Tuesday, May 7, 2013

What Makes A Fan?

Great love between San Francisco's Juan Marichal and Los Angeles'
John Roseboro during a crucial series late into the 1965 MLB season,
where both teams were in the hunt for the National League Pennant
Roseboro was not hit with the bat, as it would appear here, but was
stumbling to the ground from being bumped into by another player. 
As we begin a second month of what will surely be an exciting baseball season (unless you're a Houston Astros fan), We are also taking this time to root for our favorite NBA basketball team as they advance to the NBA Finals (my team, the San Antonio Spurs, just swept the Los Angeles Lakers in the first round), and to cheer on our favorite hockey team as they march on toward the Stanley Cup (I'm not a huge hockey fan, but I do like the California teams, and the Montréal Canadiens are my sentimental favorite).

With the advent of social media, the passion that we exhibit for our respective teams overflows onto the Facebook walls of many others, including the smack talk, the insults, and the indisputable facts of why "my team is better than yours." The latest trend on the Internet is a familiar or funny photo with a funny caption, known as a "meme." While the actual meaning of a meme is different than what the photo is intended to do (a meme is an idea or concept that is circulated through large populations of people for the purpose of changing the mindset of a society or a select group of people), the ability for a fan to utilize these in order to trash talk about opposing teams is rapidly gaining popularity.

Whatever you utilize to poke fun at an opposing team, the results can be quite satisfying, especially when your rival team is mired in last place, or if they lose their best player for the year, or if they are just getting bad press, all those things just fuel the fire for trash talk. As an example, last year my favorite baseball team, the San Francisco Giants, lost one of their players due to failing a performance-enhancing drug test, who was leading the league in hitting, and won the All-Star Game Most Valuable Player trophy, and was on his way to potentially winning the league's Most Valuable Player trophy. Los Angeles Dodgers fans came out of the woodwork to harass us poor Giants fans about this guy, accusing him of eating "Cheaties," The Breakfast of Champions, with a "meme" of him on a re-done Wheaties box.

By the same token, the Dodgers had a player early in the season who was on fire, leading the league in hitting, homeruns, and was a virtual lock for the same trophy at the end of the year as the Giants player. That is, until he got hurt in the second month of the season. Needless to say Giants fans had their moment as well to needle Dodgers fans as well.

Things got really exciting in the middle of the season on the Dodgers spent hundreds of millions of dollars to acquire a handful players, with the expectation of them winning it all at the end of the season. The Giants, on the other hand, made a couple of trades with teams and wound up winning the World Series for the second time in three years, while the Dodgers entered their 25th season since their last World Series appearance. And to add the fuel to the trash fire, another Giants player won the league's Most Valuable Player award.

Needless to say, the trash talk was at full throttle at the end of the season, and then as quickly as it started, it died down. By this time, football season was upon us, followed by basketball and hockey season, and back to baseball. In fact, there is only one day a year where there is no news happening in the four "major" sports. It's usually the day after the MLB All-Star Game, when players travel back to their home cities to resume the remainder of the regular season. People often say "What about the day before the All-Star Fame?" Typically there are usually a home run derby competition or some sort of sports activities leading up to the All-Star Game, so that doesn't count. So, it leaves us with the remainder of the 364 days in the year (365 in an Olympic year), to create strategies to pummel our opponents with phrases, memes, statistics, and other types of weaponry to decimate our opponents with the ammunition needed to prove whose team is better.

Sadly, fan craziness tends to take different forms, and sometimes violent forms. Many know about the beating that the Brian Stow (a Giants fan) took last year at Dodger Stadium, and it caused such a stir among fans all over the country, reminding us that baseball is only a game.

As much as I "hate" the Dodgers, it is really a strong animosity that I have toward them. As much as I "hate" the Dallas Cowboys, it is really a desire to see them lose every game, rather than to see physical harm upon them. As much as I "hate" the Los Angeles Lakers, it is really a goal to see them out of the playoffs every year, which is difficult due to the tremendous talent pool that they have, and the notoriety they receive from it.

Are people idiots for loving the Dodgers, Cowboys, or the Lakers? Are people stupid for rooting for the Chicago Bears, or the New York Yankees, or even those poor Houston Astros? Are people who root for the Atlanta Braves, the New York Rangers, the Miami Heat, or any other powerhouse team smarter because their team wins?

The answer to those questions are an absolute "no!" We choose to align ourselves with teams because we know of a popular player, see a favorite color, live in the city in which the team plays, or in my case, when I saw my football team (49ers) on television and I thought they clobbered the Colts rather hard and liked them ever since. That was at a time when the New York Jets, Miami Dolphins, and the Dallas Cowboys were picking up new fans due to their success at the time.

People should become fans for whatever reason they choose. My son-in-law became a Jacksonville Jaguar fan because that was one of the first teams he remembers watching (the Jaguars are currently the worst team in the NFL… I have a lot of fun with him on this).

It should also be noted, that in all the years that I've supported the San Francisco Giants, the San Francisco 49ers, and the San Antonio Spurs, I have yet to receive a thank you card from either of those organizations thanking me for their support all these years. And people should remember that when they begin to think about using their fists to defend their teams "honor."

The truth is, if the Dodgers were to move to another city, I would be just as sad as LA fans. The rivalry between our teams, is a historical rivalry. It has given us many memorable moments throughout time, and we can be assured that it will continue to do so. I was sad for my brothers when the Los Angeles Rams left for St. Louis. It broke their hearts. As much as we enjoy needling each other with rude comments, funny jokes, during football season, we take the time to lift each other up when our team doesn't make it, as they did when the 49ers lost in the Super Bowl.

So in light of our efforts to razz our friends on the teams they choose, let us all be aware that friendships are first, teams are second. So, let's enjoy the game.

Play Ball!

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