Wednesday, April 25, 2012

On Fandom In Dark Times

So, the Padres aren't very good this year. At least so far anyway. Who knows what the rest of the season holds? But one thing is sure, this incarnation of Padres baseball through 3 weeks has not been the poetry that Annie Savoy spoke of.

This sloppy start has lead to understandable frustration. It's one thing to lose. It's quite another to lose in the manner and fashion the Padres have. The Padres are 5th in MLB in strikeouts (I was mildly stunned to learn there are 4 teams who strike out more. If you are curious, they are: St. Louis, NYM, Houston, and Arizona. I suppose there is something to take from this that the Top 5 teams in strikeouts are all National League. I just don't know what that is.) and lead the league in errors. With a young team with limited resources, this is not a recipe for success. And makes losing in this fashion that much more frustrating.

Which has lead some fans to declare that they will no longer support this team until a better product is placed on the field. This is not the first nor will it be the last time a fanbase will make such a declaration. The idea is based in capitalist ideology. Baseball is a product, we are the consumers, thus if we are upset with the product we as consumers will stop purchasing said product until it is fixed. And while that makes perfect sense in a consumer based economy, it sadly makes next to no sense in sports.

For example. Let's say there is a great Thai restaurant in your neighborhood. You love this place, order the same thing every time, and every time it hits the spot. Then they change chefs. And the Tom Yum isn't as good anymore and the Gra Pow isn't as spicy and so on. So you stop going, perhaps post a scathing review on Yelp that longs for the chef of yore. In that scenario, there is another Thai restaurant 5 miles away. You have options.

There aren't options for fans. I'm a Padres fan. Have been since I was cognitively aware of baseball. I've never been a "fan" of another team. There have been teams I liked, or enjoyed rooting for provided that rooting interest did not interfere with the Padres. But no team that I have had an emotional connection to as I do with the Padres. Because ultimately that's what sports are. They are emotional connections. Why do you get so upset that you are near inconsolable when your team loses in heartbreaking fashion? Because this is more than a consumer based product. This is deeper. It matters in ways restaurants, soda, electronics and shoes never will. Other than my parents, there is nothing in this world that I've known and cared about for a longer period of time then the Padres.

It is for this reason that I cannot simply turn my back on them when they struggle. Because, unlike the Thai restaurant, there isn't another baseball team nearby that I can get the same experience. As frustrating and, at times, demoralizing as losing is, the reason it bothers me and matters to me so much is because I care. Because I'm a fan. If I stopped going, stopped watching the games on television and stopped wearing their apparel, that loss would far outweigh the frustration I feel when watching them today.

I choose to continue to attend games and watch games, even if I'll be sulking during most of them. Because it's what I've always done. And even in losing, I like to go to the games. I like watching the games on television.


ElectricFriar said...

Agree wholeheartedly with your post. I can never understand the casual or bandwagon fans. Simply because, like you, I have a deep emotional connection with the team. It began during the summer and fall of 1984 and has continued on - through fire sales and divisional championships.

Plus, even though I know this season is looking more and more gloomy, I do see some silver linings. I like where our farm system is headed and I like what I see so far of our younger players. Time will tell.

But that, of course, will make the WS victory that much more sweeter.

BonnieSue12 said...

This is how a fan is supposed to be. There in the dark times making the victories that much sweeter. It about support when most needed and frustrating or not in the end love of the sport and the fans not letting their team down. The players have to go out there and play everyday and that's way tougher with no fan support so in not hanging in there the fans make a bad situation worse yet don't feel they share in that, crazy thinking. If all that is followed is winning teams in any sport that leaves a majority of teams with lots of empty seats. But the season is still young :) and the game goes on

GTH said...

There is no worst "four letter word" to call a fan, in my opinion, than fairweather. You like the team during their good and their bad. It's easy to only root for the best team or the team that always wins.

Agreed Electric Friar, there have been silver linings. Alonso is starting to hit and the SP is getting better by the day. Plus that farm system is headed in the right direction. 2012 may not be the year, but the immediate future appears bright.