I believe in the Church of Baseball. I’ve tried all the major religions, and most of the minor ones. I’ve worshipped Buddha, Allah, Brahma, Vishnu, Siva, trees, mushrooms, and Isadora Duncan. I know things. For instance, there are 108 beads in a Catholic rosary and there are 108 stitches in a baseball. When I heard that, I gave Jesus a chance. But it just didn’t work out between us. The Lord laid too much guilt on me. I prefer metaphysics to theology. You see, there’s no guilt in baseball, and it’s never boring… which makes it like sex. …Course, what I give them lasts a lifetime; what they give me lasts 142 games. Sometimes it seems like a bad trade. But bad trades are part of baseball – now who can forget Frank Robinson for Milt Pappas, for God’s sake? It’s a long season and you gotta trust. I’ve tried ’em all, I really have, and the only church that truly feeds the soul, day in, day out, is the Church of Baseball. ~Annie Savoy (Bull Durham)
I have been a sports fan for always. Mostly this is the doing of my family’s early influence. And all those sunny days at the Coliseum watching the A’s, not to mention all those brutal days out at the ‘Stick watching Jack Clark and his boys in black and orange. (It is so curious that my two best childhood friends both went to the Dark Side and I kept my heart in Oakland… but those girls are true fans and I love them for it.) The Dodgers and the Angels on at my various grandparents homes all summer, and lots of games down that way too. Let’s not forget the O-O-O-O-lympics… first the obsession with Nadia in 1976, then the disappointment of 1980 and then – there we were, there we were, there we were… IN LA. The gymnasts. The Dream Team. Carl Lewis. Edwin Moses. Jackie Joyner-Kersee. FloJo. E.P.I.C. And we were there. In addition to this there was the football fascination that I never succumbed to (yawn) until I dated a Duck – when I got all quacky. There was a college influence when I fell for the sunshiney mustard and mud Padres and the couldn’t-give-the-tickets-away- Chargers. And then there was the basketball. All the basketball: the Lakers, the Warriors, the PACERS (I love you Reg, and so glad Mullin is getting his nod at the Hall), college ball, playing ball.
I have watched sports. I have played sports. I have coached sports.
I am a fan.
I have cried over games I have been in. I have cried over games I have watched. On TV.
I am a fan.
And what makes someone a fan? I suppose there are a million definitions, but as you might guess I think a fan is loyal, consistent, and, let’s face it, someone who can take their lumps. Dictionary.com describes a fan as “an enthusiastic devotee, follower, or admirer of a sport, pastime, celebrity, etc.” They do also note that it is the short form of fanatic, which is less flatteringly described as “a person with an extreme and uncritical enthusiasm or zeal, as in religion or politics.” [It should be noted some synonyms include: zealot, bigot, hothead, militant and a suggestion of the inability to see other points of view and single-minded partisanship.]
There are a lot of other types of fans. Fairweather. Bandwagoners. Poseurs. Jackasses. With the end of another March of Madness and the onset of sunshine and baseball I have been giving this a lot of thought. Why do we love the teams we do? Why do we hate the ones we do? And why are some teams’ fans just the biggest assholes on the planet?
I know why I love the A’s. I like small market, blue-collar, accessible, NICE organizations. Oh, and we are pretty good at baseball too. Got a few World Series trophies to hang our hats on. But I love them when they are not winning too. And they have broken my heart (often by breaking their rosters…) but I still love the way they pick talent, the way they play the game and the attitude. I know why I love the college basketball teams I do: I love the coaches. I love a certain memory. I love the players: Marquette’s D. Wade, ‘Melo & ‘Cuse, the Terps Blake and Dixon. I love the stupid One Shining Moment montage. I love to hate Dickie V. I loved the Fab Five & Steve Fisher but I am not really a Michigan fan. (Definitely going to see the movie though…) I love the emotion. I love the GAME.
I know why I hate certain teams too. I hate Duke with the heat of 1,000 suns. Why? Because my father hated them… and why did he? Because, “Nixon went to Duke.” (My family was always a rather intellectual sports collective.) And I hate Duke because they are GOOD. It makes it more fun. It is like hating the Yankees. Someone on Twitter posted a passive aggressive dig aimed at one of my Duke rants, saying “Why do people hate Duke? Do they hate Northwestern and Stanford too?” Umm… why would we hate Northwestern? They fucking suck. You are not supposed to hate on the people on the shortbus. And Stanford? Well, my Cal people sure do hate them. I can take or leave the Cardinal but I am generally down with the Pac-10 when push comes to shove, though given the choice, public schools are always going to get my vote.
And now baseball season is back. The San Francisco Giants finally won a series last year and guess what? It has brought out the douche baggery like you would not believe. Everyone is a Giants fan now. And I am not talking about my friends who have loved the Giants forever. I am talking about all these snobby, smug assholes who talk about how great they are because they are so well-funded, because they are so much better than all the rest of the baseball world and they are not talking about the baseball teams anymore either – it is like this weird influx of yuppies who put people down. To be fair I am talking about a pretty small group of people, but they are vocal, hypocritical and offensive. And it is the antithesis of the San Francisco I know. But they are sure all about the “Orange and Black.” So, what is a fan? If you are such a zealot that you can only support your team by putting others down, you belong in the Westboro Baptist Church where hate trumps everything. (Oh, and this also probably means you are totally insecure and your team isn’t so great. Just saying.)
And now we have a Giants fan who went to opening day at Dodger Stadium and is in critical condition after taking such a severe beating in the parking lot that he is facing likely brain damage. A nice guy, father of two, regular guy who went to a ballgame. It is disgusting. [And to all the Giants fans who started trash talking LA for this, let’s remember a Giants fan was KILLED by another Giants fan at AT & T Park last year.] + [I did try to find a record of a death at the Oakland Coliseum, which Giants fans talk about being so “ghetto” and could not find records of a single fan death at an As game.]
If you are a fan, you didn’t just buy the shirt (or your brand new season tickets) because “everyone else” had ’em. If you are a fan you know the game. If you are a fan you love your team no matter what, especially when you are hating them. If you are a fan, you don’t need ad hom attacks. If you are a fan you understand that other people are too – and you embrace that.
If you are a fan, you love the game.
All of it.
I am a fan.