On Friday morning, myself and two other Kept Faith contributors (Travis and Joe) started the long trip north to witness the Padres V. Giants battle for first place. It was all part of a big surprise party for another TKF writer and (unfortunately) Giants fan, Sean O’Donnell. We had a suite. We had beer and we had a prediction to destroy.
In case you missed it earlier in the week, Jonathan Sanchez predicted the Giants would sweep the Padres and overtake first place. Most Padres fans thought this was hilarious, but secretly we were all frightened that this would come true. The chance of Bruce Bochy inflicting pain on his old team for selling him short through most of the 2000’s. Can’t blame him. Who wants to manage Ryan Klesko and Desi Relaford? I would maybe be the only one interested in that job. Maybe. Anyway, the Padres had just swept the Pirates, the Giants were on fire and this was truly the most important series of our surprisingly amazing season.
First off if you’ve never been to AT&T Park, do yourself a favor and go. It’s the best of the retro parks and is full of great fans that don’t want to kill you. Unlike Dodger fans. Everyone attending the game in our entourage, except Sean and his lady, were sporting Padres gear. While walking to the stadium we were treated to hateful stares and playful heckles. One guy actually yelled out of his car, “Eff You Padres!” I yelled back “Thank you for not cursing!” We entered the stadium and were immediately ushered in to the suite elevator, which was nice as we skipped all the commoners’ childish comments. Our suite was fantastic and we had the perfect view to watch Jonathan “The Predictor” Sanchez get shelled. Well shelled is a strong word, how about…handled. It was a sloppy game on both ends that included not one but four base running pickles (One that was brilliantly executed by A-Gonz and ended with a diving tag by the Panda.) and three wild pitches. However, we still came out on top with Heath Bell coming in to close out the Padres 3-2 victory. But then something happened that hasn’t happened in quite a long time: As the seven of us cheered Heath Bell’s final out we noticed that the rest of the stadium was completely quiet. It was like he had just cheered someone getting stabbed. We stood a little stunned by the experience but continued our celebration nonetheless. We knew if we left the suite early we’d be berated and heckled to no end, so we stayed a few extra minutes to look down to the lower section to yell and gloat. This is when something happened to me THAT HAS NEVER HAPPENED TO ME BEFORE - EVER! As I stood exposing my Padres shirt to the lower level, the Giants fans below me started yelling back and giving me some words. It was all in good fun and really both sides were laughing as we were doing it. Again, a tell tale sign no Dodger fans were around. Then, one Giants fan got a little angry and asked me when I bought my Padres shirt? I asked why and he said, “Did you buy it last week?” I replied with, “Yeah!” because last week I did in fact buy a new Padres shirt. Then he yelled back a magical word, “BANDWAGONER!”
I was stunned. I was shocked and I had no comeback. I could not believe that this guy called me a bandwagoner. I almost thought I heard him wrong, but sure enough as I looked at him in shock he said it again. I walked away feeling like someone had just called me relevant. I have been a Padres fan since my family moved to San Diego in 1984 (Good year) and I have never wavered in my support for the Friars except if the Reds make the playoffs and the Padres don't. Of course there was no way this heckler could know this and nothing I said back would convince him. I could yell, “I cried when Mike Darr died!” but he would have been confused and thrown something at me. I was also astounded that this dude was calling me a bandwagoner as I stood in a suite at Giants stadium with several other fans. Looking at the situation he had to assume that we drove or flew up for the game and rented the suite. Is that what a real bandwagoner does? I don’t think so.
The last thing that amazed me was as we were walking to the parking lot we got several choice words yelled at us and one guy tried to take off Joe’s hat, which set me into temporary rage. There is no reason for that fans. You lost, now tell me to go back to San Diego and don’t try to touch me. Starting a fight over millionaires is idiotic. But, at that moment it hit me - we are villains in this city because we matter! We could have won this game last year or anytime during the 2000’s and people would have just laughed at us and pitied our record, but not this year. They hated us - we were experiencing an honest to God pennant race! It felt almost transcendent.
We spent the night walking to a couple bars and getting serious glares and some heckles here and there from locals. One bartender wouldn’t serve Travis in his Padres jacket and hat. It was to say the least - refreshing. I felt like a Yankee fan walking into any stadium that wasn’t Yankee stadium. I felt like the big dog on campus and everyone was pissed because they could not figure out why I was the big dog. We drank the night away and celebrated our good fortune till the wee hours of the morning.
On our drive home the next day it was relatively quiet and most of us spent the trip sleeping. We listened to the day game on the radio, which the Padres blew in the 11th inning, and all of our happiness kind of spilled out onto the 580 east. It only mattered slightly that we were so triumphant and had so much fun the night before. We were now back where we started in every way possible just 24 hours ago. Joe drove a bit faster and Travis got on his iPad to check other scores and highlights. I went to sleep, wondering how long it would be until someone would call me that magical name that no Padres fan has been called in over a decade - Bandwagoner.