Every sport has them. I couldn’t help but think of them today when I thinking about my last post on the New England Patriots, and how much I dislike them. No one ever talks about how they could barely give tickets away in previous years, when no one really gave a shit about them as a team, especially in their own region, especially before they became Brady’s bunch. Well, maybe that’s a little harsh. But I suppose three Super Bowl championships in the last decade, and also in a span of five seasons can get some national recognition, especially with a pretty boy quarterback.
A fine recipe for frontrunning.
It’s tough to see what came first: the frontrunner or the fan. I couldn’t help but think of that during the baseball playoffs this year, especially with two teams, the Yankees and the Phillies. Of course, I have a direct hatred of both these teams. The Yankees pretty much for what they represent. The Mets could literally pitch their first no-hitter in history, and the local papers would say, “Mets Lose Perfect Game in Third, Get First No-Hitter.” This has to do with the Yankee-bias in the local media for sure.
But homerism abounds in the Yankee world as well as in Philadelphia. See, Philly cries (like Sarge said the Mets do) each year whether they win or lose, claiming they are in New York’s shadow, but they bring a lot of that on themselves. When Jimmy Rollins stands up at the parade in 2008, and calls out Jose Reyes…and player he didn’t even FACE let alone who didn’t even make the friggin playoffs that year…it says to me there’s a little bit of a bias in their own eyes, and it didn’t even fuckin matter then.
I guess my point of this ramble is that I’ve seen a lot of frontrunning on either side of that spectrum, and it’s a question I’ve raised with myself: are these people “fans” before the team starts to win, or after? It seems simplistic, and I’m sure it’s an open-ended questions. Yet, I feel in the case of the Phillies and Yankees, it’s worse more-so in the case of the Phillies simply because they rarely win anything.
Prior to 2007, no one went to Mets/Phillies games at Citizens Bank Park. NO ONE. I could go to Mets/Phils there and it would easily be 65/35 in favor of Mets fans. Then 2008 rolled around, and there was probably close to 50/50. Today, you’d be hard-pressed to see someone in blue and orange, and even if they do root for the Mets, they might not be wont to wear their colors. Funny what “winning” will do to a franchise.
Here’s my thing: everyone will point and say no one cared about the Phillies prior to 2007, and they’d be right. Hell, I think even Philly sports fans agree with that. I’ve often said five World Series rings mean nothing, as they’d trade it all in for one Super Bowl. Even when the Flyers made their improbable Cup run, I theorized the same thing (a few Philly fans shot me down, but I know them, and I know they are real fans…like, two out of the five I know). Anyway, my point is, booing Ryan Howard as he collapsed from an Achilles injury, as he made the last out the second year in a row to end the Phillies’ postseason run, means that Philly fans have met our expectations loud and clear, literally.
Winning can also bring the worst in storied franchises. Look at the Yankees. I know they are deep-rooted in baseball history, they are the winningest franchise, etc etc etc. If you’ll excuse me, barf. Anyway, I get it. But prior to 1996, no one was a Yankees fan. None, at least, were out and proud about it. And I will venture to say many “lifelong Yankees fans*” (*Since 1996) were turncoat Mets fans. I know this, because I know at least five people in my family who qualify for that title (after we openly rooted for the Mets together in 1986…wearing Mets stuff…that had nothing to do with an East Coast bias, trust me). Meanwhile, the Yankees main concern is whether their overweight overpaid “ace” CC Sabathia will opt out. As Tyler Kepner said, the Yankees after an unsuccessful postseason is akin to a banker running to Tiffany’s to fix a damaged relationship.
A team with a $200mm payroll has to spend more in order to gather goodwill with its fans? No wonder they are all spoiled brats: winning the World Series each year is an unrealistic goal. Period.
Sports teams all over have frontrunners. But I couldn’t help but wonder when the Mets start winning, will all those annoying fans be ours? I know that I’m not going anywhere, I know I’ll have my season ticket package, will still follow them on the road, will still write about them. I feel like because I am super connected with all these folks that I’ll be rejoicing with several close friends whom I also consider family. Yet, there will be a shit ton more people who are going simply because the Mets are winning. I know they are hard to watch at times now, but I still manage to watch, even live, even on the road (even chronicled here, as a devoted female fan in the area!). Am I somehow better than the people who won’t go? Can’t say I am.
All you hear is silence in CitiField now. But the Yankees and Phillies fans have shown they can be spoiled brats because of a taste of winning they have. Which is frontrunneritis. Their players better get used to it, especially Ryan Howard, whose 5/$125mm contract goes into effect next year…which he’s already projected to be out. This should be entertaining (also, for other Phillies schadenfraude, read Studious Metsimus‘ post on Phorecasting the Phuture).
I know sports are not immune to frontrunneritis. It’s just something to keep us entertained when teams win, then their ultimate downfall when they lose.