"Where were you when we were shit?" "Why aren't you here every week?" This is what the locals were saying on Saturday January 26 in the London Road Terrace of Peterborough United's ground.
The occasion was the F.A. Cup 4th round tie against West Bromwich Albion and I had been dragged along by my mate with promises of cup magic, I certainly needed it after the Arsenal got embarassed by Spurs in the Carling Cup the previous week. And the locals were right, there was not a chance that I would be there if they were playing Rotherham on a cold Tuesday night in November (I can understand why it is always Rotherham, but what's everyone's problem with Tuesday nights and November?) I had never even stood on terracing before, let alone cheered on Craig Mackyal Smith or Aaron McClean, what right did I have to be there trying to share their glory? The match finished 3-0 to West Brom and I have very little interest in ever setting foot in the ground again.
But now I am the one complaining about the newly found fans. Yet this club are not even local to me, not in the same country, continent or hemisphere. My team are the Tampa Bay Rays.
Five years ago I took in my first match at the Trop, a 4-0 win over Kansas, and I have been hooked since. I could not get enough, anything on the internet about them I read it, whenever they were mentioned on British TV or PTI, a smile came across my face.
When I returned a year later to see them go down to Seattle in extra innings, I knew everything. The ERA of the pitcher, slugging percentages and stolen base numbers were facts I could reel off at ease, I got a replica shirt of Carl Crawford and put my Lou Pinella card up on my wall. Despite, the losing seasons, the thrashings, the no good players I put up with them, when they started winning it would be even more sweeter.
Now they are one of the best teams in baseball and my mornings are all the better to read and watch reports on their victories. Yet I can't seem to shake a nagging feeling about the increasing attendances. Where were they when we were shit? Do they wake up every day to read the reports? Do they get as disappointed after an extra innings loss to the Mariners?
But what right do I have to feel this way? I don't live there, I have no connection with them. Of the team playing at the moment I have only seen Carl Crawford and BJ Upton actually play, the rest are just numbers and highlight reels. Yet I still think of myself as a massive fan.
I have no idea why I have stuck with them so long. Why Carlos Pena's home runs please me so much. Why I sweat over the onbase percantage of Gabe Gross.
All I do know is that I hope the winning continues.