Guest Reader Submission: What Type of Fan Are You?
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.