Offday “Blog Club” Discussion: Hating

Since the season started, I’ve been trying to come up with new ideas for posts on offdays. Last season, we had a “This week in Twins History” series. I listed all the interesting things that had happened in Twins history during a particular calendar week. I liked it. It was fun. But a funny thing about history is that it tends to stay the same so writing the same sort of series THIS year would have been, well, redundant. Maybe I should have thought about that before starting that series and just listed a couple of things every week, so I’d have more stuff to mention THIS season… and next season… but, seriously, who among us really thought this blog would survive for a second season? Thank God there’s no Nielsen Ratings for blogs, right?

Anyway… I’ve come up with an idea.

Have you ever been a member of a book club? You know… where you all agree to read the same book by a set date and then you get together and discuss the book? No? Well, me either, actually. That always sounded too much like what they used to call Literature Class, to me. I like to read… I just like to do it on my own time.

So, no, I’m not suggesting we do a book club (though it might not be a bad idea in the offseason).

But what about a “Blog Club”?

We’ll pick a blog post… maybe one from another Twins blog… or from a blog focused on another MLB team… or maybe just a general sports blog. We’ll link to it in the morning of a Twins offday and maybe write a bit about our feelings about the subject in the post, then turn it over to you, our readers, to click the link, read the post and give us your comments.

I happen to like the idea, but then it’s my idea and I generally feel a pretty high level of support for most of my own ideas. But, of course, this could be a total disaster. It does rely two things I have very little control over.

1. It assumes we actually have readers.

2. It requires that at least some of those readers participate.

Neither is exactly a given, these days.

Let’s start with this blog entry from my personal favorite blogger/writer/author, Joe Posnanski. It’s entitled The Case For Rooting Against LeBron.

Posnanski grew up in Cleveland, so he’s not a LeBron James fan, but this isn’t really about LeBron. If you aren’t an NBA fan (and welcome to the club, I’m not either), it’s OK… it’s still a good read and worthy of discussion. If it helps you to get more interested in the topic, think of it as The Case For Rooting Against A-Rod. The case, as Posnanski makes it, is exactly the same.

I almost always agree with Posnanski, which is a bit scary, actually. I don’t almost always agree with anyone. So it’s a little comforting that, in this case, I don’t agree with him 100%.

Maybe only 90%.

Posnanski’s argument is that it makes no sense to hate an athlete who is, in Poz’s view, just an entertainer who’s created a character. We like players who play for our team and hate players who play for rival teams.

Obviously, Poz has never read the things some Twins fans have said/written about Nick Punto and Michael Cuddyer.

I just can’t buy the “just playing a character” thing. I know he’s correct in that there’s no way for most of us to know whether a given player is really a “good guy” or a “bad guy” who warrants our love or hate, respectively. But these guys don’t generally live in total isolation from their communities and fan bases, either.

I do think that fans of a team should, at least between the lines, be supportive of their players. It does, in fact, bother me when people say/write ugly stuff about any of the Twins players and I don’t understand how people’s brains can hold such vile thoughts toward some guys, much less how they can allow themselves to openly express those thoughts.

I’ve seen enough of Carl Pavano in spring training to know I don’t particularly care for him, personally. I think he’s overpaid for the value he provides. But I don’t carry those feelings in to a game. When he pitches well, I’m happy about it… I don’t sulk and lay in waiting until he gives up his next HR so I can talk about what scum I think he is. I also give him credit for things like the community work he participated in this past weekend in the Twin Cities. My view of him is based on VERY limited exposure and I readily admit that I could be quite wrong about him.

Compare that to the treatment that Punto and Cuddyer and Butera and, lately, Mauer all get among some segments of the fanbase.

It’s obvious that some people actually sulk when those guys have done well! Those fans aren’t even heard from when someone gets a game winning hit or goes on a hot streak (unless it’s to give a backhanded “building his trade value” comment). Are Cuddyer and Mauer overpaid? Yeah. But I don’t know anyone who wouldn’t take every penny from their employer that they could get. What’s worse is that people seem to hold it AGAINST these guys that they ARE active in the community or have reputations for being genuinely good people. That’s absurd, to me.

Unlike Posnanski, I don’t think our athletes are just playing good and bad characters like professional wrestlers and I don’t feel they should be treated like they are. These people are human and they have families and friends and some of them genuinely care about the fans. They want to be liked. Hell, we ALL want to be liked, so why wouldn’t they, too? Getting booed by opposing fans when you come to the plate is a sign of respect, in a way. Getting trashed by your home fans when all you’ve ever done is give your best effort for the team you play for and they root for… that’s just being hurtful and there’s no reason for that except that someone LIKES being hurtful.

I’ll criticize a player’s performance if I feel it’s warranted, whether it’s someone I like or someone I don’t. I’ll also celebrate a guy’s success, regardless of how I feel about him.

Now… go read Posnanski’s post and let us know in the comments what you think!

– JC

3 Replies to “Offday “Blog Club” Discussion: Hating”

  1. I, too, really like Posnanski. He’s a sportswriter, sure, but what makes his stuff great is that he’s philosopher for the common man. A few months ago he had an amazing post on his father, and how he and Joe worked at the same factory for a summer. It was a perfect blend of sports, life, and coming of age stuff. Makes me jealous. Ok . . . about the LeBron post. I think there a handful of athletes that do love to play the villian character, but it’s a minority. I’m talking about Dennis Rodman kind of guys. We really know nothing about LeBron, except that he is very good at the game of basketball, donates a fair amount of money and time to charity and, sure, thinks highly of himself. He was foolish to do the ESPN special, though, even if the proceeds went to charity. I understand why Cleveland fans are going to be sore about that for a while. Yesterday, I found myself cringing when Drew Butera stepped to the plate with the game on the line. I don’t like his continued presence on the Twins’ roster, but I don’t dislike the guy personally. I don’t like that Gardy had no other legitimate choices off the bench, but I don’t dislike Gardy or the injured players on a personal level. And, despite some stuff I have posted, I actually don’t personally dislike Bill Smith. At that moment, though, what can you do besides forget that Butera was batting .175, and just root for the guy? To me, most everything I think or write about athletes is limited to “on the field” stuff (except for Will Clark, who I personally witnessed berate an 8-year-old). Most of the encounters I have had with MLB guys over the years have been very positive. They are real guys, not characters.

  2. As always, I am a day late (and a few dollars short)…

    The article was interesting, to be sure. I think that having read it (and too lazy to go back and reread it) I am unsure whether the point was “sports figures are playing characters” or that “sports figures should be viewed as peripheral characters because we only know peripheral facts about them.” While I disagree with the former, I never stopped to think about the latter, and now that I have, it’s fundamentally true. It’s the only way to justify loving the sight of Boggs on his horse as a Yankee, after having him torment you for your entire childhood. It’s the only way to reconcile loving Ulf Samuellson as a Ranger, or cheering David Justice as a Yankee, or…

    …well you get the point. It feeds into Jerry Seinfeld’s “rooting for laundry” concept. “Our guy” is loved by us and hated by you, and “your guy” is hated by us but loved by you. How can that be if we hate or love based on the people themselves, and change allegiances so easily?

    It’s not that LeBron is playing the villian, it’s that everyone outside of Miami went through that same wrestling-mentality change about him — from “he’s amazing, we have respect for him” to “he quit on his team” to “he fled and betrayed cleveland.” It is here that people like to say “he’s not like MJ…” well, at least what we think when we compare the LeBron character to the MJ character. LeBron likely doesn’t have a gambling problem…

    I think this is the essence of what makes sports interesting. It’s not just Ws and Ls, it’s about the story, the soap opera. It’s why kids mistake athletes for “heroes” and people put their lives on hold during their team’s playoff run.

    You can always tell when sports is at its highest by the sheer number of storylines that are forced. During these hockey and basketball playoffs, (other than the obligatory puff pieces) there was little in the way of forced “journalism.” There didn’t need to be — the game, and the actual stories (game 7s, finger biting, Lebronathon, Kobe swept, etc.) were plenty. We follow those storylines and make up characters in our heads. How many times have you said “he’d be fun to root for?” for a guy you absolutely “hate” (Dustin Pedrioa and Kevin Youkilis come to mind…).

    Anyway, I don’t have much to say about the impact on the Twins fan (obviously) but it is an interesting article and concept to wrap a head around. Thanks for pointing it out and sorry for rambling…

  3. Thank you, YF and AW, for sharing your thoughts. You both raise some good points. I hope maybe a few others will come across this post, even though the offday is over, and share their thoughts, as well.

    I just think the whole fan mentality is kind of intriguing. There probably isn’t a specific right or wrong way to feel about these ballplayers, but I do think expressions of those feelings should be kept within the boundaries of good taste. Granted, that’s a bit of an subjective boundary, but since this is our blog, I guess we’ll get to decide what those boundaries are here.

    Thanks again… and we’ll give some thought as to whether to make this kind of discussion a regular “offday” series.