Sunday, October 10, 2004

Goodbye, Expos ~ The Washington Times

(Note: Was meant to be an op-ed. Got edited quite a bit, but oh well...)

Goodbye, Expos

Letters, The Washington Times

This week, as your article "Expos bid adieu with loss" (Sports, Monday) noted, we in Montreal watched our Expos play their last game as a Montreal team. The losing score was 8-1 against the Mets at Shea Stadium.
The feelings are mixed. Like a bad mother whose children are taken away and sent to a foster home, there is guilt, jealousy and hope. I must confess that in my 22 years of life in this city, I have headed to the "Big O," as we call the stadium around here, only once to watch an Expos game — and that was thanks to the free tickets my dad got at work.
The game I attended was earlier this year against the Phillies. We arrived after the game started and left before it ended. My friend fell asleep during the game, and I paid more attention to wackiness in the crowd of 3,000 than the game itself. I marveled at the tens of thousands of empty seats.
I've always had a soft corner in my heart for the Expos, yet it never translated into anything concrete. Sure, I wish them the best. Sometimes I'd tune into games on the radio, but I never bothered spending any money on the Expos — not on games or memorabilia. I never donned an Expos shirt or cap.
I must also admit that I'm jealous. My Expos — if I can call them that — are being taken away by Washington. Even though I never really did anything for them, they were still the Montreal Expos and I am a Montrealer. Nobody likes seeing their possessions, no matter how neglected, taken away.
Yet at the same time, I'm hopeful. I admit that we didn't give the Expos the care and attention they deserved, and in some ways, I'm happy that Washington is willing to take them in. I hope Washington treats my Expos well.
The Expos can't be accused of being indifferent to the low attendance. The marketing department did all it could under the circumstances to draw in more fans, but we didn't respond. Nobody wanted to spend a beautiful summer evening watching a mediocre team in a concrete dump under a huge orange or blue canopy.
We love to cry over the 1994 semiseason. The Expos were the team that could but were held back by the strike. It was our one chance that wasn't meant to be. The one that spelled doom for our team.
I'd like to hand over my Expos with some sincere advice: Please give our Expos a nice home. Had we been able to take the team out of its slum and give it a new home downtown, I might not be writing this today. Be careful who becomes custodian of the team. We've had some really terrible experiences with owners. The one that makes our blood boil is Jeffrey Loria, the man who paraded into town as the savior, yet ran away with all he and his staff could get away with (literally).
Please show all the support you can. Apart from the few tears we shed as the pop fly was caught to end the Expos' last game in Montreal, we have neglected the team for a very long time. It's about time it got some love and compassion from someone. There isn't much we can do now. Some of us still think "anything is possible" and are hoping that this is another false alarm like the ones in previous years. Yet, for most of us, reality is sinking in. It was inevitable. Years of mismanagement and neglect, together with bad luck and a horrible venue, don't make for a pleasant mix.
Much of the city is still trying to imagine a spring with no opening day at Olympic Stadium. A huge crowd (by our standards) of 30,000 to 40,000 would make its way to the stadium, only to have a meager 8,000 or so at the next game. Similarly, a large number of us would show up for the last homestand of the season, just in case it was to be the last season. Our relationship with the Expos was focused on the first date and the last date. Unfortunately, that kind of relationship doesn't last for too long. As for that used Expos vs. Phillies ticket still sitting on my desk, maybe I'll give it a shot on eBay 40 years from now.