Pro sports are fickle, play Tennessee in week 1 and a few fans show up, nobody cares. Until you lose, then a verbose drunken rant may slur out of your mouth at somebody who probably showed up in a Vince Young jersey. Football is not the exception but having only eight home games a season amplifies the fan inside you.
Baseball can take on a whole different feel though. Play a game against the Rockies in the middle of May, the Rockies fan that shows up on the video board is just a haha moment. Maybe because it was on the kiss cam with his buddy, or maybe he was staring at his phone too long. Either way, it’s no big deal. Along comes October, you’re in the heat of battle, with every win or loss, hell, every out, the fan inside you intensifies. That guy in the Adam Jones jersey in April was just some guy, now he has become your enemy. The kid on the video board in Giants gear is now a foe and he most know it. Out comes the boos, then comes the vitriol from the opposing team.
Kansas City clamored for their moment in the spotlight in 2012. Prime-time baseball in Kansas City is a rarity but this was “Our Time.” Our time to show that we love baseball and if you build it we will come. They came and so did we, but something was missing, Billy Butler. Through the side his mouth Robinson Cano said he’d like to get someone from Kansas City in the Home Run Derby. Most of the nation may have missed it, but we heard it loud and clear. When the derby rolled around, Billy was found somewhere near the batter’s circle, enjoying the show with front row seats. Then came the vilification, headed up by Jeff Passan, a hometown kid. Kansas City reined down boos on Cano, helping him put up a donut in the derby. We enjoyed every out, like each one was a delicious Kansas City Joe’s rib. Maybe Billy wasn’t the guy for the derby, but he was our guy and our voice was going to be heard. People left Kansas City with a feeling that maybe these people had some villain in them. But this was the same city that came out in record numbers to a game full of prospects just the day before . Maybe they got it, they came to see the future stars perform. Maybe they didn’t though, they booed a perennial MVP contender because they felt snubbed.
Flash forward to September, a lovely night at Kauffman. The rival Tigers were in town and there was a buzz in the stadium. Only, the buzz wasn’t for all of the young talent playing at the K. They may have been there for Moose, Hosmer and Gio but there was something else. Miguel Cabrera was set to do something that hadn’t been done since the 60’s. This city that didn’t get it came out in droves to proved that they got it. They didn’t come out to disprove the media narrative though, they came out because they knew what was happening was magical, considered almost impossible. The people wanted to see history, Royal killer or not. And that they did, Miguel Cabrera left the field to a raucous ovation from the home field crowd after Leyland pulled him from the game. Media narrative be damned, those people were there to see history.
Here we are, in the throes of a heated battle with Giants for a World Series title, our first opportunity in twenty nine years. What appears on the Crown Vision, a young boy. Out come the boos. What did the boy do to earn the boos from a stadium of fans that get it? He was wearing black and orange. Had he come in August and ended up on the video board, there may have been laughs and a few scattered boos. This is October though, the World Series in our grasp. That boy is an effigy of the enemy. Odds are the video crew knew what the reaction would be when they put him up there. The stadium obliged, letting their boos echo through the walls of the K. Were they villains though? No, they were fans.
People get caught up in the sanctimonious battle for their fans. Cardinals fans have been dubbed the best fans in baseball. Not really a true sentiment and a moniker many of them despise. A twitter account dedicated to them shows the ugly side of their fandom and many people laugh at the awful slander they heave at players and opposing fans hidden behind their phones and computers. People act like that is evidence of the hypocrisy of the fan base. The reality is, every team has those fans, whether or not they want to admit it. We booed a little kid in the opponent’s apparel, we booed a man who probably made the right decision. Hell, even Santa has been booed, by the city known for their “brotherly love.” This is not truly the norm, it is merely the microcosm of fandom.
I was in Milwaukee in early September of 2011. I went to a game in Miller Park decked out in Cardinals gear with my family for a game. The Cardinals won and ended up sweeping the Brewers. The fans there were polite as can be. They politely replied, “You sure got us.” If they had known that the Cardinals would perform a miraculous comeback in September then end up besting them in the NLCS that year, I’m guessing the reaction would not have been quite so neighborly. Milwaukee had a hefty lead in the division and the Cardinals weren’t even in the Wild Card talk though, so friendly marks were abound. Had I been there in October, I’m guessing it may have not been the friendly environment I received the first time around.
When I pulled into Kauffman Stadium on Wednesday night, I was greeted with a crude reminder of all things that are rabid fans. I have a Cardinals license plate bracket on the back of my car, have for years. The car behind me in line took notice and the passenger aimed his phone at the back of my car. I promptly offered a one finger salute for his photo opportunity. They don’t know that my mother is from Illinois and is a die-hard Cardinals fan. They don’t know that I’m from Kansas City and love the hell out of both teams. They don’t know that I sat in the stadium through the scorching summer of 2012, through yet another awful season just to see the All Star Game. It probably didn’t cross their mind that I cheered through the 100 loss seasons and watched games on the god awful RSTN. They don’t know that, but I do. Their fandom and inherent frustration that a Cardinals fan was at their stadium supporting showed. My annoyance at their reaction showed. This wasn’t the first time this has happened and it wasn’t even the last that night. Leaving the stadium I found myself in a similar situation leaving the parking lot. Another passenger of a vehicle found my license plate and appeared to throw a hissy fit inside of his truck, stomping his feet and flailing his arms. How dare that Cardinals fan come into our stadium and support our team, that bandwagon asshole. Little does he know…
Fandom is a blessing and a curse. It can cause you to be an asshole on social media and in person. You can boo a little kid in Giants gear with a group of 40k to echo your sentiment. You can alienate your friends that don’t root for your team. You can even get pissed at a guy that has been through the lows with you just because he also supports a team on the other side of the state. That’s sports though, isn’t it? As long as we don’t resort to violence isn’t this just banter? I held a grudge against Jon Lester for over half a decade. Rightfully so in my mind. That no-hitter stuck with me. It was a painful reminder of how bad the Royals could be. The Red Sox sweeping the Cardinals in 2004 (No, Lester was not on that team) and trouncing them in 2013. He was a face to put to those memories though. He was a face to let go of though, after we finally got ours in that wild card game. My fandom created hatred had finally found a reason to let go of that, my moment came.
I wrote this to denounce some irreverent fandom. The people that write articles that are clearly ignorant of geography and have some of the weakest arguments I’ve ever seen, but that’s my fandom. I don’t want to see someone trash talk my Royals who probably just learned along with Hunter Pence that indeed we are from Missouri, always have been. Perhaps she needs a reminder that her team relocated from New York in the late 50’s. I don’t want some ESPN hack to litter the internet with some click-bait about this is the worst World Series because neither team won 90 games. That’s just garbage from someone who appears to not even be a fan of the game. Even though I hate the Giants, mostly for what they’ve done to the Cardinals, I try not to make overly inflammatory statements about the city because that doesn’t represent them or their fans. Realistically, I don’t know that much about San Francisco. Will I boo a young Giants fan in my stadium? Of course! I may eventually feel a bit of remorse for it but not in that moment. He is wearing the opponents colors and stands in the way of our fight the crown. Would I blame him for booing me in the same scenario? Of course not, we’re standing between them and a dynasty. This is my fandom, TAKE THE CROWN.