Posted on 03/13/2022 in misc
Last Thursday I had a non-stop flight from Richmond to Denver, which was a perfect opportunity to read Craig Calcaterra’s new book, Rethinking Fandom. It’s so new it’s not being released until April 5, but Craig and I are tight, so I got it early.
By “tight” I mean I have no idea why his publisher shipped the book a month early.
The timing was perfect, in that when I turned my phone back on after landing, literally minutes after finishing the book, I learned the players and owners had come to an agreement to end the lockout. I have not decided if I’m re-upping my MLB.tv subscription this year or not. I may just go with the cheap radio feed plan and watch whatever games are on Apple TV, ESPN, or the free game of the day on MLB.tv. This seems like a good year to test how much I’ll miss every Red Sox game (minus blacked out Orioles and Nationals games). The truth is, I rarely watch a full game anymore. I tend to watch a few innings several times a week, versus sitting down for an entire game. I prefer the radio commentary anyway, plus I really like going to sleep to the sounds of west coast games.
It’s not a large tome, which is good. You can probably easily read the book in a couple of hours. It is divided into two sections. Section 1 reviews some of the more egregious examples of teams taking advantage of the fans and/or the local taxpayers. The Atlanta Braves white flight stadium deal gets attention, as does the “rooting for laundry” issue, labor issues, regular fans being priced out of attendance, and other things. One thing he brought up that I had not thought a lot about was the breakdown of the social contract between team and fans. The fact that the Florida Marlins and Pittsburgh Pirates can make a profit with no fans in the stands was not news to me. However, thinking about it in terms of the social contract was. The deal used to be the team tries to win, and we show up and buy $12 beers while cheering for the home team. However, in too many cases, the teams have broken that social contract because they think they don’t need the fans to make money. In the short term, they are probably right. In the longer term, they are killing baseball.
Section 2 of the book proposes that we fans have more power in this situation than we realize. Craig suggests that many of the old chestnuts of fandom no longer apply. It is absolutely okay to be a fair-weather fan. It’s okay to root for players inside the laundry, and not the laundry. Likewise, it’s okay to just be a casual fan and not obsess over every win or loss. Section 2 was fascinating to me, as I’ve been rethinking my fandom for a while now.
Closing the book on the Red Sox
I backslid on college basketball this year, but it reinforced what I wrote on that blog post. I’m happier as a casual fan, and I’m going back to being a casual fan. The emotional investment in the individual 2-hour games just isn’t fun for me anymore.
The rooting for laundry issue is relevant too, as I’ve wanted to be more of a Dodgers' fan in recent years because that is where Mookie Betts is. But it felt wrong to me. Craig says it’s not wrong, and I think he is right. Root for people, not laundry. Or root for the laundry. It’s your call. Likewise, it’s okay to ditch your team if ownership perpetrates racist stereotypes in the team name.
The big takeaway is that the sports we follow today are not the sports our fathers followed. It follows that our fandom can and should change too.
Any sports fan feeling the unease I’ve felt over recent years at how sports has changed will probably enjoy this book.