At sports events in Mexico City, you can buy these things called pulseras. While that is the Spanish word for bracelet, it doesn’t really seem to be what I would normally think of as a bracelet. Bracelet to me means something nice; something one presents to a lady in a ballgown at a Monte Carlo restaurant terrace after a delicious meal of frog’s legs burritos on the eve of a Grand Prix; something a fair few steps above a LiveStrong wristband. The pulseras, though, that are on sale outside the city’s three soccer stadiums and the baseball stadium, are made of thin, synthetic, woven fabric, and feature colours, names, and slogans related to the team in question. I have one of these on my wrist. A Diablos Rojos del México pulsera.
I like those moments in sports fandom where during or after a good game–and maybe after a couple of beers–-you are happy and fan-ny enough to want to buy merchandise of some sort; something to remember that game with. At Diablos Rojos games, there’s a dude who walks the stands with loads of crappy gift stuff. Diablos license plate holders, child-sized Diablos batting helmets, Diablos batting helmet keyrings, small plush Homer Simpsons wearing Diablos jerseys (entirely unlicensed, I assume), and a whole load of pulseras. I bought the pulsera on my wrist from that guy during a game that the Diablos won. (This, in itself, wasn’t a particularly remark-worthy event last season; the Diablos were 44-14 at home in 2014.) The knot is tied so tight that I would have to cut it to remove it. This is something I’ve considered several times. It’s hardly an attractive addition to my already sub-par wardrobe. It’s red and features the Diablos cap logo (an M with a devil tail), the Diablos jersey script, the face of the mascot Rocco, two baseball bats, two mitts, and two baseballs engulfed in hot rod-style flames. It’s pretty dumb. I have attended a wedding with this thing on my wrist. (Although, I fell down some stairs at the reception, rippng a hole in my trousers, so I doubt anybody will remember the pulsera I was wearing.)
Every now and again, I look down at my wrist, and I’m glad I haven’t cut it off. The Diablos, as their home form may have indicated, were great last season. After the 2013 season, they lost their best player (Leo Heras) and possibly their second best player (Japhet Amador) to the Houston Astros minor league system. As it happened, Amador eventually returned to Mexico City, but at the start of the season, a team that usually gets to the playoffs by powering their way there, looked like they’d lost a couple of pieces that would help them do that.
They finished top of the division with the best record in the league. In the playoffs, they beat Vaqueros Laguna 4-2 in the equivalent of the Division Series, then swept Sultanes de Monterrey in the equivalent of the Championship Series, and in the Serie del Rey, they swept Pericos de Puebla.
In my life, I’ve been lucky enough to attend a few cool sports events. I was there at Sincil Bank when my hometown team Lincoln City won the last game of the 1987-88 season to win the GM Vauxhall Conference (the fifth tier of English football). I was there at Westfalenstadion in Dortmund, when Liverpool won the UEFA Cup. I was there at the Atatürk Stadium in Istanbul in 2005, when Liverpool won the Champions League. And in September, I was there, at Foro Sol in Mexico City, and I saw a 10th inning Juan Carlos Gamboa home run win the championship for the Diablos Rojos. It was one of those moments where I can remember it in slow motion. That’s going out… that’s going out… Arms in the air. Champions. I had a little weep. The Diablos had won.
I’ve only lived in Mexico City for four years, so I’d only been going to Diablos games for four seasons. But seeing over 100 games in four seasons is enough to care. Looking back, I reckon that that home run, and my reaction immediately afterwards, was when I realised that the variety of baseball that I first fell in love with when I went to a game at Yankee Stadium at the age of 34 had been usurped. Sure, there are better players in the big leagues to the north, but for me, Mexican baseball is what I love the most now. And no matter what fancy black tie functions I have lined up in my social calendar (*flicks through empty pages of a non-existent 2015 diary*), that silly pulsera is staying on my wrist until it rots off.