I have watched the 2011 baseball season begin to unravel in the past week with sadness, and yet with resignation. I felt this coming for a long time, actually began to feel it coming in June, and now that "contention" is becoming more and more unlikely...
How do I react to the Indians losing games they should win? Do I cuss them out, go on message boards and rip them or say that they "suck"?
No and no.
This article comes about after having watched and read much vitriol directed at Our Team over the past several days, because it got me thinking: How do we define ourselves as fans?
I mean, you look at the Tribe sitting at 63-64 and remember when they were 30-15, and of course you wish it had not come to this. Granted, I get that you're disappointed.
But I ask you...if your Major League team's clubhouse would double as a MASH unit, does that mean that the replacements "suck" when they lose?
Is not the opponent trying to win every game the same way that your team is trying?
These are some of the things I have seen on various message boards (and I am cleaning up language and paraphrasing, and will not direct you to those boards, as I don't feel like telling you to "go and see for yourselves"):
- "Man, that ball was hard hit, you're supposed to be a closer, and you suck, how can you be an All-Star?"
- "Why does this guy always swing at the first pitch?"
- "The Indians suck, the ownership sucks, the manager sucks"
- "(Expletive) you, you belong in the minor leagues!" (Probably directed at a guy who was called up to replace an injured regular, so yes, he might belong in the minors, but is it his fault that he was called up because we need warm bodies?)
- And of course, there are the classic "How can you lose to them? They had a 17-game losing streak last month, how can you lose to them?" rants. (Of course, anyone who has followed baseball long enough knows that once a team is out of it, and can play loose and easy, with no pressure and no expectations, they can play "spoilers" really well. Not that they played "spoiler" last year, but the Cleveland team that ended up 69-93 won seven in a row down the stretch before losing their last two games. Why? Because there was no longer any pressure or expectations.)
- "The Indians suck, the media sucks for not calling out the owners, the owners suck for not getting eight or nine power right-handed bats at the trading deadline" (As if baseball were some video game you can set to Super Easy and stock it with hand-picked players and win every game 118-2.)
I could go on and on and on ad nauseum, but I think you get the drift of what I am saying here.
How do we define ourselves as fans? Do we assassinate an organization that is doing the best it can with what it has, do we rip pitchers who are getting worn out late in a season when they have a couple of bad outings? Do we tear apart a guy for making a crucial error or a baserunning gaffe that costs us a game?
In other words, what I think I am saying here is: Do we honestly think that a team will never lose, and when it does lose, do we not ever give a little credit to the team in the other dugout and the other bullpen?
There are times when I feel very much...well, behind the times. My time as a fan began in the '60s, when there were no blogs or message boards, and you either watched or listened to the games or you had to read in the paper the next day what happened. I became a fan when a play-by-play in the paper gave you raw facts with no gray areas. In other words, "Player X flied out to center". Okay, but there was no way of knowing if it was a line drive that the center-fielder had to sprint back to catch or a routine can of corn.
Now, of course, there is instant access to how a play went down just by watching a message board or a game thread even if you can't see it, and I get that passionate people will make knee-jerk reactions to what they may be able to see when you can't.
But truly, how can one be a "fan" -- and take pleasure in the failure of a team because it serves an agenda of not liking a manager or a coach or an owner?
Do you love the Indians (or the Browns or the Cavaliers) win or lose, step back every day and try to look at the big picture instead of going ballistic over one error or one strikeout with a man on third and less than two outs, or a missed free throw in crunch time, or an untimely interception in the shadow of the goal-posts?
I get being passionate. I get sometimes being ticked off at a player or a team in general.
And I promise that I will wrap this up now, as this very column may suck...
But are you a fan that gets it? That understands that every team has ebbs and flows and bad breaks and injuries happen and that great starts do not guarantee great finishes (as seems likely with this year's Indians)?
Or are you a fan that saw the championship trophy being hoisted by the San Francisco Giants last year and thought "Man, the rest of these teams all sucked, the Rangers suck for losing the World Series"....etc, etc, etc.
Are you a fan only when your team is as close to perfect as possible, and only support them when they win, and win, and win?
How do we define ourselves as fans?