Friday, May 16, 2008

God, I Love Baseball

From Splice Today's Russ Smith:
I went to the Bosox/Orioles game on Wednesday afternoon with my two teenage sons and older brother. Camden Yards, although drawing a paucity of fans for teams not located in New York or Boston, is a still a splendid park to watch a game. After the fourth inning, in a close contest, I slipped off to an outdoor concourse for a smoke, when a younger guy asked for a light. We spoke for five minutes or so and he, noticing my Sox hat, said, "You know, I hope the O's win today. I just can't stand all this losing." Fair enough, I said, and we chatted about past great O's teams and the era, which he caught the tail end of, when Baltimore was the elite of American League East, both in play and class. We then heard the crowd roar and before heading back to our seats, shook hands and wished each other well.

Can you imagine that happening at Fenway or Yankee Stadium, where hostility is often the reigning emotion? After the game, in which the O's stunned the Sox with a grand-slammer by Jay Payton, I saw this fellow again. He smiled, and just said, "Man, that was a heck of a game." And I agreed, despite the fact my team lost. It really was an eye-opening moment; two serious fans talking without rancor about baseball.

For what it's worth, I think what Russ is describing is pretty common east of Baltimore, but yes, it is nice to see collegiality at the ballpark. As George Carlin once said:
In baseball, during the game, in the stands, there's kind of a picnic feeling. Emotions may run high or low, but there's not that much unpleasantness.

In football, during the game in the stands, you can be sure that at least twenty-seven times you were perfectly capable of taking the life of a fellow human being.
Carlin wrote that in the early 80s. I get the sense that the difference these days is less stark than it used to be, at least along the east coast. Sure, drunken loutishness is way down from where it was in the 70s, but the intense emotion normally reserved for face-painting football fans is far more common than it used to be. Sometimes I think this is a good thing, sometimes bad, but as long as it isn't personal, I'm more or less fine with it.


Grant said...

From what I understand (I didn't make it up to the Yard this time, since it's finals week and I hate going when Sox fans are around) there was lots of fighting in the stands during the recent series. Sox fans are quick to blame it on uppity O's fans or something, and us O's fans are quick to retort that that's ridiculous and that Sox fans are arrogant SoBs.

I know who I'm biased towards. It's especially galling to so many of us because this invasion never happened before 2004 (by Yankee fans, yes, but not by Sox fans), and so all these bandwagon fans annoy the crap out of us. Russ Smith probably isn't one of them, and he ran into a less-resentful (or more sober) O's fan, but tensions are starting to run higher among O's fans who are tired of getting kicked around by what we view as a bunch of bandwagon posers who arrogantly call our stadium "Fenway South."

Daniel said...

You know, sometimes stereotypes are just true. I know at Angel Stadium, they always have extra security on hand when the Sox are in, and usually they need it. At any point during a Red Sox game, there will be one or two loud, profanity-laced shouting matches (or worse) going on somewhere in the stadium.

This is not to indict individual Sox fans, since I've certainly met some good ones, but it certainly seems like a bad trend. The rep is well-deserved.

Alex said...

I went to see the Braves play in Fenway last year, adorned in my Braves hat and Smoltz jersey. I tried not to go crazy, but it was hard not to cheer as the Braves crushed the Sox 14-0 and Smoltz pitched 7 shutout innings (maybe just 1 hit, to boot). There were some Sox fans talking trash directly behind me, but when I turned to face them they laid off a bit, and we just exchanged a good-natured hard time. I'd like to say Sox fans are all good natured in Fenway (except with the Yankees in town), but maybe I just had good luck.

Anonymous said...

This reminds me of conversation I had with a Mets fan on opening day. He complained that Los Angeles (where we sat) had no real baseball fans.

I said, the Angels and Dodgers draw as much if not more than any other teams.
He said, yeah, but they don’t care.
I said, what are you talking about, the fans I know understand baseball.
He said, but they’re not passionate.
I said, I think its an East Coast thing to believe that real fans are loud, obnoxious, profane and physically threatening. Here, we enjoy the game, enjoy the company, and enjoy the opposition’s fans’ enthusiasm.

I didn’t convince him, but somewhere out there, he must remember that I also told him that the Mets “stars and scrubs” roster was not very good and with only 5 good players (outstanding, actually) they’d have trouble making the playoffs.

Osmodious said...

I've witnessed some interesting things in Yankee Stadium, but never the outright mistreatment of a fan of another team. Once, I accidentally wore the T/C style Twins cap my brother had given me (it's the same blue as my faded Yankees cap), and all I received was a little good natured ribbing about it.

Now some of the games I've attended were a little different, because they were Red Sox games. The Yankees fans weren't really different, but the Red Sox fans were just plain nasty. Since there's only 17 seats or something in their decrepit park, many busloads come down to the Bronx and occupy the upper deck. It is very disconcerting to hear a chant of "Yankees Suck!" in Yankee Stadium (especially weird when the Yankees happen to be winning).

A couple of Boston natives I've met have voiced some embarassment about their co-fans' behavior. One told me that he goes to Yankee Stadium in his Red Sox gear and might get some comments, but never anything contrast, he said that a Yankee fan wearing pinstripe regalia in Fenway would be taking his life in his hands. He will *definitely* by cursed at and insulted, and after the beer's been flowing he might actually get attacked.

As to Camden Yards...well, I'll find out next weekend when I go to the Yankees/Orioles game on Memorial Day!

tadthebad said...

If you think the problem of obnoxious fans is limited to just the Red Sox, or just the Yankees, or some combo, you're allowing your inherent bias to cloud your vision. I know my fellow fans are represented by some loathesome characters who shouldn't be out in public, but I have to say that I've seen assholes wearing every kind of MLB-authentic jersey. To say otherwise is pretty sanctimonious. If you consider that there are more Red Sox and Yankee fans in general (and they travel well), that may correspond to discovering irritating Boston and NYY fans with greater frequency. The greater point is well appreciated: it is a treat to talk with a classy, knowledgeable fan of another team. Why is that so rare? Is it the universal booze or simply human nature to be defensive about his/her team?

Grant, I respectfully disagree. An explosion happened after 2004, no question, so if I'm taking you too literally, my bad. Sox fans have been going down to Baltimore for a while now...the proximity of that fantastic ballpark, with available and comfortable seating (unlike Fenway), is akin to the song of the sirens. I think perhaps Lucchino, who probably on many levels considers Camden his baby, must have been the impetus for the Fenway Sports Group which, among other things, markets travel packages to see the Red Sox play on the road.

Grant said...

There were certainly Red Sox fans in our park pre-2004, but I never heard all this "Fenway South" BS, and Red Sox fans were never insufferable, arrogant jerks when they came to town before 2004.

They were more like Cubs fans, except maybe a little more intense.

Mike said...

Most NY fans and Boston fans are fine. The difference between a certain element of Yankee fans and Red Sox fans, however, can be traced to their locations. NYers more than any other city are surrounded by a very diverse group of people and this diversity is reflected in their sports teams. A NYer can be a Yankee fan or a Met fan; or a Ranger fan or an Islander fan, or even a Devils fan; or a Giants fan or a Jets fan, or a Knicks fan or a Nets fan. It's a region where people who live there simply assume that their neighbor is a fan of some other team. This is not the same in Boston, where you are either a Red Sox fan or you just don't watch baseball! This belief spreads to all Boston sports. It's why you can't really walk into Fenway wearing a Yankee cap without absorbing abuse, but you can go to Yankee Stadium wearing a Red Sox cap. NYers, despite their reputation, are much more tolerant than people from other areas.

tadthebad said...

Grant, RE: Fenway South. Yeah, when I think about it, that's a pretty narcissistic characterization of Camden. As for the idea that Sox fans used to be like Cubs fans only a little more intense...that I have a problem with. I think that's a completely inaccurate characterization...Cubs fans seem to have a sort of laissez-faire attitude about baseball, which could not be more different than Sox fans. Further, that characterization suggests that Sox fans have somehow lost their identity due to the recent success; that was an identity Sox fans never wanted or accepted in the first place. Naturally a team's fan base is bound to increase as a result of success...that's what every team is hoping for. As a result, there are plenty of bandwagon hoppers behind Red Sox Nation (a contrived, but successful, marketing ploy).

Since 2002 when the new ownership came to town, the Sox have been run much better, and they have 2 titles to show for it. I cannot help but think that if Baltimore was ever lucky enough to be rid of Angelos and win a couple titles, I might be writing similar things about the O's (which, considering the team's history, would be pretty cool). Although you'd never see Fenway referred to as "Camden North".

In the final assessment, I believe that much of the Boston/New England backlash comes from suddenly fielding successful teams...I'm not certain that "sour grapes" is a fair description, but that is, by and large, our internal perspective.

Mike, interesting thought about background. But again, the idea that "It's why you can't really walk into Fenway wearing a Yankee cap without absorbing abuse, but you can go to Yankee Stadium wearing a Red Sox cap" is a misconception. Plenty of firsthand experience with obnoxious Yankee fans at Fenway who were given only dirty looks and nothing more. Further, if you ever spend time in and around Boston you will find there are many people who adorn Yankees hats (which I cannot stand, but it's their right). My friends and I suspect this may be due to the number of popular colleges/universities around Boston as drawing students from NY and beyond.

You know what, Craig? This forum, and this thread in particular, constitute a "God, I love baseball" moment for me.

Craig Calcaterra said...

Thanks, Tad. You know, when I started this site I never anticipated that anyone would actually read it. I'm really happy then that people not only read it, but that a community -- however small -- is kinda starting to form. And everyone plays nice too. I think I've only had to delete one comment since I started, and that was because some wacko went all racist on me for reasons that still confuse me.

Crawdaddy said...

My personal experience of poor BoSox fan behavior at Camden Yards was 1) a Sox fan who was tossed for throwing a punch (which looked instigated by beer and a guy wearing a Tejada jersey) and 2) an O's fan being removed for refusing to sit down during the 5th inning (he was being goaded on by a good four or five dozen sox fans). Strangely, I've never seen a Yankees fan do anything at Camden that was much beyond what I would consider behavior I am tolerant of. Now, I haven't seen this with Nats fans or Phillies fans.

That being said . . . I think a lot of it has to do with outsiders coming in force and taking over. It kind of unnerves people, which is understandable. Add alcohol. Then we get some weird stuff happening. The powers that be love this as it helps them sell peripheral items.

This includes places like the Marriot, which sells shirts that read:
Camden Yards - Fenway Park South
Camden Yards - The House That Jeter Built

Crawdaddy said...

57 guys were ejected in the first o's-bosox game. 59 in the second. no one was ejected against the Nats.

Anonymous said...

As the Anony-Mice who related my Mets fan experience, I should admit that our fans, or the female ones can be nasty.

in the third Blessed Inning, of the first Venerated game of the Sacred 2002 AL Division Series, a female Angel fan directly in front of me slapped the Yankee fan next to her who was totally obnoxious about the Yankees' 6-1 lead. She got kicked out and her guy-friend stayed, offering "I'll catch up to you...."

The Angel Team of Destiny rallied, won, I'm covered in goose bumps from the recollection and forgot my point.