[This is my column in today’s issue of The Commercial Review.]
When it comes to being a sports fan, there aren’t many things better than being in enemy territory.
I’ve had the pleasure of supporting my teams as visitors seven times, most recently Wednesday night as my alma mater, the Central Michigan Chippewas, took on the Ball State Cardinals on the gridiron.
And out of those seven times, none was more exciting, or upsetting, than what I experienced in April.
I grew up an Atlanta Braves fan in Michigan, so getting to see my favorite team play in person was an afterthought until interleague play was established.
Until then, the only time I could dream of seeing the Braves play would be if somehow they met the Detroit Tigers in the World Series.
In the late 1990s and early 2000s, there was absolutely no way that was going to happen. The Tigers were atrocious.
But in 2004 I got my chance, when Atlanta came to Detroit for an interleague series. I made it to one game, a Braves loss, but the highlight was getting to see my favorite player, Chipper Jones, launch what was at the time the longest home run in Comerica Park history.
Fast forward to April.
The Braves returned to Comerica Park, and I spent the weekend in Detroit so I could catch my two favorite teams play each other. It was awesome, but disappointing at the same time.
I had a duffel bag filled with Braves gear — two jerseys, two shirts, three hats, a sweatshirt and a jacket — ready for what I had hoped would be a fun-filled weekend.
Instead, the Tigers swept the Braves, including a 10-0 shutout in the Friday night game, in which Detroit starter Anibal Sanchez set a franchise record with 17 strikeouts.
The best part of the weekend was walking around Comerica Park with the tomahawk emblazoned on my chest among 40,000 Tigers fans. I am a Tigers fan too, just not when they’re playing the Braves.
After every game, an onslaught of four-letter profanities were thrown my way from almost every angle, with the exception of the friends I went to the games with. They were more subtle in their stabs at me, which I appreciate.
The reaction I got from friends on Facebook paralleled those I received in the normally friendly confines of Comerica.
Those shots were expected because I would have most likely done the same thing, albeit without profanities, had the outcome been the opposite.
My record in supporting the visiting team is an abysmal 1-6, and the only victory I’ve witnessed barely counts.
That came in 2007, one semester before I enrolled at CMU. I traveled to Kalamazoo, Mich. for the Central Michigan versus Western Michigan rivalry football game.
It was a cold, Tuesday night in November, and through the first three quarters, it was a boring 10-7 WMU advantage.
Being the relatively young 22-year-old college student I was at the time, I missed the 48 total points scored in the fourth quarter because I had a little too much to drink before the game.
We left after the third quarter because our hosts, WMU students, were too cold.
CMU scored with just seconds remaining on the clock to take a 34-31 lead, which WMU would not answer.
I remember hearing a quote from Derek Jeter years ago saying he loved playing on the road because he fed off the negative comments directed at him and his Yankees teammates.
In a way, I love supporting the opposing team for the same reason.
I welcome the jabs, because no matter where I am — a Braves fan in the wrong state or a CMU alum transplanted to Indiana — I support my teams wherever I go.