Tuesday, November 28, 2006

Rooting For The Mets, Yankees, and Red Sox (Concurrently)

Now you have me thinking about spectatorship and fandom, Musa D.

As I see it, this world has limiters and it has enablers. The person at Motts who decided that an applesauce jar should be sealed so tightly that only the strongest of humans, using every ounce of his strength, should be allowed to get at the mashed fruit-water inside the jar has to be considered a limiter. TiVo? Enabler. Diapers? Enabler. A hat can sometimes be an enabler for a man with a bald spot. You get the idea.

As a fan, I try to be more enabler and less limiter. This means that I spend the majority of my sports-viewing time rooting for a particular player or team. I do not, with very few exceptions, root against players or teams. At worst, I simply don't care.

To do this successfully I have had to undergo a transformation that many fans would consider to be blasphemous: I have taught myself to care less about teams and more about the individual players. I like Derek Jeter. I like Jose Reyes. And I also like Wily Mo Pena. And I LOVE the potential of Baltimore’s, Daniel Cabrera, all 6’7” 260 pounds of him. In a start this past spring, he walked 9 guys in five innings but his 10 strikeouts helped minimize the damage to one run. The guy is both unhittable and unable to throw strikes. I argue that he is the most interesting pitcher in all of baseball to watch because in the back of your mind you know that you are either watching the baseball equivalent of Michael Jordan (incredible NBA player and star of the flick Space Jam) or Harold “Baby Jordan” Minor (his nickname aside, his NBA career had very little in common with Adult Jordan).

Some fans have the Boston Fan Who Actively Roots Against The Yankees disease. This disease, which I call BFWARATY (phonetically: BF War-A-Tee) for short, is a quiet rage against a particular team or player that becomes vocal in direct proportion to alcohol consumption. This rage is often most severely directed at the best teams or athletes: Tiger Woods has his fair share of closet haters, for example, as did/does Jordan. Other examples include Notre Dame football, the Yanks, Jeter, Microsoft, Pfizer, and hot dogs.

A true sports fan, a pure fan, is one who does not succumb to the urge to belittle everyone who is not currently wearing a Red Sox uniform. These are the fans that started hating the heretofore loved Johnny Damon on December 23rd, 2005 at 3:57pm EST. Which is rediculous. I am a Yanks fan (and a Mets fan) but I also like Wily Mo Pena because I think he has the potential—if he learns how to take a pitch—to become a David Ortiz-like player. I enjoy watching him play because each at bat is another sentence in the story of his career, a story I'm interested in (will he be a star or won't he?).

The trick is to realize that fans everywhere are really rooting for characters in a story where sports happen to be played. And sometimes the players who play for the team located in the city nearest to where you happened to have spent your childhood aren’t writing the best stories.


Anonymous said...

Ahh, Sweet Doctor G, but you're forgetting that many of our most strongly held cultural narratives are about tribes, not individuals.

Think of the Johnny Damon situation this way: is Benedict Arnold due for a rehabilitation in the history books? He was a great general for both sides in the Revolutionary War. Or If a star co-worker of yours defects to a rival company, are you supposed to root for his career? If the wide receiver on your weekend touch football team quits and joins another team in the league, are you supposed to continue to root for him?

We still live in a tribal culture where we are largely defined by the groups we join. Sure, there are inherent dangers in tribes (see Iraq), but to deny me the pleasure of rooting against Johnny Damon and Derek Jeter - well, it's just not reasonable.

I root for the laundry.

Musa D said...

Pfizer deserves my hate. Those guys pay to hear John Ashcroft sing.

Anson Mountain said...

I spent many seasons standing and cheering for Scott Walker (I would yell out "Scotty" when he scored or when he was selected as one of the three stars at the end of the game) of the Nashville Predators. Scott Walker is with the Carolina Hurricanes now and though I don't hate him exactly, if he comes to Nashville and he gets a hooking penalty and he's carted off to the box, I am going to curl my index and middle fingers into fangs and stab at the air in his direction (FANG FINGERS!), while the music of Psycho plays on the sound system and I am going to love it even more because it's a guy who was once, but is no longer, a part of the thing that I root for and I will enjoy to no end his newfound unhappiness. Andrew Ladd, while a good enough winger and not so bad in the looks department, is mostly an unknown quantity to me and his kicking the puck into his own goal is rewarding for me but not special in a sentimental sense. Scott Walker (Scotty!) was once a large part of my life and so my feelings, good or bad, will be greater when he is involved.

Anson Mountain said...

The mention of Harold "Baby Jordan" Minor made me wonder about the use of an existing sports star as part of your nickname. It just seems strange to have your nickname associated with someone who is also playing. Oddly enough, Warren Sapp has given birth to two NFL players, Vince "Baby Sapp" Wilfork and Mike "Baby Sapp" Patterson. I hope there are more.

Musa D said...

Glen "Baby Shaq" Davis
Jason "Baby Ben" Maxiell
Padgett "Baby Barry Hannah" Powell
Bryan "Baby Arm" Smith