On Fair Weather Fandom.
Baseball will break your heart.
Honestly, anything you love has the power to break your heart, but sports fans have learned a special kind of agony. We love teams that do not love us back. Players and organizations depend on fans for only one reason: money. Without fans, organizations can’t pay. They need us to fill their seats, and buy their merch, and pay $16 for a crab sandwich (I’m looking at you AT&T Park). They appreciate us, but they do not love us.
It’s sort of the ultimate unrequited love.
For 162 games a year, we sink our hearts and souls into the playoff dreams of the team we adore. We pay for cable subscriptions and install phone apps so we don’t miss a thing. Raise your hand if you’ve ever checked a box score while at a wedding. Bonus points if it was your wedding. We cancel plans to stay home for key games. If our team makes it to October, we pretty much bail out of our social lives to not miss a thing. We live and breathe those wins. They feel like personal victories.
And so too, the losses feel personal.
There’s a sense of betrayal when a team we love loses. Especially when it’s to a rival team we believe is inferior, or less deserving of a win. When our boys get shut out, or clobbered 15 to 1, it’s almost as if people believe it was intentional. They lost to spite us.
When a team goes on a losing streak, it gets even worse. Twitter and Facebook comment threads light up with people saying they’ll abandon their season tickets. People will write diatribes on the failings of the players and the coaching staff. Why would he put that reliever in? Why didn’t he get that go-ahead run? Where was the hustle?
We arm-chair managers know it all, don’t we? We’d run that bullpen differently. We’d never use that pinch hitter. Any moron knows not to use a bunt there!
Fire the manager! Trade the heavy paycheque players! Overhaul for a winning season in 2020!
And then they win five games in a row and suddenly everyone wants to pre-order their World Series tickets.
Herein is the trouble with loving something that does not love us back. We treat wins as affectionate rewards. It’s our team’s way of validating us. When they lose, they are reminding us they don’t care. That’s why it hurts, that’s why we fight back, because they aren’t giving us back what we feel we’re putting in.
But here’s the hard truth, sports fans: baseball doesn’t need to love us back.
We have no right to wins or losses. A baseball team is made up of 40 men who are all too human. Men who have pitches they cannot hit. Men who get tired, and frustrated, and worn down. They cannot win every game. Sometimes they can’t even win half the games. But if you’re going to sign up to be a fan, that’s the risk you take. And to take losses personally only reflects on your own fandom.
The love of a baseball fan is one-sided. If we can acknowledge that, we can learn to love our team even when they lose. Because winning season or losing season, we still get 162 games a year. Let’s try to enjoy them all.
**author’s note: I’m not picking on Cubs’ fans with the header, but surprsingly when you Google “sad baseball fan” there are more Cubs images than anything else. Cheer up, guys!**