More typed words about fandom
It’s been three weeks since I set my Yankeedom free, and decided to be a Mariners fan. In those three weeks, it’s been very nice, getting emails and Twitter messages from people on both sides. There have been a few negative comments now and again, but mostly, it’s been positive.
Whenever I do anything that is out there for other people to see, there’s a part of my that wants to continually georgelucas (a verb that I think we should use more) things, to tinker so that it’s better, clearly, whatever. In the heat of the whole News Corp thing, I’m not sure I explained myself perfectly. I have a Web site about baseball that is moderately popular. So, I accept that by publishing stuff on the Internet about the sport, I am opening myself up to criticism, both positive and negative. I’m fine with that.
One thing to understand, though, and I didn’t make this clear enough, is how much easier it would have been to just chunter and moan about News Corp., and continue being a Yankee fan. That would’ve been so much easier. I’ve got used to hearing and reading what other fans think of the Yankees, and think about some of the Yankees’ fans, and Yankee fans who aren’t from New York. I’ve heard all that from the moment I became a Yankee fan. I’m not gonna complain too much about the life of a Yankee fan; they’ve only missed the post season once since I started following them. That’s not bad going. So, despite all of that, it would’ve been so much easier to keep on Yankee-ing.
But fandom, the idea and practise of fandom is something a lot of people hold dear to their hearts. Whenever I have a conversation with someone who doesn’t follow sports, and they talk about the oddness of investing time and emotion in something you have no control over, I always say that’s exactly why I like it. If I’m sad in my personal life, somewhere along the line, I’ve been intimately involved in the reason for that sadness occurring. The same if I’m happy. But to have something that can provoke those emotions, and not have any actual real life consequences coming from those emotions: that to me is the joy of being a fan. Yankees win. Thaaaaaaa-aa-a-a-a-a-aaa Yankees win. And I would be happy. Yankees get swept at home by the Red Sox, and I’m grumpy. But my life goes on. There was a three hour escape from that real world, where I can care about a pinch hit single that gets the runner in from third to tie the game.
That said, I totally see the other side of things. To invest time and emotion in something you have no control over, to align yourself so strongly with the identity of a team, their other fans, their culture. It’s kinda dumb, too. I don’t bleed pinstripes, Dodger blue, Rockies purple, whatever. It’s a professional sports team. They don’t care about your happiness, they care about your money. The only reason they give any sort of shit about fans is because it means TV companies will give them money, we will buy caps, jerseys, and little teddy bears.
In these last three weeks, I’ve unsubscribed from a lot of Yankee blogs’ RSS feeds. I wanted to cut it loose, to not follow the daily news. The only Yankee news I’ve heard about is when it’s mentioned by people on Twitter: Russell Martin going to the Pirates, Youkilis signing a deal with the Yanks. That kind of thing. An aside: the timing kinda suck there, cos I genuinely loved Youkilis. He may not be the player he once was, but as a Yankee fan, there was a time when there was nothing scarier than a tied game at Fenway, runners on base, and Youkilis at the plate. Aside from Ortiz, he was my favourite Red Sock.
Being totally honest, it has been nice to let the hot stove stuff just slide by, only seeing the headlines, not bothering reading the rumours. I’ve paid a small amount of attention to the Mariners’ moves, but I’m not really an M’s fan yet. It’s still an intellectual idea. I’m not sure I will even start to feel anything of substance for them until the games start and I’m watching 162 of them. I’m watching these moves as an outside. Jason Bay… okay. Maybe Josh Hamilton… okay. Mental note of these things. Changing teams isn’t hard like a divorce or a physics PhD. But you can’t force yourself to love something. It’s going to take time.
One thing that does amuse me about this thing, and putting the process of choosing another team out there in public, is to imagine the reaction if the thing had been the exact opposite way around. If I’d been a Mariners fan who decided for some moral reason to root for another team. And I went through the process and decided that, yep, I’m gonna be a Yankee fan now. Can you imagine how much shit I would get for that?
Sports and fandom are lovely and stupid at the same time. I try not to take it too seriously. We see sports and teams used as excuses for insults, name-calling, and sadly, horrible violence sometimes. I was talking to a friend at the weekend. His family is originally from the Basque region of Spain, and he’s a fan of Athletic Bilbao. In Mexico City, there’s a club where people with Basque heritage get together, eat their food, watch soccer. I’ve been with him a couple of times, and it’s a great place. The food is delicious, and the people were very welcoming. Thousands of miles away from home, they watch soccer. But one time, there was a game between Athletic Bilbao and Osasuna, also from the region. And there was, apparently, a bit of a fight between the fans. So much so, that nowadays, they don’t host both sets of fans for games between the teams.
Watching sport can be an utterly delightful thing to do, but when it gets to that level… well, you’ve gotta check yourself before, as the song say, you wreck yourself.