Fandom: once you’re gone, can you come back?

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Rob Neyer has a very good — and uncharacteristically personal — post up today about the Royals.  He was a fan dating back to 1976. Then, six or seven years ago they lost him through mismanagement, contempt for their fans and overall misery. And now he wonders: is it too late to come back?

Is my love for my Royals gone, or merely dormant? I don’t know. I will be checking the minor-league stats for all those prospects Dayton Moore has assembled. Maybe that means I’m already there. But checking stats for a few minutes every week is one thing; investing three hours of baseball time every night is quite another.

When the Royals’ hot prospects begin joining the big club, I suspect that I’ll tune in, for curiosity’s sake. Will I stick with them through 2012, when they’re fighting to avoid 90 losses?

That will be the real test, and I don’t have the slightest idea. For most of my life, I was a Royals fan, that particular shade of blue coursing through every vein in my body. Today, I don’t know what I am.

I don’t know that you can come back once you’re gone. Sports mean a lot to us, but once we lose that connection — be it to a certain team or to a sport as a whole — we also realize that the connection is tied up in sentimentality and irrationality and all kinds of things that we realize, ultimately, we can do without if forced to.  In some ways it’s like love: you don’t fall into it consciously, via some studied decision. And when you fall out, you can’t decide just to fall back into it again.

Which, in Rob’s case, is probably OK. He’s immersed in baseball every day and has obviously learned how to find joy in it without an active rooting interest. And of course, because of what he does for a living, he’s not going anywhere.

But your average fan can decide to move on if they find themselves in Rob’s shoes vis-a-vis the Royals.  It’s probably a good thing for those who own and run sports teams to remember that there’s no law of nature that keeps us watching, rooting and buying.

Please trade Manny Machado already, will ya?

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Manny Machado has been on the trading block for some time now, and he’s obviously a highly sought-after player who will command a nice haul for the Orioles if and when they deal him. Until they do that, however, let us talk for a moment about how to read a given trade rumor that gets tweeted or reported out into the ether.

Let’s look at the latest one, shall we? It goes like this:

At the outset, let me be clear about something: I do not doubt this reporting. Heyman is well-sourced, and I’m sure he’s hearing this exact thing. But so too are other reporters reporting other things, such as a rumor that floated around yesterday that the Phillies were in the lead. And so too are the guys who, several days ago, reported that a Machado trade was “on the 10 yard line.” Yesterday some random person on Twitter, claiming they had inside info, reached out to me to tell me that the O’s and the Phillies had a “handshake deal” in place (which sounded totally bogus, BTW). It’s all so imminent and urgent-sounding.

It’s urgent-sounding not because fast-paced and urgent activity is happening. Some GMs are texting one another, just like they always do. Some are making offers and waiting to hear from the Orioles, some are getting counters from the Orioles and are considering them. The GMs of two teams competing for Machado are not, themselves, in communication. In that respect it is decidedly not like a horse race or a football game.

The Orioles want it to be one, though, and make no mistake, that’s where these rumors are coming from.

The Orioles have a vested interest in the Dodgers, Brewers and Phillies upping their bids to beat out the other suitors, and it’s hard not to see all of these reports as stuff the Orioles are telling reporters in order to get the other clubs to think they’re going to miss out. It’s the Orioles and the Orioles alone who have a vested interest in this appearing more like a horse race — or a football game — and thus are cultivating horse race coverage. Whether it’s coordinated or whether it’s just random people in Baltimore telling what they know to reporters I have no idea, but that’s what this is.

That’s interesting to me as a media guy, and I guess it’s interesting to fans of the teams involved, but it’s probably good to remember that it’s less baseball news, proper, than it is a team using the media to get leverage.