I reconnected with an old friend this summer.
The Milwaukee Brewers.
We went separate ways sometime in the mid- to late '90s. I, a transplanted Wisconsinite, came north to Duluth, where I've been for the past 14 years. The Brewers took the shortest route possible to the cellar of the National League.
Yet, over the years, as I first tried to disavow my love of baseball and then tried to cultivate an interest in the Twins, there was no getting around one immutable fact: You don't choose your favorite team. It chooses you. I grew up in Wisconsin. Therefore, I follow the Brew Crew.
With that realization, something clicked. It's as if the Brewers popped up as a "suggested friend" on a sort of sports-fan social networking site. I clicked the metaphorical "accept friend" button, buying a cap with the retro m-over-b "bearpaw" Brewers logo, downloading the appropriate apps for my smartphone and tuning in to games all summer on WNXR.
And that is how I found myself craning my neck toward a small newsroom television Friday night as the Brewers grinded out a 3-2 10-inning win, an agonizing, mind-bending contest that sent Milwaukee to the next round of the playoffs. I remarked to a colleague, one of, I think, three Brewers fans in the entire newsroom, that it had been almost 30 years -- the 1982 World Series -- since I'd sweated through a Brewers game of that magnitude.
I've become horrible at remembering names, and even the most important details of my life slip from memory. But when I take myself back to the 1982 World Series, the mind swims in vivid detail. It was called the "Suds Series" because it matched beertown rivals Milwaukee (Miller) and St. Louis (Budweiser). I remember watching Game 7 on the floor of our living room. It was long after my bedtime when the Brewers surrendered the lead and eventually the series. Sitting there in my pajamas, I was despondent that my team lost the World Series, but comforted by the certainty that they would get back there next year.
I'm still waiting for next year.
Thirty years. Three decades. An entire generation. Two Packers Super Bowl victories, five U.S. presidents, a couple recessions. It's been that long since the Brewers have been part of an important national baseball discussion.
All baseball fans are met with a certain cruel reality visited on them by their chosen team. The Red Sox break your heart. The Cubs break your spirit. The Brewers broke my patience.
It is hard to miss the symmetry in baseball, its perfectly cut diamond with exactly 90 feet between each base. Today the Brewers begin their most important series since 1982. Their opponent: The St. Louis Cardinals.
Somehow, the Brewers of my adulthood have become the Brewers of my youth. And I'm glad I reconnected in time to notice.
Craig Gustafson is the assistant managing editor of the News Tribune. He can be reached at email@example.com