Yesterday, Lyle Overbay gave an interview where he talked about how Canadian fans still haven't forgiven baseball for the 1994 strike. Judging from some of the comments on the on the Toronto Star article about the article, he was right.
I know what he said was true because I was one of those fans for a decade.
As the clock ticked down towards the World Series, I was hoping that some kind of settlement would be reached. The Series hadn't been cancelled since the Second World War. Surely they would make that happen. But they didn't. And I felt betrayed. I was angry. The owners and the players cared more about money than they did about the fans. We didn't matter. And that killed my love of the game. When they came back, I didn't want to be a part of it.
What changed for me was being dragged out to a game by my brother in 2003. I didn't want to go but my brother used going for the sake of my nephew as leverage. And when I got there, I found I couldn't cheer for the team I had loved for 17 years, the team that grew up with me. I felt so removed. Until I realized in the 6th inning that the Jays pitcher hadn't given up a hit. Then I payed more attention.
That pitcher, of course, is Roy Halladay. And I will be forever grateful for him for being the first step of my return to baseball. And I got to tell him that when I met him a few years ago.
But I wasn't back yet. It took being in Australia the following year, staying with Sydney Swans fans. They taught me the game they loved and in return I found myself talking about baseball. And even getting homesick for it. When I found myself watching an Arizona Diamondback game on ESPN international at midnight, a team that hadn't even existed when I left baseball, a National League team, I realized that love was stirring inside me once again.
Of course now I spend way too many hours of the day reading baseball blogs and watch games following along on twitter. I sometimes worry that the game takes up too much of my time. But I do love it with a passion and I'm glad I found my way back.
But a lot of Jays fans didn't. I won't even get into how the strike destroyed the Expos. My father today stated that those who don't want to come back weren't real fans, that using the strike as a reason was "bullshit" and "a cop out". Obviously, I don't agree. He thinks those fans will come back when the Jays start winning. I doubt it. It's hard to come back from betrayal, especially when that feeling comes from a sense that your desires don't matter. I don't know how that can be fixed but the Jays addressing those feelings would be a good start. An apology might go a long way.