got whupped out of me. I'm a male, OK? I spent my pre-teen years wanting to be a baseball player. I'd listen to radio broadcasts of Winfield in the World Series as I fell asleep, and have the happiest of dreams.

I started hating sports when my dad, a bad drunk, became a worse sober guy. Evidently sobriety made him take stock of his life (an unfortunate series of failures, only half of which were related to booze, some were just bad luck) and decide to be an Alpha Parent. Meanng, a colossal dick.

You know those books, like "Raising A Tiger," where Alpha Parents tell how their tough love motivated awesome athletic children? Now, apply those methods to kids who have no athletic skills, and see how productive that is. It's commonly thought of as idyllic to "toss the ball around with your old man." Manly men with deep feelings who won't express them aloud, but share their love through playing catch. Picture a wimpy, asthmatic kid trying his best to toss the ball to his old man, and missing badly. "Go pick it up," the old man says. "Can I go inside and read, now?" the kid asks. "I said, pick it up," the father intones. Fun with nostalgia!

I still enjoyed playing sports with other kids until puberty. Bang, snap! Puberty is like the Watergate investigation of childhood. People who'd sworn eternal loyalty to each other suddenly begin turding on every friend in sight to avoid worse punishments by the powers that be (the more popular kids, the ones who got big and sexy quickly, and many of whom would get quite locked into parenthood quite quickly as a result.)

When I see people talk about "bullying" now, I wonder how those who never experienced it imagine it to be. Do they think of getting pushed around, maybe shoved into a locker? Having mean words said that hurt one's feelings? Adolescent bullies are much, much, much worse than that. If adults behaved the way adolescent bullies do, they'd be locked away for a long, long time. And while I see their behavior as a product of their own damage now (they were probably treated just that badly at home), it's harder for me to forgive the teachers.

Yup. Teachers. We had, in our school, an intercom that was enclosed in metal wire so kids wouldn't destroy it, and every morning, the intercom would spout off "Daily Announcements." Penalties for skipping class, which school entrances were closed for "reconstruction" (drug sales), and so forth. And, team victories. Team victories. How the football team did. How the basketball team did. And how the chess club did.

I had teachers who, when the intercom announced how the chess club did, would wordlessly stand up and walk out the door. Because it was just too much hassle to deal with what the jocks did to the wimpy kids when "chess club" was announced on the intercom. Like I said; shit grownups would be in jail over. For a long, long time.

That's the underside to everybody thinking Nerd Is Cool, now. I'm glad they do, I'm glad kids can be into Doctor Who or online fantasy games and not get brutalized. I'm glad teachers are on the lookout for troubled kids using "fag" or "homo" the way angry cats growl, a sign of fiercer aggression to come. But what used to happen was way worse than getting "hazed" or "made fun of." It was stone fucking abuse, always violent and usually sexual in nature. Again, from kids who probably experienced that kind of horror at home.

So, what was the excuse for teachers who left the room? For gym teachers who didn't even leave the room, but encouraged the bullies, then sat in their locker-room office and played classic rock tunes loud to drone out what happened?

Because there were teachers who didn't tolerate it. Who defended the wimpy kids. Females in their 20s who had to get to their cars after-school, pushing aside threatening jocks. Old teachers who stood up to bullies. My favorite, Mr. Vallaincourt, told the bullies they'd have to touch the wimp kids over his dead body. And they didn't dare. Mr. Vallaincourt stood up for the nerds and stood up to the jocks and nobody, but nobody, fucked with him.

(Also, Mr. Vallaincourt is immortalized in movie history. Here he is in "Point Break," at the 1:00 mark. Keanu Reeves walks by some people ogling at big waves, and the old man with the beard and the cap is Gordon Vallaincourt. Because he was awesome, he loved everything about Oregon history, and, yeah, the movie is supposedly set in Australia at that point but it's really Oregon.)

SO, I learned to hate sports, long story less long. Hate hate hate them, and anyone who liked them.

Until I went to college.

I went to college in Los Angeles, which is not like how the Disney Channel shows it. It's a hellhole. It's the worst place I've ever been. If you're rich and live there, you can get a lot of sex. If you're not rich, it's awful.

I had a campus job driving students to-and-fro their apartments and the school. Because walking meant getting mugged. Most of this involved sorority girls being drunk and asking me to turn up "Hotel California" on the radio. I shit you not; they did that. One time, I thought my vehicle was in "reverse" when it was in "drive," and I smashed a rich kid's BMW. The entire back end of the BMW fell off. Dropped completely off the car with a loud crunch. My passenger, a Hindu science student, looked at me. "I saw nothing," he said. "Fuck those fucking assholes."

Those assholes were frat boys, and they loved watching the NBA's Lakers on the dorm's communal TV. Since I had no TV in my room, and avoided being in it at all costs (my roommate was a frat boy who covered our dorm door with photos of him flexing his muscles), I watched a lot of the communal TV. And I noticed something. The frat boys got frustrated and angry when the Lakers lost. Especially when they lost to Portland, where I grew up.

So I started to like sports. Because the enemy of my enemy is my friend.

Fast-forward to 2000. I'd lived in a different city every year since college in LA, and I thought, on a whim, I'd try the Midwest. It was either that or the South. I'm not that much of a masochist, so I chose the Midwest.

I'd read that supporting the local teams was a good way to meet-n-greet people in one's new environs. And, thanks to the frat assholes in LA, I kinda enjoyed sports a little again. I saw that the baseball team had a scheduled doubleheader, and I figured, "two for the price of one! I'll check it out!"

Of course, that was the last scheduled doubleheader in baseball history because doubleheaders are abysmally tiresome. The Dome agreed. They let us out with stamps on our hands during the interim, and Hubert's had probably the best booze crowd in their history.

I loved it.

I loved every minute of that nine-hour endurance test. (Both games went to the 10th.) Torii Hunter delivered the game-winning RBI at the end of the second game, and I went positively batshit. Nobody expected the Twins to be anything but crap that year. Here they were, being Not Crap. They were underdogs, and so were their fans. There weren't a lot of people there at the Dome, but those who were there bled baseball passion through their pores, getting rewarded by Torii in the 10th.

Those fans were nerds. They were wimps. They were losers. I bonded with them immediately. And the Twins won.

The next season, I bought a pack of baseball cards for the first time in 20 years. Just on a hunch, because I'd worshipped baseball cards before jerks whupped the sports love outta me. Guess what was a featured card in the pack? A Torii Hunter card. "'I just want to go to bed,' said Torii following his huge day of 5/26/01."

No experience of jerkheads in my past could beat that. Torii was awesome. The games were awesome.

And I became a Twins fan.

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