I’m a pretty fortunate chick that I can travel around to visit ballparks around the country. At current count, I’ve seen Fenway Park, Yankee Stadium, CitiField, Citizens Bank Park, PNC Park, Nationals Park, Camden Yards, Tropicana Field, Wrigley Field, Miller Park, US Cellular Field, Ballpark at Arlington, Dodger Stadium, AT&T Park, Petco Park, Angel Stadium and Rogers “I’m Calling it SkyDome” Centre. (I’ve also seen three stadiums no longer with us: Shea, the “first” Yankee and The Vet in Philly).
I’ve met some shitty fans (San Francisco was by far one of the worst fan bases I’ve ever come in contact with), fans who couldn’t care less and probably have a better reputation than they should (like Toronto), and some fanbases that get a bad rap that actually I didn’t get to see (like Dodger fans). I’ve seen what bad finances can do to a fan base (like mine), and I can see what happens when ownership gets in its own way (like Miami or Baltimore). I’ve seen what happens when a team gets good and all of a sudden “lifelong fans” come out of the woodwork.
I’m all too familiar with that last part. I’ve seen it happen with my own fan base, especially in 2006. EVERYONE wanted to be in on the fun. Then again, I’ve always said that the best times to be a Mets fan would be during the down years anyway.
The playoffs brings out the worst in every fan base, I believe. The worst of the bandwagoners.
But the whole “he who is without sin” and “casting the first stone” has come out in full force, probably more than ever, during these baseball playoff series.
And mostly, I find that Yankee fans in my feed are casting those stones.
This is not meant to be an attack on Yankee Nation or their fans. I have a great amount of people in my Twitter feed and in my real life whom I consider good friends who are Yankee fans. These are FANS not in quotation marks, but people who live and die by the team. I get that there is a lot of history and passion related to the topic. These aren’t the people I have a problem with. In fact, they’re the people who I feel are the most level-headed.
I find the whole topic of “fairweather fans” in the playoffs kind of funny. I mean, Yankee fans should speak from experience. I should know: I am a Mets fan who has rooted for the blue and orange, lived and died with them since I was seven years old. Yet, over the years, with the peaks and valleys with how poor the team has been run, I’ve seen my share of people who show up only when they are good.
Yet there is a population of people who just stop going to games. Why spend money on a product that is faulty? I can certainly see the validity to that statement. What I hated though was going from 2004, where the real fans were still showing up, drinking beer and talking about trades that would never happen, to 2006, when people said, “Oh I like this Mets team better than the Yankees, so I’m gonna root for them.” No. Seriously. SOMEONE SAID THIS TO ME. I don’t remember if I said anything back because, well, I just couldn’t believe someone would admit it to me.
I have family members who claim to be lifelong Yankee fans, but I can put an asterisk *since 1996 next to their fandom, since we sat in front of the TV and rooted for the Mets in the ’80s. I wish I could have it that easy. Just start rooting for another team without a conscience.
Like I said, this isn’t meant to be a rant against Yankee fans. I just find it mildly ironic (okay – HELLA ironic) that their fans would call out Orioles fans for “just showing up” now.
Here are some things I’ve taken into consideration about this year’s playoffs.
One is, I go to probably more Orioles games than any others outside of my own team’s. It’s mostly a geographic necessity. I’m certainly not going to go to a game in Philadelphia for the hell of it. Same for the Bronx. I hate Boston, and DC and I don’t mix. But I like Baltimore. It’s a quick bus ride for me. I can find cheap accommodations, and food is really really good there. And if there is a game going on when I happen to be there, you better be certain I’m going to attend. (There’s also this little obsession I have with a guy named Cal Ripken). I may be a little biased for their fans but that’s because I interact with many of them in a given time frame.
Two is, take into consideration economic factors. Typically, if a region is hurting or there is less discretionary income going somewhere, chances are baseball games will get hit. I have a family member who admitted he stopped going to games because it wasn’t economically feasible this year. I can understand that. For what it’s worth too, the Mets have taken note of this phenomenon and at least have tried to make it more appealing for families to come to the ballpark. My husband and I don’t have children. We like baseball. We make it a priority to attend. Therefore, we make it a factor for us. That and road trips.
But that’s just the thing. I feel like the road trips I go on make me maybe a little conscious of what’s going on in outside markets. True, New York is expensive, but so is the cost of living and generally prices and incomes are in line with that. Take into consideration Los Angeles, when I went to a game when the Dodgers were actually good, and I could get a seat in the Loge level for TWELVE DOLLARS on Stubhub. I could go to the Cell in Chicago’s South Side and spend less than $30 for two tickets for a team that gets a good draw in the upper deck in the secondary market (lots of fees went into that $30, I think it was like $13 per ticket).
Mostly, when I go to Baltimore and there is a game going on, I can walk up that day and buy tickets, get good seats, cheap. Is it indicative of the fan base? Maybe. But I definitely think that local economic factors in “smaller markets” account for this too.
The third is, again the irony calling out the Baltimore Orioles fan base in general. The AL East, save the Yankees and MAYBE the Red Sox, never sell out their games. And even those two teams don’t come close to it most nights (maybe the Sox do because their stadium is so small, therefore fewer seats to fill).
I was in Toronto in May, and there were tons of fans dressed as empty seats. In fact, Rogers Centre was a barn. You could not fill it up, and they actually closed off some sections. I believe though, that they might have raised prices on tickets there to account for the lack of seats that were there. I don’t think they can do that…but I feel like my upper deck ticket was really high.
Look at the Tampa Bay Rays, who have actually been a good team for the past four years, couldn’t sell out a game to save their lives, then they became good. THEY COULD NOT GET PEOPLE TO COME TO THEIR GAMES OR THE PLAYOFFS.
You know what I saw last night at Camden Yards? I saw passion. I saw excitement. I saw people who now had a reason to go to the games. Not complaining that Peter Angelos was running the team into the ground, and they’d never compete again. I remember reading an article a few weeks ago about how the fans were not coming to the games, but viewership was at an all-time high for MASN (the local sports network in that region). I don’t think that’s bandwagon-ism, it’s more of a “Hey, I can justify putting my discretionary income into these games now.”
The first game was a clusterfuck for sure. I heard that Orioles fans were leaving when the game was still close. In a close game, in the playoffs, that’s a total party foul. I can’t say that I blame them though. I’m not one to leave a game early unless I’m ill or something, but you know, it was cold Sunday night. Some people had to work the next day.
What got me though is that Orioles fans are not the only folks to do such a thing. I remember in 2010 fans leaving the Yankees/Rangers series at Yankee Stadium. I talked to a coworker then who admitted he left early. When I gave him “the look,” he said, “Look, judge me all you want, but I have kids. I need to be in the office at 8 A.M. It was close to midnight. They were losing. I had to pick up my car in Jersey City. I wanted to go home.” I guess, you know, he wasn’t banking on a comeback, but hey, he had a point.
What I’m saying is….these things happen.
In the past year and change, I’ve had the opportunity to meet some great fans from other fan bases, something I can say would have never happened without the advent of social media. And mostly, I find it intriguing to watch because I am a Mets fan and they sucked all year. Then there’s my friends from the Washington Nationals fan base that I’m really happy for, because they’re so much fun to watch getting excited over their team. Prior to this year, it was an easy ticket to get (do I need to bring up how the Nationals ticket people openly recruited Phillies fans to come to their games?). Do I think these people are bandwagoners? Absolutely not.
Last year, I went to a “meaningless” game in September at Camden Yards, and met the two fans pictured above. The woman, “Stretch Lady,” made it a point to go to all 81 home games last year. Let that one sink in. The gentleman, who writes for 2131 and Beyond, follows the Orioles around like I follow the Mets around. Are they exceptions to the rule? Hardly.
I watched with glee as the Orioles took out the Red Sox in Game 162. Nothing against the Red Sox. I know a lot of their fans too. But because my misconceptions about Orioles were cleared up, I found that this team had scrap. And it carried over into this season, surprising many.
I could point out that Phillies fans had nothing to cheer for prior to 2008, and were merely distracted from their Eagles watching with a decent few years from the baseball team. Now those fans are not showing up to games. Then again, that’s a bad example because save maybe Flyers fans, Philadelphia sports fans are probably the most fickle in all of sports.
I make it a point to not actively root for teams during the playoffs. Honestly, I don’t like the stress that goes along with it. But I do like watching from an objective point of view. And my objectivity makes it clear that those who are pointing the amount of bandwagon jumpers in these particular playoffs have no fucking room to make that judgment.
To prove my point, The 7 Line found this shirt today, made by Majestic.
A shirt that is an official shirt maker for MLB.
His response was, “The bandwagon will love that.”
I got some defensive responses from some of the Yankee fan base the other night, when I commented about those who come out to roost during the playoffs. “That’s not true!” they say. “They’re just as passionate as other fan bases,” they say. But…what about those people I see who never wear a stitch of Yankee clothing during the regular season, never make a comment about going to a game, watching a game, never make a peep about a good pitching performance from CC Sabathia, or make a comment about how they don’t like A-Rod (trust me: real Yankee fans DO NOT like A-Rod).
Guess when they show up and won’t shut the fuck up?
I’ll give you a hint: It’s a month that begins with “O.”
I’m not saying that none of these fans aren’t bandwagoners. Clearly, every fan base has them. I’ve seen plenty infiltrate my team.
But to say the experience is somehow “less than” or that your team’s fans are better because they’ve been to the playoffs 100 years in a row and can’t get rid of these lunatic fringe element that goes and starts shit, well congratulations.
You’re a Holier-than-Thou fan.