I attended my first Tigers game in the early 90s, when my dad and I drove to Detroit from our home in Coldwater, Michigan. I was too young to remember it, but I have one of those miniature bats to prove that I was there. The Tigers I saw that day—Alan Trammel, Lou Whitaker, Cecil Fielder, Mickey Tettleton, the great Sparky Anderson—were icons of my childhood. As I grew up, the allegiance stayed strong, but I never attended another Tigers game.
That changed this weekend, when the Tigers came to Cincinnati, my new home. I couldn’t miss the chance to see Verlander, Cabrera, and Fielder, who have replaced the Tigers of old in my mind. (How much do I love this Tigers lineup? I couldn’t stop shaking for a half-hour after the Tigers signed Fielder—it was among the happiest moments of my adult life.)
But as I sat in the upper deck last Friday night, something seemed off: I couldn’t root against the Reds. I moved here in 2010 and as an inveterate baseball fan, quickly adopted the Reds as my NL team. I won the playoff ticket lottery my first month in town. My dad and I had standing-room tickets, we bought Reds hats, and I was hooked.
My split allegiance hasn’t been an issue before. I cheer for both teams. I complain to my Michigan friends about the Tigers’ poor performance; my Cincinnati friends and I lament Wilson Valdez’s inexplicable playing time. I read John Lowe in the Free Press and John Fay in the Enquirer. I love Miguel Cabrera and Joey Votto equally (though Verlander tops them both). I’ve never had a problem.
In person, with both teams on the field, it was more difficult. When Joey Votto homered in the third, how could I not cheer? And when Brennan Boesch hit one in the fourth, I cheered for him, too. By the Saturday afternoon game (to which I wore my Reds hat—I don’t own a Tigers cap), when a friend and I were trying to remember who scored for the Reds, I replied, “Fielder.”
In the end, I just cheered for any decent play. When the Reds pulled off a ridiculously exciting extra-innings win on Friday night, I stood up and cheered right along with every good Cincinnatian. And when Jose Valverde came out Saturday night and shut the Tigers down with what very well may have been a few illegal pitches, I rose with the Tiger faithful.
By Sunday night, I was thoroughly disoriented. At one point I wanted to see Verlander’s stats from the previous game and pulled up a Reds website. My brain can apparently only handle cheering for one team on any given field. If we end up with a Tigers-Reds World Series (I’m calling it now!), I may just keep my head in the sand and watch the highlights.