I am a Tigers fan.
Or at least, I was a Tigers fan. You see, I was born in Detroit. The first game I ever attended was as an infant in old Tiger Stadium. My dad was a graduate student at Wayne State University, in the city he grew up in. He had been a lifelong Tigers fan, once attending Al Kaline Baseball Camp. He regaled me with tales of how cunning manager Mayo Smith had foiled the Cardinals in the 1968 World Series by boldly playing Mickey Stanley at shortstop - despite the fact he had not played there all year - so he could get Al Kaline's bat in the lineup and Ray Oyler's bat out of the lineup.
One day my dad answered an ad in the paper and took a job in a new city out west - Kansas City. As I grew up, everyone around me was Royals fans, and for good reason for the franchise had been quite successful with seven playoff appearances over a ten year period. I wanted to be contrarian and stick to my Detroit roots, so I planted my flag with the Tigers. But I also wanted to fit in, so I also cheered for the Royals. In 1984, the Tigers beat the Royals in the American League Championship Series and went on to win it all. The following year, the Royals won it all. My birth team and my adopted team won championships in back-to-back years. In my mind, they would win dozens of championships over the years.
In 1988, I attended my first Royals game. I loved it. The orange seats, the bright green carpet on the field, the magical fountains, the dot matrix crown-shaped scoreboard. The Royals had an exciting team full of stars - George Brett, Bret Saberhagen, Frank White, Bo Jackson, Danny Tartabull, Willie Wilson, Mark Gubicza, Kevin Seitzer. My dad was rooting for the Royals. I was rooting for the Royals. We watched Denny Trease and Paul Splittorff on TV, Denny Matthews and Fred White on the radio. We cheered on scrubs like Bill Pecota and cursed manager John Wathan. We criticized the Bud Black trade and questioned why Mike MacFarlane wasn't called up. We were Royals fans.
The Tigers were still in my heart, but the Royals had clearly supplanted them as #1. It seemed like a fine arrangement - until realignment. The Tigers initially were in the East. But when Tampa Bay came into the league and pushed Milwaukee to the National League, the Tigers and Royals became rivals. Which didn't matter much then - both clubs were quite lousy. But now...it matters.
My cousin is still a Tigers fan, despite being a lifelong New Yorker. Well, he was up to the day he died. I swear I am not making this up, but he died of leukemia during the 2006 World Series between the Tigers and Cardinals and was buried in his Tigers jersey. I love his dedication.
I wondered how my dad could simply switch allegiances, but I guess I figure he's lived here longer than he lived in Detroit. This is home now. We've stuck with the Royals through all these bad times, and soon it may finally start to pay off.
I went to a game recently with him, my brother-in-law, and my five-year old son. My son asked, "who is your favorite team?"
"The Royals!" I answered.
"The Red Sox!" responded my Boston-born brother-in-law.
"The Royals," responded my dad. But he paused.
"And the Tigers."