Right after I turned ten years old, my family moved back to Oklahoma from Norway (the European Country… maybe you’ve heard of it). I was looking forward to watching American television. My father quickly dashed my dreams of watching Nickolodean’s “Double Dare” and Disney’s “Duck Tails” when he proclaimed in an absolute unwavering tone that “we would not be subscribing to any cable TV services.” My psyche was further damaged when we went to Wal-Mart and purchased the smallest television they had at that time: a 13-inch Magnavox that was as thick as a cinder block and weighed about as much.
We lived on a farm in the country too so any reception we got on our tiny television from the local channels was subject to varying degrees of static dependent on the weather. Most times watching television was much like running your eyes over a cheese grater.
I tell you this because I started getting attached to a professional baseball team who I couldn’t ever watch due to the nature of our situation. I’d always loved baseball and played it in Norway… but never had I really started getting attached to a particular team because I’d never really lived anywhere remotely close to follow it. Now, as a budding superstar on my ten-and-under team… I got attached to The Texas Rangers.
I was a pitcher, so I LOVED Nolan Ryan.
Me showing off my Nolan Ryan baseball card “wall” (in my secret room underneath the basement stairs… I was an odd kid)
Nothing was cooler to me that this grizzled old man going up to the mound and striking batters out with his 100MPH fastball. The dude struck out over 5,000 people, won over 300 games and threw seven no-hitters… SEVEN!
He also beat up a much more spry (and completely idiotic) Robin Ventura who got pissed because he thought Nolan purposely hit him with a pitch! Once Ventura was within arms length of Nolan, he found himself put in a headlock and pounded repeatedly until teammates from either team ripped Ventura from Nolan’s vice-like headlock.
That says it all really…
By the end of his career, I had hung on every one of his strikeouts beginning in 1990.
After Nolan retired, I got hooked on Juan Gonzalez, the Rangers star slugger (nicknamed “Igor”) who won back-to-back MVP awards in ’92 and ’93 and ended his career with over 400 home runs.
“Igor”, a victim of the steroid era, blasts another juiced home-run
In the midst of Juan Gonzalez’s prime, the Texas Rangers won their division and made it to the postseason for the first time in 1996.
I was exstatic and ready to watch postseason baseball.
There was only one problem: we still didn’t have any kind of cable or satellite connection. You see, my father abhorred watching television and equally abhorred the idea of his son getting hooked on it. It was only on special occasions (like baseball playoffs) when my dad might lower his paper he was reading, peer into the ether and say, “Well… we might see if we can figure out a way to see that game on television.”
On October 1st, 1996, the Texas Rangers played the New York Yankees in game one of the League Division Series (LDS). Their first postseason appearance EVER!! They beat the Yankees 6-2… and I didn’t get to watch a single second of it. All I could catch were the garbled announcers announce what was happening over static.
After pleading with my father to spare me the pain of missing another Texas Rangers playoff game he finally decided to buy A VERY LARGE ANTENNA! Needless to say this did nothing more than scramble the picture to where I could barely make out Cecil Fielder hitting a home-run against the Rangers in the fourth inning.
Texas lost that game 5-4 in twelve innings and proceeded to lose the LDS a few days later.
Life went on.
I still cheered on the Rangers as best I could and collected baseball cards at a fever-pitch:
I played for my high school varsity baseball team for three years:
And went through “the bucket hat” stage like most of us did in 1998 (please tell me you went through that too):
The Texas Rangers went to the playoffs again in 1998 and 1999 only to lose both times to… you guessed it… The New York Yankees. They even got swept (meaning they never won a game) against the Yankees both times!
I never watched a single game. Our very large antenna again stayed fixed through both these playoff series’ making unwatchable television into “barely-watchable-to-the-point-of-really-not-wanting-to-watch” television.
After 1999, the Texas Rangers ceased being any good at all. In fact… they were horrible.
In college, amidst late night parties and beer runs to buy more Keystone Light, occasionally a friend of mine would flip past a game on the TV to which I would say, “Hey dude… lemme see the score of that game!” It would, more often than not, flash a score indicative of what Texas Rangers baseball was: lots of runs… but still losing.
More life happened.
I attended a good too many college parties:
Found Jesus (while dressed as Borat):
And met and married my beautiful wife:
When I met my wife, I hadn’t made it completely obvious just exactly HOW BIG a Texas Rangers fan I was. I wasn’t doing it on purpose… I was distracted by her breasts.
Years and miles away from the 13-inch Magnavox television my dad had purchased eons ago, I enjoyed watching every Rangers game in high-definition on my DVR once Bunny went to sleep. NO more garbled announcers and NO more static!
Unfortunately, the Rangers had NO more playoff appearances since their last in 1999. They spent most of their time wallowing in bad trades, bad pitching and expensive self-indulgent douchebag superstars.
Fortunately, for me, I had much better things going on.
We had a beautiful baby girl born on July 16, 2008:
Raised her to feel more love than any kid on this entire planet has ever felt (although you can’t really tell that by this picture):
And perhaps MOST importantly, if you want to live a respectable life… don’t ever become a NEW YORK YANKEES FAN!!:
If you happened to be following the Rangers through the years as I had been doing, you knew that there was good things brewing on the horizon. The internal structuring of the team started to change. New methods were established. I got a Texas Rangers Tattoo. New routines were adapted. And most importantly, Nolan Ryan, became the president of the baseball team:
Don’t take for granted he’s older now… he could still get you in a headlock and pound your face a few times…
This year, they made their return trip to the postseason by winning their division and beating the Tampa Bay Rays in the first round of playoffs.
My attempt at a post-game champagne celebration… by myself…
I’ve often wondered what it would be like if “my” Rangers lived up to my expectations of them. I’ve had plenty of friends and relatives who cheer on their teams in various sports and become inflamed with rage or glee dependent on the scenario.
I was no different.
I couldn’t sleep.
I couldn’t feel my legs during game time.
I screamed at the television.
I participated in strange, OCD-ish rituals I believed would help them win.
After giving myself a hernia from the stress of their first postseason series win, the anticipation of their next opponent: The New York Yankees, made me slurp down the sinewy muscles of my forearm like they were angel hair pasta.
Bunny, not being a baseball fan herself, promised me at the beginning of the season that if the Rangers made it to the postseason she would go with me to a game.
She kept her promise:
We went to game two of the American League Division Series and saw the Rangers release the proverbial monkey from their backs and beat the New York Yankees by the score of 7-2:
Bunny may not completely admit it… but I think she had a good time:
Sharing baseball and the Texas Rangers with my family stems from nothing more than a 13-inch television full of static in the dank basement of my house in Oklahoma. It sounds a little weird but the Rangers are just part of my personality, they’re an extension of me.
And in this early morning hour on day they’re playing game six against the New York Yankees on the brink of sending them to elimination and going to their first World Series in franchise history… I can’t help but stick my chest out a little and beam with a little pride as if they were my own child and I’ve watched them grow.
Or perhaps it’s the other way around… maybe they’ve been watching me grow?
Whatever the scenario… these are my Rangers and I can’t wait to see them in the World Series.
DLG doing “the claw” (it’s a Texas Rangers thing… go with it)
Let’s see a World Series banner up there in a week!!
Want some other cool Texas Rangers stuff to check out? Baseball Time In Arlington is a fantastic blog written from the fan perspective that I’ve been reading for years.
The (Virgins) Guide To Baseball is an excellent blog written from the perspective of the casual fan wanting to learn more about the game. I’ve also guest posted there. Show the blog some love.
The last several trips I’ve taken to Rangers ballpark have been well documented against the Boston Red Sox and Chicago Cubs.
I also struck out current St. Louis Cardinals slugger Matt Holliday TWICE in high school… I coulda been a contender.