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The makings of a true fan

Jun 9, 2017 - By Robert H. Peck

I have developed an unlikely obsession with the Colorado Rockies. It's unlikely because I am a nerd with little athletic ability or interest. I played baseball very badly as a little kid, and quit playing it as soon as I could.

But I love the Rockies

And this year they are doing well. I'm excited.

So, here is a method for getting a kid hooked on something unlikely -- the method that worked on me, beginning a decade ago.

Get the kid interested enough in something on TV that he will watch it for a moment. Then, have the thing he's watching suddenly become exciting for some reason, at that moment.

For me, this was the Colorado Rockies former right fielder Brad Hawpe hitting a home run in the few moments that I happened to be paying attention to the TV at my grandparents' house. The announcers had been talking about him at that moment, I liked his name, which sounded to me like "bradhop," he was at bat, and he drilled the ball to deep center field.

"I like this guy!" I thought to myself, insightfully. "He would be fun to watch more often."

Try to make sure that thing on TV is something the kid's dad also loves.

That year, the Rockies were destined for the World Series, and I had family invested in the game already. I was happy enough to sit and watch the games with my dad as the club fought into the playoffs and dramatically won the national league pennant on a possibly miscalled slide into home plate by superstar Matt Holliday.

"Yeah, I touched it," Holliday later said in an interview, referring to the plate that he had practically broken his teeth against at some point during the play. "Get over it."

It's a line we still quote. I had developed the germ of the sports interest that my dad had long hoped I might some day achieve, and our team was going to the world series.

Throw in a rainy day.

We got tickets to see the 2007 series at Coors Field, and down to Denver I drove with dad in time to walk into the stadium on a rainy night. A pro sports arena of any kind will wow a 14-year-old boy. Holliday hit a long home run, and the explosive baseball crowd in the already dramatic stadium that night, reacting to the homer that we glimpsed through the rain down a long entry corridor between rows of seats, is an image that's burned into my brain for the rest of my life. I know they lost the game. I know they lost the series. But heck, was that ever good.

Do all of this early enough that there's still time for the kid to grow up with the thing a bit

2007 was 10 years ago. I still like the Rockies. I fell out of following them for a while, during those dark years when they weren't very good and I was busy with other things and it was probably better for most of baseball to just pretend that this all wasn't happening. Brad Hawpe was traded and retired. Holliday was traded. Todd Helton retired. Troy Tulowitzki, the star shortstop, was traded and has become not so good anymore. That didn't all happen contemporaneously, but it did happen, and I was there for all of it, on and off. The team changed with me, but it wasn't enough to stop me from caring about it.

And now I'm a diehard.

Then, when the kid has grown up and has all the happy associations in place, make the thing exciting again.

The Rox are good again this year. They'll probably be the first National League team to 40 wins. They haven't lost a road series. Their rookie pitchers are as good as they come, and their closer is the best in baseball this year.

Their bats are hot and their fielding is as strong as ever. Is this is their year, again, 10 years after I first noticed them on TV?

That question, and following it all summer for the answer, is how you make a fan.

Editor's note: Riverton native Robert H. Peck is a graduate student in the Iowa Writers Workshop at the University of Iowa.
 

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