Baseball On My Brain


This is what happens when my Sunday paper doesn’t get delivered (and my team has the worst record in MLB)
May 27, 2008, 7:40 pm
Filed under: Uncategorized | Tags: , , , ,

If my New York Times delivery person is reading this, I hope that you are OK. You didn’t deliver my Sunday NY Times, and I was just about to be OK with it until someone forwarded me this link. Luckily the NY Times makes their articles available online, so I can work around it. But I don’t want to wish you ill if something truly bad happened to you that prevented my paper from showing up in my driveway. But if you just forgot, didn’t care, or otherwise neglected your duties, know that I am not happy and am thinking ill thoughts about you.

Which segues us nicely into my point – Francis X. Clines wrote the aforelinked piece regarding booing your home team, which right this minute I feel like doing until I go hoarse.

But is that the way to behave? Or is the boo in baseball meant to be heard in other ways?

Booing certainly doesn’t seem like the highest class of behaviors. I don’t feel like a better person on the occasions I boo; it’s almost a relief mechanism for a physical discomfort.

Still – I don’t feel that justifies the act. I don’t belch in public, something to which I equate booing. I just don’t think it’s classy or becoming of a decent member of society. Nor is it a good impression to cast on other people as something that’s OK to do in a public setting.

Yet it seems to be more and more common as Mr. Clines points out – even to the point where fans are booing their own players.

Mr. Clines makes a valid call to Gil Hodges and the undying love of Brooklyn Dodgers fans whose team subsequently left them for the greener pastures of southern California.

But would Hodges be as loved if he was on his third team in 6 years? If he was making $15 million, hitting .200 with limited power and on a sub .500 team? Would the family of four who dropped $80-$200 on tickets, plus another $100 in related expenses still cheer him on after sitting in traffic for an hour?

What about the season ticket holder who has already forked over a couple thousand dollars? Would he or she be first in line to buy a Hodges t-shirt, let alone stand up and clap for a sub-par performance?

Some argue that booing is part of the package that comes with the price of admission. Some say it’s part of the experience; part of the emotional roller coaster that sports becomes. You cheer, you boo; you laugh, you cry.

Maybe it’s my passive-aggressive Scandinavian nature or my Northwest upbringing that has inhibited my desire to boo. I’m not a rip-roaring fan; I don’t lead cheers, I don’t start the wave – if anything, I try any shut it down. I’ll stand and applaud a home run, although I’m more inclined to hoot and/or holler for a nice defensive play. And while I have booed players here and there (Matt Thornton comes to mind) – I certainly wouldn’t call it part of my normal repertoire.

But to boo one’s own? That’s where the problem – and dare I say disconnect – comes in to play. These players aren’t my own; at least not when they’re losing. I’m already disconnected enough from guys who are earning the league minimum of $390,000, let alone those who are earning eight-figure salaries to play this wonderful game of baseball. I’d venture to say I don’t even want to connect with these guys, despite the commercials, TV specials and in-stadium video board features that try and expose me to the members of the hometown club. Knowing what they order at Starbucks or who their favorite actress is really doesn’t make me cheer for them any louder when they’re down by four in the first inning.

Now I know that I’m in the minority along with Mr. Clines. I don’t care for the dancing groundskeepers, the kiss cam or the t-shirt toss – it does nothing to enhance my fundamental experience at the game. There’s only one thing that does – winning.

But my lust for winning doesn’t have to come at the expense of bad behavior – particularly along the lines of the fans that boo their hometown players, then cheer for them upon a success, only to boo them again for not giving them the curtain call they ask for. That is selfish and condescending – stemming from an attempt to control those who have gotten out of the realm of our understanding. We have no power over them and even less relation to them, so a mean-spirited boo or a come hither round of cheers may just be our attempt to exert some level of control.

No matter how much I pay, or how early I camped out to get the autograph that never happened, there is no entitlement that comes with going to a baseball game, other than to be free of such poor behavior by those with whom I share the experience.

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