Alright! Part two of my research on baseball fans as a youth subculture, enjoy!
So what did I see in this youth subculture? Deep within the “friendly” confines of Citizen’s Bank Park in South Philadelphia, one very brave, yet foolish person screams at the top of his lungs: “LET’S GO RAYS!!!” during Game 4 of the World Series.
The Philadelphia Phillies fans surrounding him glared at him menacingly and started to chant: “Let’s GO PHILLIES!!!” It was then that I realized that these people (however drunk, but, we’ll cover that later) were just the sort of people that I was looking for: passionate, foolhardy, brash, zealous, fanatical and fervent believers in their team.
So… during my time out in the field, researching baseball as a youth subculture I was at or located at Citizen’s Bank Park, which is home to Philadelphia’s baseball team, The Philadelphia Phillies. As I was observing the fans (while observing the game), I overheard one fan talking to another fan. The exchange of dialogue is below:
"Fan 1: So how’s it going?
Fan 2: Good and you?
Fan1: Ah, you know… the usual
Fan 2: Good. So what’s in store for us today?
Fan 1: The usual. Fanatically watching them fightin’s win, drinking and partying at McFadden’s after the game.
Fan 2: Sounds like a plan."
I derived the nickname for these fans, from this conversation and many other just like it. These fans like to call themselves: “Phanatics” (that’s right “Phanatics” with a “Ph”). These fans fervently watch and follow their team everywhere they go.
Some of these “Phanatics” live close to the stadium; others live far away from the stadium, like one “Phanatic” I talked to.
He told me that he lived in Vermont and traveled down for the last game of the regular season. Another Phanatic told me that he lived six blocks away from the stadium on Broad Street in South Philly.
On a lighter side of the field research, the fans call themselves “Phanatics” because the name of the mascot for the Phillies is known as the “Phillie Phanatic."
During the Sept. 27 game when the Phillies clinched their second National League East title in two years, I talked to several “Phanatics." One of the questions I asked them was what was it like to be a member of a youth subculture. The response is as follows:
Me: So, what is it like to be a member of a youth subculture?
Phanatic 1: We’re part of a subculture? I never though of it before. Huh, I never thought of that… but then again… I guess what do millions of us do every year?
Me: That’s what I researching.
Phanatic 1: That’s cool.
Me: You there. Same question
Phanatic 2: Baseball a youth subculture? Huh… well no sh*t Sherlock. What do you think thousands of people our age associate themselves with?"
During the rest of the paper I will be calling the people I interviewed “Phanatics” unless they were willing to agree to part of this research, as well to protect their identities (both within the subculture and outside).
The actually activity of “playing” baseball takes place outside, in a stadium that can sit over 50,000, vacant lot, a designated spot for the sport (i.e. a baseball diamond), or in the streets.
But, after exploring the neighborhoods in around a certain urban university, the activity can simply take place in the middle of the street with school bags as base markers, sawed-off broom, mop, shovel, rake, or sledgehammer handles as bats.
Now as for transportation to the activity, I noticed there were a variety of modes of transportation. I noticed that cars, SEPTA (Philadelphia and the surrounding suburbs public mass transportation system), one’s own two feet (depending upon where the person lived).
Depending upon the type of person involved transportation plays an important role. But for the average fan/person, transportation does not matter. But for those, in which transportation matters it is for one reason and one reason only… tailgating.
Many youths tailgate… so I viewed it as a “social-networking” event, in which the youth, people or fans that support the same team gather to “talk about the game, team, themselves” while having some drinks and grilling up some burgers, dogs and ribs.
Color (no not skin color but just color) plays a key role. The stadium when empty is a variety of colors. The frame work of the stadium is burgundy, the color of the 1970-80s Phillies teams.
The seats were blue, and the dugouts when empty are labeled with advertisements for New Era (which is a baseball cap manufacturer), MLB.com, and the home team’s logo.
But when the stadium is filled to capacity, the colors are almost of an American flag: hues of reds, whites, and blues (with various other colors mixed in). Most of the shirts have logos and lettering of the home team (depending upon where you are).
But when the weather turns south (in hurry like Game 5 of the most recent World Series), people throw on rain ponchos or jackets to protect themselves, most of which are of varying colors to clear and transparent.
Most games are played outside, but some teams play inside stadiums that have retractable roofs, but most are affected deeply by the weather conditions of the day. If it starts raining most fans head for cover, but some stay in their seats as to contest to their adamant, unflappable fanaticism for their team.
But for the youths who play non-pro or non-professional ball (recreational, high-school, etc.) they will either just play through the weather (whether it is rain, sleet, hail, snow, windy, freezing arctic cold, burning Death Valley heat) or wait it out inside, as I found myself last summer playing through a monsoon, and last winter playing through a snowstorm in a recreational league with a bunch of friends.
So what does it cost to participate, you may ask? Well, it depends on what you mean by “participate." Because will the baseball subculture, you have two forms for the verb “participate” (much like in the Spanish Language!).
To “actively participate” in other words, to actually play the game, it can range from thirty dollars (for good quality hand-me-downs: old leather gloves, wood bats, balls) to over $600 dollars (for less authentic new technology: high-tech, ultra-modern aluminum alloy bats, Kevlar gloves).
According to one of my friends that I interviewed during this research process, explained that “the used equipment is the best equipment. It is the best, because one: it is easy to fix, two: easy to find, just go to any thrift store, and three: it makes you feel as if you were a player from “‘back in the day’” (Fallon). Another one of my friends said,
"To be a true baseball fan not only must you be able to play the sport… but know its history. Know the players, both past and present. And know that to be a true fan, that means going to a game and sitting through it.
"All nine innings, extra innings, bad outings by your team’s starting pitcher, blow outs, various weather conditions games and most importantly never give up on your team." (Degiacomo).
As one of my old teachers, still a member of the subculture put it:
"You never really leave the subculture (if you could call it that). You continue into the subculture as you age, never really leaving, but training the next generation of youths in the subculture for the life of a baseball fan. It is like you are considered an elder, due to your age, wisdom, and knowledge of the sport from your 'youthful days' to now."
The fact is that most the people I had interviewed for this project said that the equipment of yesterday is the best. Whereas the high-tech, ultra-modern, ever-changing equipment of today makes us “pussies” as one Phanatic put it.
The same Phanatic later said:
“Wood bats equal life, authenticity and a sense of historic precedent. Whereas the new technology of Aluminum bats equal death, the lack of authenticity, and a sense of fakeness."
Works Cited (for part two):
Degiacomo, Tyler. Personal interview. Oct 17. 2008.
Fallon, Ben. Personal interview. Oct 19. 2008.