Supporting the Blue Jays upside down

As my signature says, I’m an Englishman living in New Zealand supporting a Canadian baseball team; it’s complicated….

I blame my trip to Canada in 1989 for starting it all. I wish I could say that I got into the Jays because I had seen a stellar performance by them at the SkyDome but no, I saw a couple of people wearing their jerseys and caps and thought it looked like a cool team to follow. This despite the fact that a) I knew nothing about baseball and b) would have no inkling about the endless frustration the Jays would cause me in years to come. On the plus side, at least I didn’t start following the Maple Leafs…

So I wore my Blue Jays cap around for a year or two but didn’t bother to find any more info on this new love of mine. This was partly due to baseball not getting a huge amount of coverage in the UK. Towards the middle of 1990 that changed as English newspapers carried more info about MLB and just occasionally some highlights appeared ton TV too.

My fandom began to take shape; I read up on the Blue Jays, started scrapbooks with newspaper cuttings and photos wherever they were mentioned and tried to learn the rules of ‘rounders for grownups’ as my less educated friends called baseball. No matter what they did to convince me otherwise, I started to love baseball and the Blue Jays. Over the next few years as the Blue Jays won ALCS, and their two World Series, Borders, Key, Gruber, Stottlemyre, Fernandez, Henke, Ward, White, Carter, Alomar all became familiar to me. I basked in the warm hue of Blue Jays glory. Then post 1993, well…what needs to be said? Some occasional bright sparks of season but generally overshadowed by the constant last or 4th place finish in the infernal American League East. It’s utterly frustrating and utterly entertaining being a Blue Jays fan. It makes me laugh and cry in equal measure. I’m surprised I’m not in therapy or living under a bridge somewhere.

On the bright side, my knowledge of the Blue Jays has grown, as has baseball in general. On my frequent trips to America, I love seeing the look of incredulity on a person’s face when we get talking about baseball (even better when I can explain the DH rule or pull up a stat on a player’s ERA. They seem shocked that an Englishman has even more than a passing interest or understanding of the game. Their shock at that is generally only surpassed by the look on their face when they ask who I support….

Since 93 and still living in England then, I got to see a lot more baseball on TV (some of it even live!), expanded my baseball card collection (6,500 and counting of which about 500 are Blue Jays), collected a number of Blue Jays shirts and caps and generally tried to fight my corner while my johnny come lately friends who finally cottoned on to MLB picked more exotic teams such as the Red Sox and the Yankees.

(It’s important that, at this juncture, I come clean and confess to owning a Red Sox jersey once. There, I have said it. I’m sorry but it wasn’t my fault. My aunt lives in Boston and sent me a Garciaparra jersey and a cap as a gift. I only them both once (for obligatory photo to say thanks) and then I had to scrub myself clean for week afterwards as I felt so dirty. They are gathering dust somewhere in my cupboard.)

I moved to New Zealand in 2009 and since then have tried as best as I can to keep my fandom alive in upside down land. While softball is pretty big here, baseball is but a whisper told by the trees. My wife watches on while I get up at silly times in my Blue Jays jersey to follow a Jays game through Gameday and radio (I can only ever really watch a game live online at weekends through non MLB TV methods). As internet here is so awful (think of the connection power of a toaster) I am often left angry when a live game grinds to a halt mid-stream). I think it’s God’s way of me helping me avoiding the pain as when the stream kicks back in i realise I have just missed us conceding a ton of runs/ displaying some boneheaded base running/performed some horriawful fielding error.

A bright spot has been this site which I stumbled upon only last year (I have no idea how I managed without it before then). It’s been great to be part of this community with all its foibles, fun and stats and I have been made to feel most welcome, despite zoning out when advanced sabermetrics get mentioned. I wish I understood the secret language of UZR and xFIP….

I’m loyal to the Jays despite their attempts to get me to jilt them (this season and last they have tried especially hard) but I won’t quit on them. I want to but I can’t. When the current squad do their best to antagonise me, I close my eyes and think of Olerud’s swing, White’s fielding, Borders ruggedness and those two golden Octobers in 92 and 93. Ahh, the sweet nectar of such memories….

It goes without question that I will try and encourage/indoctrinate my son follow the Blue Jays. I will tell them that they will bring great joy and great sorrow and that there are easier paths of fandom to follow. But the Blue Jays are nothing if not exciting and rarely dull. I hope in time like me, he will end up supporting the Blue Jays upside down; it makes for a more interesting view.

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