Wednesday, June 5, 2013

By Ellen Bell, Staff Writer - 

Like many of us, I am not married to my first crush.

Don’t get me wrong; the Angels are my boys. I am a faithful fan through thick and thin, even though it’s been pretty lean lately.  For 17 seasons I have worn my Angel red proudly.

But long before I loved Tim Salmon, and Darin Erstad, there was Ernie Banks and Ryne Sandberg and, yes, even Bill Buckner.

I learned to love baseball in the bleachers of Wrigley Field, ditching high school with my buddies just like Ferris Bueller. I grew up pledging my allegiance to the Cubs and if you’ve ever spent anytime in Chicago, you know the truth of the phrase, “once a North Sider, always a North Sider.”

I maintained my devotion when I moved to California, as I trudged all the way up to see the Cubbies at Dodger Stadium every summer. But when I started a family of my own, I looked for a local solution. 

There were the Angels, twenty minutes from my house, ready to be my new family’s home team.  We had no expectations; no loyalties. Just the desire to expose our children to the game that we loved. I couldn’t name half of the players at our first game. After all this was the American League where they cheated with their silly Designated Hitter...

But game after game, as our kids grew, so did our love for the Angels. They weren’t winning a lot of games back then and the roster wasn’t full of all-stars, but I was used to that. After all, I was still a Cubs fan. The Angels won me over with their grit and perseverance. Plus, I like to root for the underdog. 

When the miracle of the 2002 season came around, I was able to share the incredible rarity of that experience with my kids. When you love two teams that are never expected to make the play-offs, you understand the sheer joy and incredible blessing of a once-in-a-lifetime season like that. I drank in every inning. 

Then it all changed. The Angels transformed into a team on the rise; a pre-season favorite to win it all. The Cubs even made a run in 2008, when they had the best record in the National League. As a fan, I wasn’t used to this at all. Angels in first place? Cubs in first place? What would happen next; the Clippers would become relevant? For an entire season I reveled in the success of my two teams, even daring to imagine a World Series matchup.

But the Baseball Gods punished me for my arrogance, and neither team made it past the first round of the playoffs. Curses, foiled again.

This year, I’m in more familiar territory. My Cubs are struggling. My Angels are struggling. Halo fans may be uncomfortable with this place, but frankly, I’m used to it.

So last night, when I drove to the Big A to see my teams meet up, I was more than a bit excited. The team of my past would be on the field with the team of my present. I wore my Sandberg jersey along with my Pujols T-shirt to celebrate. 

Anyone who loves baseball knows that being a fan is about more than celebrating when your team wins. It’s about history, childhood memories, unbelievable games, and heartbreaking disappointments. It’s all wrapped up into the experience of loving a team, whether they play thousands of miles away or right in your own backyard. 

Last night, even before the first pitch was thrown, I knew it would be a great game.

For one night at least, there was no way that my team was going to lose.
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