Friday, September 28, 2012

Complaining About Sports Fans (Which I Can Do 'Cause I Am One)

I have been a sports fan since I was in about fifth grade.  Okay, probably earlier than that.  Let's say I remember being a die hard sports fan since I was in fifth grade, but I grew up around hockey (which is incredibly common when you grow up twenty minutes outside of Canada, a.k.a. Buffalo, NY).  I remember going to see the Buffalo Sabres practice many a weekend and going to my brother's hockey games (and almost hitting Mike Faligno in the head with a hockey stick, which in and of itself is another story and photo that maybe I'll share at a later date).  It was fifth grade when it really caught on, though.  Our whole class was obsessed.  We all had our favorites (mine being Matthew Barnaby, the resident bad boy), we would talk about the games, my friends and I would spend our Sunday afternoons crammed around the TV to take in the game.  I guess when you look at it from a non-sports town perspective the thought of a bunch of fifth grade girls gathered around the television watching one of the more brutal sports out there is kind of interesting, but it's what I grew up with and it's what I have carried along with me to this day. 


I love hockey still (sadface about the lockout) and I have grown to love baseball since I moved to Southern New Jersey, and being only about twenty five minutes outside of Philadelphia, the Phillies are my boys.  Obviously the World Series win didn't hurt and I won't even lie and say I'm a die-hard fan who loved those guys before that because I didn't because I didn't grow up on that, but now I'm a Phillies lover with a partial season ticket plan and a wardrobe full of various Phillies t-shirts adorning several different players names and numbers on the back.  And being that I began to watch this team during the World Series hunt in 2008 I grew to love that group of guys.  You had Chase Utley, the stone-faced leader who was much more bite than bark.  You had Jimmy Rollins who brought more swag than anyone can handle.  Brad Lidge who managed to be perfect.  Cole Hamels, who at such a young age, stayed composed and was definitely one of the main reasons why we were able to stand and watch the parade roll by.  And then we had my favorite player, Jayson Werth, the rugged-mountain-man-looking-right-fielder who, as the story goes, dared Chase Utley to drop a naughty word on local television during his championship speech.

As the years rolled on, however, the team started to slowly but surely fall away.  Our bullpen is entirely different than it was that fateful year.  Our rotation only is still home to Cole Hamels.  Our outfield fell away to different teams, by trade or by money, and we're left with few of the heroes that we grew to love.  Such is sports and, being that it is a business, we all should grow to accept this fate.  Yet we don't and we feel the need to make enemies of those who move on to other adventures.  It's the same tale for any team, though.  And other people complaining about it didn't really get to me too much until I read through the comments on this blog post by David Murphy on Philly.com.

I would just like to touch on a few things that aggrivate me the most:

How could he turn his back on this team?  Yes, it's a little hard to digest when someone who will spew wonderful words about your beloved city decides to seek employment elsewhere.  We all would love to think that they love this city and these fans and this team so much that no amount of money will ever change his mind and he will surely stay here forever and ever and retire here and love us until the day he dies.  But it's just not the reality of the life of an athlete or any human for that matter.  As much as I would like to try to find the best in people, I feel as though humans, as a majority, are an incredibly selfish and greedy group, especially when it comes to money. 

Let's put it in the perspective of the average working folk.  Say you've been working at Company A for five years.  You love what you do, you love the people you work with, you just finally got to that next level of vacation time and life is good.  Company B comes along and says, "Hey.  We like how you do what you do.  We think you do a fantastic job and would love for you to come work for us.  You are going to do the exact carbon copy of what you do at Company A, you'll be able to keep your newly acquired vacation and we're going to pay you $50,000 more to come over to us."  I think anyone in their right mind is going to take that offer, but yet for some reason, when athletes are offered millions more dollars to go play on another team, the fans, for whatever reason, feel as though they should stick around anyway.  I think sometimes we forget that, as unbelieveable as it may be sometimes, this is their job and their livelyhood.  They have families at home that they need to support just like most of us do.  They can love everything about the city and the fans and the friends they make on the team but the money is going to win.  Of course there are exceptions to the rule.  Cliff Lee turned down more money in order to stay with the Phillies but he also didn't have as much of a discrepency in the amount as Jayson Werth did.

Oh, he's such an ass hole now.  Of course, nine times out of ten, athletes on the team that they're playing for are going to be as nice as they need to be to fans.  It's goodwill.  The fans are one of the main groups keeping the team alive financially and paying those gigantic contracts so it's kind of a necessity.  I also have noticed since having a partial plan and sitting in the same seat for 17 games of the year, at least with baseball, some of the guys tend to form bonds with their sections.  I know everytime Jayson would run out to right field at the beginning of the game he would fist pump in the air to the sections behind him and they would do it right back.  Shane Victorino would tip his cap to his fans.  Even if someone hit a home run, the next time they would be out on defense, that little section would give them a standing ovation.  It's a cool bond that's had in baseball between the players and the fans.

Once a player leaves, however, if it isn't on an unwanted trade, well it's all just blasphamy and they're evil and awful and we should definitely boo them no matter how much of a difference they made in the time they were on the team.  But then when they don't grovel and have ten million nice things to say about the fans and the city, we're going to act super surprised about it.  It's such a vicious circle.  There's just no winning.  I'm certainly not going to sit here and defend Jayson Werth's sainthood because while I've never met the man, I feel as though he's a bit of a snarky SOB (which truthfully only makes me love him just a tad bit more) but when he practically gets booed out of the stadium when he comes to play with the Washington Nationals and then gets chastized by the fanbase for not throwing a ball to a group of kids, why are we going to act super surprised about it?  We shouldn't.  Why should he bend over backwards to be overly kind to a group of people who, for the most part, forgot what he did for the team as soon as the ink dried in Washington? 

And finally, and most painfully (at least for this season), is it all even really worth it when in the end, isn't he the one winning?  Not much to say about this.  His team is in the playoffs.  The Phillies aren't.  Joke's on us.

I know that probably two people will read this and I'm not going to change the world with this one blog post, but people will get on a player's case because they aren't being a class act for kissing the feet of every fan of a team they used to play for.  Maybe we should realize the bigger picture, in that this is a job and they need the money, even if we think it is a ridiculous amount of money, and we should be the class act and recognize them for the good they did and the help they brought to an amazing team.  Every fanbase suffers from this problem and not every fanbase is lucky enough to enjoy championship runs (if we can recall way up at the top, I'm a Buffalo Sabres fan.  We've had our runs but never clinched).  Save the booing for the rival teams.  Save the booing for the umpires/referees.  But give love to the players that gave their blood, sweat and tears for you.  They deserve it.