Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Fair Weather Fans

I enjoyed the idea of breaking down the history behind the lyrics of The Baseball Project's "Buckner's Bolero" so much that I thought I'd take another crack at a similar idea. This time, the subject matter is the song that celebrates the favorite teams of each of the band members, "Fair Weather Fans," which is certainly not what Scott McCaughey, Linda Pitmon, Pete Buck and Steve Wynn are.

The tune starts off with McCaughey revealing the four teams he's rooted for at various times in his life, and the three that remain near and dear to his heart:
As a kid in Arizona we didn’t have our own team, but I was drawn to the Braves of Aaron, Mathews and Spahn. When we moved to The Bay I got McCovey, Marichal and Mays. It was heaven and then in ‘68 the A’s came along. With Captain Sal, Reggie, Joe Rudi, and Rollie, having two teams to love was out of sight. When Seattle became home I spent my nights in the Dome. I still think the Mariners, Giants and A’s are all right!
The lyrics here seem to imply that McCaughey no longer roots for the Braves, that he was just a fan of the team during the Aaron/Mathews/Spahn era. Spahn is the elder of that trio, and was, in fact, already 33 in 1954, when Aaron made his major league debut with the then Milwaukee Braves. But, the three still had quite a run together, combining for 24 all-star selections—which doesn't even double-count the years when two games were played—from 1955 to 1963.

The chorus explains that these fans remain loyal to their teams, despite the fact their love for the game has influenced them to follow new home teams while moving around the country:
A fair weather fan is not what I am, even though my zip code has changed. I might smile and enjoy where I’m currently employed, but your soul can’t be rearranged. It’s hard to understand, it’s so hard to understand a fair weather fan.
My favorite verse features Pitmon as lead singer, professing her love for the Twins, but admitting a weakness for the Yankees:
I grew up outside of Minneapolis, glued to the radio and the ‘70’s Twins, and the sad sound of crying when they didn’t score enough runs for a Blyleven win. Now I reside in New York City, so I got a little thing for the pinstripes. But when the Twins face the Yanks in the ALDS, you know who this small town girl likes...
Quite fitting, I must say, is the reference to her hometown team failing to score enough runs in backing recent Hall of Fame electee Bert Blyleven. His underwhelming 287-250 career won-loss record is probably what prevented him from earning his rightful place in Cooperstown until his 14th year on the ballot.
And there’s bass player Pete, always fast on his feet. No home team, then for sure. He stays fast and loose but if he had to choose, it’d be the Washington Senators.
According to Wikipedia, Peter Buck's family moved from California to Atlanta sometime during his youth. The Braves moved there in 1966—Buck was born in 1956—but I guess he didn't latch onto them. I don't know exactly when the family arrived in Atlanta, but if it was pre-1966—when Peter's age was still in the single digits—the Washington Senators, St. Louis Cardinals or Cincinnati Reds would have been the closest thing they had to a home team.

Which brings up an interesting point, one that applies to both McCaughey's baseball upbringing and Buck's, and countless other fans from remote areas of the country. When you live in a place where the nearest team is several hundred miles away, who do you root for? This question came up when KJ and I were visited last year by our friends from Boise, Idaho.

While taking them sightseeing on the North Shore, one of the locals asked their 10-year old daughter what sports teams she roots for. It didn't even occur to him that it's possible cities without professional teams are just not as into sports as the folks from Boston are. Or, that 10-year old girls might not be into sports at all. But, that's more a reflection of how truly sports-obsessed this particular city is, which is a discussion for another day.

Finally, it's Wynn's turn:
I grew up in LA to the sweet sounds of Vin Scully. That’s how I went to bed most every night. There ain’t a prettier park than the one in Chavez Ravine. I’ve seen many games by the palm trees and the lights. But I sure do love Manhattan -- I took on the AL team in ’93. But now that Torre and Mattingly have moved to LA, it makes it so much easier for me.
Obviously the song was written at least a half year before it was released, considering Torre is now out—and Mattingly in—as the manager of the Dodgers. It's hard to imagine someone's two favorite teams being the Dodgers and the Yankees, though.

But, then again, KJ and I were in Vermont this past weekend, where we met a fellow from Rhode Island wearing a Red Sox hat. I was wearing my Boston Braves hat, so I had to correct him when he assumed I was one of his brethren. When I admitted I am, in fact, a Yankees fan, he claimed they are his second favorite team.

Now, that guy just might be a fair weather fan.

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