The Curious Nature of Fandom

I entered “sports consciousness” later than most. As a kid I went to Ranger games with my father, but I only liked the team because I thought he liked them. Later, I would find out that he really didn’t care either way. My Dad is a casual observer of sports. I hate the usage of the phrase “casual fan”, because those who use this phrase don’t understand that fan is short for fanatic. Suffice it to say, despite playing baseball, I did not pay attention to the sport until I returned home from Afghanistan in October 2011. It was then that a movie changed my thought process and my dedication to a sport, forever.

Of course, the movie I am referring to is “Moneyball”.  I am sure if you are reading this article, you have probably seen this film. If not, it is worth a watch. I watched this movie and it changed the way I saw the game. The fact that a walk is as valuable as a single (with no one on base), was a concept which was brilliant, yet painfully obvious. In short, this revelation led to me reading the work of Baseball Prospectus and Bill James. This would lead to me making a decision that would alter the rest of my life.

As I stated before, most of my childhood and even early adulthood was spent “front-running”. I didn’t understand the nature of fandom and for that I can only plead ignorance. During my time in the military, I wasn’t concerned with sports. I had issues to deal with that did not allow for many distractions. So, shortly after watching “Moneyball” and the 2011 season, I decided that being a Rangers fan and sticking with that team, no matter what, was the course I would take. To this point it has opened my eyes to how great and how heartbreaking our sport can be.

Baseball fans are a different sort of people. In no other sport are you expected to be a lawyer, a historian, an analyst, a statistician, scout, and fan. In the course of a baseball conversation you are bound to hear talk about contracts, former players, advanced metrics, pitching mechanics, and how last year’s playoff loss sucked. I believe that baseball fans have more influence on the sport than fans of other sports. For example, sabermetrics has changed the way organizations value players and play the game. There are countless Websites dedicated to the sport as a whole, not to mention the number of specific team blogs and websites (which have little or no affiliation with the organization).  The nature of baseball fandom is part of the reason I decided to start writing.

It has been scientifically documented that male testosterone levels rise when their team wins and falls when they lose.

Personally, I -- and I’m sure many of you feel a connection to the Rangers and their players -- hated it when Jose Bautista flipped his bat last year in the ALDS. I was jumping up and down like Tuco (from Breaking Bad/Better Call Saul) when Rougie landed that hard right hand just over a week ago.  Every Spring I am cursed with the optimistic view that this year might be the year and I believe it. I believed it in 2014, before the injury bug struck. I believed it in 2012, where they were in it until the last game. I believe it this year. I have committed myself to this franchise and I feel as though I am a part of one of the best groups of fans in the game.

Finally, I believe that baseball and Rangers fans are among the most dedicated in the game. Now, I sneer at guys who are wearing Kansas City caps when two years ago they were wearing Red Sox gear. There is an element of loyalty in sports, but especially in baseball. Rarely is there a team that goes back-to-back in the World Series and if your team is bad, it can be bad for a long time. However, for those that stick around and hang in there, the joy of a championship is beyond great. One day, when you see that guy (you know the one I’m referring to) walking around with a Rangers hat on, you will smile. You will smile because he didn’t stay the course as you did and he didn’t wait like you did. Delayed gratification… it can still be wonderful.