March 7, 2007

Who's We?

A professional baseball writer I know made a point during a conversation I had with him recently concerning how fans relate with their favorite teams. His point resonated with this writer as it is something which irritated me for quite some time. What am I talking about? I’m referring to fans that use the word "we" when talking about their team’s performance, or trades, etc. That's what annoys me, and that's the point raised by my writer/acquaintance who complained about the same thing.

Here's an example. A few years ago during the off-season, a neighbor of mine (a rabid Mets fan) saw me driving up the block toward his house. This guy whom I'll refer to as "Ed" for this article (his real name is Ron), came sprinting across his lawn, his ample gut bouncing as he huffed along in a desperate attempt to grab my attention, yelling for me to stop.
"Did you hear who we got?" he gasped, as he trotted along side me. Curious as to what it was to rile my neighbor into such a frenzy, I slowed the car to a crawl (I could have stopped, but it was fun to watch him jog and wheeze at the same time). "We got Roberto Alomar."

I guess I was supposed to be intimidated. Anyone who's ever read any of my previous articles on the subject knows that I detest this sort of juvenile, fan boasting. It's the "My team can beat up your team" mentality that thrives in places like Boston (oops, cheap shot). Anyway, I stopped the car staring at Ron, I mean Ed, panting, sweating, and with a look of smug, self-satisfaction on his face. I asked: "Who's we? Do you have a mouse in your front pocket?"

Dazed, Ed didn't have an answer. He honestly believed that being a devoted fan gave him more than just an emotional stock in his favorite sports franchise. That by wearing team Jerseys, caps, tee shirts, and going to games, and calling WFAN every fifteen minutes to rant made him a member of the team organization. What he didn't, or couldn't, fathom was that he was merely a consumer. That's it.

Yes, sports bring people bring people together. Walk into any local tavern and you'll see like minded people cheering in front of a big screen television, rooting their sports franchise to victory. But, and this is a HUGE but, none of them are battling it out on the field with their athlete/heroes, none of them invested money into the ball club, not one of them scouted for the team, made a decision as to who plays what position or who gets traded. They are fans, customers, buying the idea that they belong to something. However, they don't.

Ed still does not get it. It's great to be a fan of a team, a sport, or any other organized activity. But, if you're not a player, manager, coach, or owner, you're still just a fan. Just as there is no "I" in TEAM, there is no "WE" in FRANCHISE."

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