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Guest Reader Submission: What Type of Fan Are You?
2007-02-02 23:25
by Scott Long

A couple of weeks ago I mentioned that I'm looking to incorporate Toaster readers into adding to the baseball content here at the Juiceblog. I was sent a few ideas and a couple of them you will see over the next couple months. The offer still stands, so if you have an idea for a baseball piece, send it my way. Now onto the first reader submission piece.

David Arnott is 23 years old, and was born, raised, and now lives in San Francisco. He was an English Literature major and Journalism minor at New York University, where he co-hosted and produced The Cheap Seats, the sports talk show on WNYU. After graduating from NYU, David earned his MA in Education from UC Santa Cruz. Currently, he is working his way up the radio industry ladder and writes Sportszilla and the Jabber Jocks with several friends. He is fond of pointing out that he has loved baseball for longer than anything or anybody other than his parents.

by David Arnott

I've come to dislike a good number of sports fans. Occasionally, I feel odd about it, because I'm a fan of the San Francisco Giants, 49ers, and Golden State Warriors. I understand why people are loyal to an organization and its players: I own plenty of Giants paraphernalia, I go to lots of Giants games, and I root hard for them to win because it seems to validate me in some way when the team from my hometown kicks ass. But I can't bring myself to hate other organizations and fan bases the way that is celebrated and seemingly expected in modern sports culture. I wonder if I'm just an anomaly, or if people stopped to analyze why they like and dislike certain teams and players, would those people change their attitudes to be more like mine?

To play amateur psychologist/sociologist, my Bay Area upbringing probably has something to do with the disdain I feel whenever I come across someone who supports his team unconditionally and who can't stand rival teams or their players. It's true that a lot of San Franciscans actively like the A's as a second team, which people in other regions find incomprehensible. I went to college in New York City, so I have many friends who are Mets or Yankees fans, and they can't imagine feeling proud of the other team succeeding, as I do when the A's win. I have a Yankees fan friend who was apoplectic when he found out his unborn nephew was going to be raised a Mets fan, a situation that, if transferred to Giants-A's fandom, might cause some mild consternation and gentle kidding, but, for most folks here, wouldn't inspire ranting and raving about it, as my friend did for a full inning at a game in Yankee Stadium.

Even the Giants' ancient rivals, the Dodgers, fail to spark hatred. My three favorite players in my childhood were Will Clark, Benito Santiago, and... Mike Scioscia. What can I say? Will Clark had the best game face and prettiest swing ever, Benito threw to second base from his knees, and I thought Scioscia was the toughest SOB in baseball. When I was three years old, my parents took me to Los Angeles for Disneyland and then Dodger Stadium to see the Giants play, and they ended up buying me a plastic Dodgers helmet. When we got home, I wrote the number 14 on it and pretended to be Scioscia blocking the plate. You may think I didn't know any better, but what, specifically, is wrong with liking a Dodger player and being a Giants fan?

When I told this story to a friend who's a Mets fan, he paused, then said the only Yankee he's ever respected was Derek Jeter, and he still likes making fun of him. Put Jeter in a Mets uniform from the start, and my friend would have worshipped him. Put Jeter in a Pirates uniform, and the grudging respect would have been easily accorded respect, but would still have fallen short of outright admiration. He couldn't explain why Jeter's Yankeeness precludes admiration. Why shouldn't we enjoy or dislike a player for who he is, regardless of which team he's on?

The way I spin my view on sports, baseball especially, is that I love the game more than I can love any particular team. Sure, I've got a keen attachment to the Giants, but am I really missing anything by not-supporting the Dodgers in the same manner I don't support, say, the Orioles?

In the old days, I suppose a lot of the animosity directed at players and teams by fans was made easier by the lack of information. The further away from players and teams we are, the easier it is to take more extreme positions. For further confirmation, look at any flame war; because we're not face-to-face, people feel safer writing things they wouldn't say in person. On the other side of the coin, if familiarity breeds warmer feelings for a team and its players, then there is no reason to despise other teams since we're in the internet era.

When I read baseball news, I have multiple sources of information for every team at my fingertips, as opposed to the old paradigm in which the local newspaper beat writer would have provided all my baseball information. Instead of being limited to knowing my home team's players as relayed by one outlet, I can get acquainted with, and work up raging sports-crushes on, guys in other cities, such as Adam Dunn, and I can feed my curiosity and develop opinions on the league as a whole.

Let's use the Reds as an example: Because I take this approach to fandom, I feel frustrated along with Reds fans that Wayne Krivsky is in charge. I was perturbed that after Sean Casey was traded, Dunn wasn't moved to first base to make room in the outfield for Pena in left, Griffey in center, Kearns in right, and Denorfia as the callup after Griffey's expected injury. I was appalled that they signed Tony Womack to play second base when Ryan Freel was on the roster, but I was also pleased to see Brandon Phillips finally succeed when given the chance. I don't actively follow the Reds; I actively follow baseball. The same goes for every other team. As an internet-only news browser, I take pleasure in reading about my Giants first, but also checking in on every other team, from the Devil Rays to the Dodgers. Force me to take the more limited mode of information consumption, filtered through a stifling home team lens, and I think my experience as a fan would be severely degraded.

I'm not saying we shouldn't have villains. I have a most hated player in MLB, but that he's my most hated has nothing to do with whether or not he screwed my team: Joe McEwing offended my baseball sensibilities by stepping twenty feet out of the batter's box after every pitch, employing a really annoying style of practice swing, and he sucked, to boot. I dislike players because of who they are and what they do. I don't dislike players because of the laundry on their backs. I don't dislike teams because they're not my team. And I can't stand fans whose fandom stems primarily from those last two motivations.

2007-02-03 01:00:46
1.   joejoejoe
Nice piece.

I think people who have lived in different places have more of an appreciation for general excellence rather than the rabid fans that have lived in one place their entire lives. You can't be THAT much of an a-hole if you are a Yankee fan checking out the odd game at Comiskey. You'll get your ass beat.

I grew up a Yankee fan outside NYC and have lived in the city and it always amazes me when Red Sox fans come in from out of town. I've had Sox fans tell me a hundred times that I'm just short of Nazi for rooting for the Yankees over beers at Stan's. Then at the end of the night they drop the hostility and ask politely the best way to the Major Deegan because they are afraid of The Bronx. The rabid fan thing is a stupid act for most people.

Being a general fan also helps you avoid massive hypocrisy. If you think Roger Clemens is a jerk on the merits then it shouldn't matter whether he is a Yankee or a Red Sox, he's a jerk. 'He's a jerk but he'll help us win' is a lot more honest than 'I hate that SOB... what?... we traded for him?... Go Roger!'.

2007-02-03 02:38:44
2.   chris in illinois
I might be wrong here, but I think the irrational hatred of another team might just be an East Coast thing and quite possibly a New York/Boston thing.

I grew up a Braves fan in central Illinois right on the Mason-Dixon line of Cubs/Cardinal fandom. A fair percentage of fans from either team do enjoy the moments when the other team falls flat on its face (Cubs '84 Cardinals '85 or '87), but there is a great chance that these same people's spouses are fans of the other team living amicably under the same roof. In other words, outside of drunk 22-year olds at Busch or Wrigley, this a friendly rivalry.

When you think about it, the Cub/Cardinal dynamic has strong parallels to the Red Sox/Yankee relationship: One team is immensely more successful than the other, the sad-sack team gave a Hall of Famer to the powerhouse team for the baseball equivilant of magic beans (Ruth/Brock), the loser team in each relationship plays in the most beloved park in either league. What is missing in the Midwest is the seething hatred of the other team.

I think the New York fan might be the exception rather than the rule.

2007-02-03 12:01:21
3.   statomattic
I'm a lifelong Red Sox fan who also went to college at NYU, then lived in L.A. for five years and am now in Chicago, so I've just about experienced the spectrum of American sports fandom.

I have to say you're coming at this from a very "West Coast" perspective. When I lived in California, I decided that had I grown up there, I very likely would not have become a rabid sports fan and my entire life may have unfolded differently. In Boston and Chicago (and to certain niche groups of New Yorkers), sports are an integral part of life. Out West they're a diversion. I just don't think it's possible to be a true Boston sports fan and watch the Yankees or Lakers in a detached manner. I hate those teams.

I really don't think there's anything wrong with that, and in fact I think it's very healthy. Picking out enemies to dub the bad guy and rooting against them is embedded in the male DNA. To me it makes sports more enjoyable if in addition to the hero, you have a villain (mine are the Yankees, Lakers, Denver Broncos and Duke basketball). And as long as you draw the line at action on the field and don't let these emotions carry over into daily life or abusing opposing fans beyond gentle ribbing, rooting this way is harmless - even a healthy outlet for some aggression.

Now, I also draw the line at "hating" individual players based solely on their team. I am a big Roger Clemens fan, have been since I was a kid. And I continued to like him and somewhat root for him even when he pitched for the hated Yanks. I decide which players I like and which I don't based on the way they play the game, how much effort they give, and their discernable personalities off the field - not which jersey they wear.

But do I root for the Yankees in general to fail on the field? Of course I do. Nearly as intensely as I root for the Red Sox. And I see no harm in doing it.

2007-02-03 16:31:16
4.   deadteddy8
3 Check out the thread on McCoveyChronicles (linked via tinyurl below) in which I asked the basic question of who do we hate and why. Even though I presented the question in a challenging manner, and the site tends to attract hardcore fans, more people than I expected came out to say that they hate the Dodgers. A couple people mention "hating" the Dodgers through an ironic filter, but there's real feeling there. I guarantee, if you ask a random sampling of MLB fans from any fanbase, they'll talk about who they hate.

--David Arnott

2007-02-03 17:26:01
5.   jeffpico
I am a HUGE sports fan who grew up in Indiana and am a major Cubs fan but I don't hate anyone or anything in sports. I give grudging respect to any and all athletes and teams even if they wear a different jersey than the ones I root for.

More than half the world hates the Yankees because they 'buy' championships. I always say that they didn't buy Jeter, Rivera, Posada, Pettite, then on top of that you have to have alot of luck if you do go with free agents. Look at the Orioles they have tried to do it the Yankees way and haven't even come close.

This is a little off subject but I do think that for major sports fans you get entrenched into liking certain teams very early in life. I live in the Indy area and am not a HUGE Indianapolis Colts fan although I was 10 years old when they moved to Indianapolis, I did not fall in love with the team right away, I am fully convinced had they moved 5 years earlier I would be a true die hard Colts fan, instead I grew up as a mild Bears fan and am now a mild Colts fan. I think other more casual fans in my age group had no problem taking on the Colts as their favorite team but for me 10 years old was too late to switch completely lol

2007-02-03 22:04:45
6.   Ken Arneson
I personally don't believe the arguments that Yankee fans and Red Sox fans CARE more than other fans. But I do think that in the Northeast corridor there exists some sort of cultural logic that denies that an emotion is truly felt unless that emotion is visibly expressed. As if you can't love someone unless you actually say "I love you" all the time--or, in sports terminology, you're not really a Yankee or Red Sox fan unless you're dressed from head to toe in the team colors.

So whenever I hear the "West Coast fans don't care" argument, I ignore it. I care, dammit. I just don't feel any need to tell YOU about it. I know what I feel.

2007-02-04 04:47:38
7.   joejoejoe
6 I think baseball teams in cold weather cities have a natural ritualistic relationship to their fans that places like Atlanta, Los Angeles, and Oakland do not have. You spend virtually all of your good weather days following a ball team in Cleveland or New York. And then when you lose in October as almost every team does each year you retreat to a bitter winter.

You can be a knowledgeable, good baseball fan in any city but I think there people from warmer climates are generally more easygoing from my experience. It's a waste of time to hate the Angels on a beautiful Novemeber day in the Bay Area. There are too many other things to do all winter than plot revenge against a rival team.

2007-02-04 09:02:54
8.   Suffering Bruin
I've come to dislike a good number of sports fans. Occasionally, I feel odd about it, because I'm a fan of the San Francisco Giants...

I stopped reading there on principle. :)

Seriously, good stuff and a great feature on this blog.

2007-02-05 06:20:11
9.   Penarol1916
Honestly, most of the teams I hate, I hate because I hate the fans of the team. Mostly because I lived in those cities and listened to the awful home-town announcing teams and local sportscasters while I waited for the weather, thank god I never got into talk-radio. Rationally, I know that they are obnoxious in every city, but only those teams, whose announcers and sportscasters I've experienced repeatedly, draw my ire, of course, hatred is usually not all that rational, so I'm okay with it.
2007-02-05 14:03:40
10.   Benaiah
I think that the people around you influence who you hate. I have a buddy who is the single most obnoxious fan I know. He gloats, he's ignorant, he is a fair weather fan and worst of all, his teams are relatively successful. I hate every team from St. Louis as a result of my friendship with him. I even have trouble with Pujols, the best hitter going, because of him. My best friend in college is from Boston, and I hated seeing that shit eating grin so much that I ended up despising the Pats. Some other friends inspire sympathy, and I end up rooting for their teams to win.

Of course, there are players I don't really like too, but I think this sort of male rivalry really drives the sports hatred.

P.S. I am a Dodger, Bills, Duke fan, due to college and my dad. No team I like has won a championship in my lifetime (Duke won before I became a fan).

2007-02-06 11:20:30
11.   StolenMonkey86
When I was in the first grade I played tee ball, and that team was the Dodgers, so I was a Dodgers fan. Being a Braves fan would have been more natural, since my parents were Braves fans and I went to see their AAA team quite a bit, but that wasn't how it worked. It's very hard to be a Dodgers fan on the east coast, though, and I didn't follow baseball nearly as much until I got to college, where I escaped early bedtimes (midnight eastern, 9p pacific generally) and dialup internet.

If the Dodgers aren't playing, I root for the home team of whichever stadium I am in, and if it's a TV game I'll root for players I like. I can't stand the Red Sox because apart from my grandfather, I can't stand Red Sox fans, particularly the belligerent New Englander types.

2007-02-06 17:58:23
12.   sanchez101
I find myself rooting against teams rather than hating them. I think its a lot more fun and entertaining that way. I don't get the "Im a fan of the game" mentality. When Im not watching the Dodgers, I generally loose interest unless something compeling is going on. Which isn't to say I don't follow the other teams. The most compelling part of the sport, or I guess any team sport, is the rise and fall of franchises over time. At any given time a handfull of teams are building up to potential dynasties and a handfull are trying to take one last breath out of an aging core. The only teams I find boring are the ones who've been mediocre for a long time and have no real chance of getting much better (sorry Orioles fans). I suppose I'm more a fan of the GMs than the players. (I think this is the reason I hate parity so much)
2007-02-06 21:51:52
13.   Icaros
I never thought I'd have a favorite Giants fan, but now I do.
2007-02-07 19:33:47
14.   das411
12 - Don't look now, but these Orioles look an awful lot like the Tigers did a couple of years ago...

7 is extremely well-said, but I'd like to add that not every city has one or two cold-weather sports teams that are easy for fans to get behind...and those of us that do, there is usually some punk south/west team that is beating them!!

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