A Night at PETCO

September 02, 2008

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Street Reporter

A Night at PETCO

Been a while since I posted, in part because I was out of town last week at a trade show in San Diego. Not a bad place to go for a working vacation, and a week ago we got to take in a game between the Padres and the D-backs. My dad's a rabid D-backs fan, beside which my fandom (or fanhood, as the ESPN ads call it) seems rather small. He brought his own logo-coordinated Arizona hat and shirt, having overcome his anger at their change in colors and logo, which seemed to him (correctly) to be an effort to boost merchandising sales.

He brought a hat for me, and we ended up with great seats just above the aisle behind the visiting dugout, so that nearly every Arizona fan who walked by expressed their out-of-towner support. It's a cool feeling to have that solidarity, and there are plenty of AZ fans in San Diego, with Phoenix only six hours away and the Padres down in the dumps. Plus, Brandon Webb was going for his twentieth win, so even more fans were there than usual, I'd bet.

As seems to be typical with California fans (at least from my experience at Dodger Stadium), the Pad fans arrived late and left early. But by the time the third inning rolled around, most of the lower sections were fairly full, as were the upper sections closer to home. In the distance behind the stadium, we could see a condo building my dad had seen on TV, where the residents of one apartment, clearly D-backs fans, had lights arranged for certain key phrases. "Go D-Backs" was always lit, and (in honor of color commentator Mark Grace) they flashed "CAR" whenever there was a pause in the action.

Things, of course, didn't go all that well for Brandon Webb, and the game was looking grim by the third, with Arizona trailing 5-0. The D-Backs put together a mini-rally to 5-2 in the fourth, then totally out of hand by the seventh, when the Padres pushed the lead out to 8-2. Arizona looked inept, Webb kept leaving his sinker up, and the Padres could do no wrong. 

There were several memorable moments, like the dog parade before the game (some of which I missed while trying to find a beer worth drinking), my dad calling Mark Reynolds' home run as he stepped to the plate, watching Mark Grace do the pregame bit in front of the dugout, or seeing David Wells sitting in the VIP seats behind home.

Sadly, what I'll remember most is the Padres fan sitting behind us, who felt it was his personal duty to berate most of the Arizona lineup, particularly Webb and former Padre Tony Clark. Both of these guys are pretty likeable guys, but this guy behind us razzed them unmercifully. This is, as always, the prerogative of any fan, and I don't fault the guy that, but it did seem absurd for him to call the leading NL Cy Young contender (at least when the game started) a "bum." Particularly when his team was floundering in last place, thirty games under .500, and their pitching ace Peavy had fewer than half of the "bum" Webb.

And so we got the pleasure of hearing this guy holler incessantly at Arizona, putting a spoiled cherry on a bad game (from an Arizona perspective, anyway) and making us mutter to each other about his sanity or, at least, sense of propriety. I've got no problem with local fans razzing the opposition, particularly the "villain" of the other team, but get the razzing right.

He kept mocking the D-backs for being in first place while being only four games over .500. But his team is thirty games under .500 and wallowing in last, battling the lowly Mariners and Nationals for worst record in baseball. Does he even have the right to boo like this?

Webb may look a bit goofy--this guy, in California fashion, focused on both Webb and Clark's hair--but he's a hell of a good pitcher, and a nice guy to boot. Hearing a fan from a last-place team call him a bum sounded, well, ridiculous. Anyone else think it's stupid to hear a fan of a crappy team call the stud from the first-place team names? And Tony Clark is neither a villain nor particularly a threat. His team traded him away; he didn't throw a Manny-like fit and demand to be traded to a contender. Arizona liked him, he liked Arizona, and the Padres traded him. Is that any reason to hate the guy? 

We stayed, as always, until the end of the game, even after many of the Padres fans left, but Mr. Leather Lungs behind us didn't leave. And as we filed out, he hollered, "Enjoy the drive back to Arizona!"

"Enjoy your season in last place!" I shot back, at least satisfied to have the last word.  

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