Friday, October 2, 2009

On Baseball Fans

I've been watching a bunch of baseball movies lately in my role as judge for the 3rd Annual Baseball Hall of Fame Film Festival. More on that later, as today I meet with my peers and we decide who gets the awards. One thing that have been on my mind lately.

As readers know I was in Baltimore a few weeks back for a couple of Red Sox games and had the distinct pleasure of being surrounded by BoSox rooters. One of the surprises in moving to Cooperstown was the preponderance of Boston fans. There are definitely more Red Sox backers than Mets followers up here, though it's probably a fairly equal split between Yankee and Red Sox fans.

What has been interesting to me is how Red Sox fans comport themselves. In all their years of failure and frustration, there was always a bitterness factor. They, and their team, were screwed over, whether by Harry Frazee selling Babe Ruth, or Bucky Dent growing muscles or Bill Buckner growing goat's horns. "If only that fuckin' _____ (insert culprit here) hadn't fucked up, we woulda won." They were always angry losers.

So, it's no surprise that when they finally one in 2004, the average Red Sox fan became an obnoxious, in your face, sore winner. The very idea that their one (now two) championships trumps the Yankees history of success is laughable. But, with anger, comes revenge. Red Sox fans are, in my view based on 600 or so major league games attended in every city in the country, the most aggressively annoying bunch around.

Of course, when Andy Pettite and Roger Clemens were implicated in the steroids hoo-ha, BoSoxers rejoiced. Now that Manny and Big Papi are equally nailed, the steroids issue is unimportant. Of course, only Yankee titles are tainted. The Red Sox world's championships are as pristine as ever.

Having spent 16+ years in Chicago, and many of those at Wrigley Field as a season ticket holder, I have had much experience with Cubs fans. They are quite unlike their Red Sox counterparts. Cubs fans wallow in their failure. I've never heard a Cub fan blame an outsider for their misfortune. Sure, Steve Bartman came under some heat and so did Leon Durham, but, for the most part Cubbie fans blame themselves. It's a "Why does this always happen to me?" outlook. Losing is something they have come to expect and, in their minds, deserve. Maybe they do.
I've found Cubs' fans to be so self-absorbed.

It's easy to delude yourself into believing that your players are the best. Cub fans excel at that. "Tuffy" Rhodes - can't miss. Steve Buechele - what an acquisiton. Jeff Blauser - the key to ultimate victory. Even their superstars are elevated. Having seen Ryne Sandberg day after day from 1987 until his retirement (well, both retirements) I can honestly say I never saw a high profile player who was less impressive. But for my compadres in section 106, he was a God. In his last game, a woman nearby was snapping pictures as Ryno came up to the plate. "Want to get that last shot of him flailing at a fastball?" I queried. She gave me a memorably scornful look.

When the Cubs win a World's Series, and they will, someday, I don't expect their fans to turn Red Sockian. It will be an intesely personal experience. I can see them now, reveling in a title and weeping to themselves, feeling like a burden has been lifted. No need to rub it in anyone's face, no need to lash out against the "losers." What would be the point? And how would that make the feeling any more sweet?

Maybe it's not even a Red Sox-Cubs issue. Maybe it's an East Coast v. Midwest way of conducting one's self. That could be it.

But, man, I really don't like those Red Sox fans!

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