Howard Bryant of ESPN.com makes a pretty decent observation: when your team becomes a superpower, your fandom changes. The magic is really only there at the beginning of a dynasty or near-dynasty. After that you’re not satisfied with anything short of a title and something is lost.
His Exhibit A: Phillies fans:
For all the fans yearning for their teams to be in the high-payroll, trade-deadline-aggressive, all-in-every-year category, the price of being a superpower can be, of all things, the loss of fun … The Phillies and their fans have entered, for them, a new territory in which winning has been transformed from hope to expectation. It can come at a heavy price for the sports fan, but one that many fans would love to pay. Or at least think they would.
I think the dynamic is right, though I think that Bryant overstates things for most people. When the Braves were in year 12 and 13 of their division title run I’ll admit that it was way, way less special for me than things were in 1991. How could it not be? I wanted the season to get underway, then I wanted the inevitable rise to first place to occur quickly, but then I wanted the playoffs to hurry up and start. Smelling the roses of the regular season made me a bit impatient.
But it was still fun. At least for me it was. Of course, I’m probably less of a rah-rah guy than a lot of others. And it goes without saying that Braves fans are less of a rah-rah bunch than those of other teams.
Phillies fans may be the most rah-rah of them all. So tell me, you guys: still having fun? Or is there a certain stress, the sort of which Bryant describes, inherent in your baseball lives these days?
JaCoby Jones was called up by the Tigers and made his major league debut yesterday. His parents, from Mississippi, had to scramble to get to Detroit to watch their son in action, but it was well worth the scramble: young Mr. Jones had two hits and two RBI as the Tigers won.
Jones’ first hit was an RBI double which broke a tie. It also caused his mom to break into tears:
Baseball is weird. That could be the first hit in an illustrious big league career. It could also be his peak as a major leaguer. Nothing is ever guaranteed. But Jones and his folks have that moment forever.
I used to be pretty anti-wave because I thought it was kind of dumb and that spending effort on it and not on paying direct attention to the game was a failure of priorities. As has been the case with a lot of things in the past two or three years, however, I’ve lightened up about that. As a part of a larger change of heart in which I determined that hating what other people like and which doesn’t cause me or others harm is not generally worth my time, I’ve left the wave alone. I still think it’s rather silly, but if you wanna be silly at the ballpark, go on and do it. You paid your money to be there.
Not everyone feels this way, however. Including some players:
I dunno, man. The Mets had a lead after one inning and never relinquished it. I’m not sure when this wave went down, and I’ll grant that if it came at a super tense part of the game it would be more annoying. But the Mets are playing some great baseball right now and a well-loved player — Curtis Granderson — hit a couple of homers off the bench. Let ’em be happy, Noah.
UPDATE: This is part of a larger “ballpark rules” feature from SNY: