Before you read that Dallas has the worst sports fans on Earth and immediately head down to the comments box, let me explain what I'm getting at here. The Texas Rangers lost in stunning fashion down the stretch, losing 10 of their last 14 games and digging their own grave.
Missing the ALDS was quite possibly the worst moment in franchise history, and that's saying something for a team that hadn't won a postseason series until 2010.
But behind the smoke and mirrors of pitching matchups, the lack of leadership in the clubhouse, whatever weird thing Derek Holland has going on and the enigma that is Josh Hamilton, take a step back and ponder what the fans have done to stand behind their "hometown" team.
Is Dallas really the town that gives their heart and soul to their sports teams? Do the players really think that if things aren't going good, the fans will file out to the Ballpark in Arlington in droves the way they have over the course of this three-year stretch?
A better question lies within the scope of the other three professional sports teams. With the lack of success over the past decade and a half (excluding titles from the Dallas Mavericks in 2011 and the Dallas Stars in 1999), it's been real easy to shuck aside duty as a fan and just give up on the team.
It's not the only reason the Rangers lost this year. But the honeymoon period for Rangers fans has been over for a while now, and it affected the morale of this team in a way that isn't measurable by sabermetrics or wins above replacement.
I've been to the Rangers ballpark this season. I've had to sit through some of the most desecrating behavior, in my opinion, to both the integrity of the game and the results on the field.
I've seen Mike Adams pitch the eighth inning of a close ball game while close to 20,000 people are desperate to start the wave until all 48,000 people are doing it.
It doesn't stop after Adams struggles and walks a batter. It doesn't stop until people are satisfied with the idea that this cool new wave isn't going to catch on, likely after the inning is over and it doesn't matter if Adams is having to contend with a wave in his peripheral vision or not.
To top it all off, Josh Hamilton was booed twice on Friday. At home. In a playoff game, in what fans hope isn't his final game with the team that gave him a chance to be a superstar.
Josh noticed, as did ESPN's Mike Peasley.
Josh Hamilton says he would never boo or yell profanities at anyone— Mike Peasley (@PeasESPN) October 6, 2012
Again, that's not the reason the Rangers lost this postseason. I can't speak to the level of focus professional athletes employ. But as a fan and a former player of multiple sports, if my fans were more focused on the wave than the game, it would be hard to understand what the heck was going on in the stands if I was on the field.
This points to a lack of education sports fans have in the Dallas metroplex. A vast majority of fans use these games as a pillar for a date or a business meeting. It's "hot" right now to go to the Rangers games. Before the Mavs were swept from the playoffs in 2012, it was hot to make a winter appearance at American Airlines Center, complete with a Dirk Nowitzki jersey over a long-sleeve dress shirt.
Do diehard fans in Oakland worry about spilling mustard on their body paint? Do the Hogettes in Washington, D.C. worry about what people think about them? How about the Philadelphia Phillies fans, who logged the most attendance in baseball again this season despite missing the playoffs by a considerable margin?
Dallas sports fans: If you've never let this idea dance around in your head for a little while, hop on over to Facebook and Twitter. Check out your friends' most recent posts.
These are the people that are ready to throw Tony Romo to the wolves with every incomplete pass. These are the people that wanted Mike Modano out of town. The same guys who said Dirk should be traded, and that he was the softest player in the history of the NBA.
"Jerry Jones will never win us a title."
"Mark Cuban is a pompus pretty-boy that doesn't care about anything but money, and needs to keep his mouth shut."
"Fire Ron Washington!"
I've heard all these things over the course of my time as a sports fan. And to level the playing field, it certainly doesn't mean those things aren't true. I don't think Jerry is a true GM. Cuban does open his mouth too much, and Wash has made some questionable (at best) moves over the past three years.
But this is sports. It's the ultimate show of loyalty and teamwork. Those characteristics trickle down into pride and daily life. But they didn't trickle down to the Rangers fans.
Calls for Hamilton's head started coming about midseason. Joe Nathan went on one of the most impressive saves streaks in franchise history, and his September blown save was reason enough to call for Nathan's dismissal.
Simply put, there's no faith in Big D.
And you know what, it actually starts at the top. ESPN personalities are quick to prod and poke at these athletes, taking the first opportunity to put their own creative spin.
Here's one from Tim MacMahon, after another Hamilton strikeout against the Orioles on Friday night.
Don't worry, Josh. They can tweak the ending for the movie.— Tim MacMahon (@espn_macmahon) October 6, 2012
To be fair, the reporting done by local beat writers is top notch. They have the inside scoop before most can even blink, and their reports are accurate and to the point.
However, it's almost like a parent-child relationship with the Dallas fanbase. If the children see the parents misbehaving, they're more likely to emulate their only role models, which in this case is the source for most of the information.
Let's face it—most fans fancy themselves smart on the ways of their team. If it wasn't for that kind of undying need for curiosity and debate, I likely wouldn't find myself in the position to broadcast this theory on a national platform.
But fans have a way of taking on what's around them. In Dallas, most people are along for the ride, as long as it's sunny outside and there aren't many clouds in sight.
It's the reason the Cowboys need a multi-billion dollar stadium to attract patrons. It's why the Mavericks were the joke of the town until the 2011 title season. And it's why, unfortunately, that there's no chance of Josh Hamilton's return to Texas.
As Jon Morosi reported upon the conclusion of the game Friday night, Hamilton has plenty of reasons to avoid the town that gave him their hearts.
Regarding boos, Josh Hamilton referred to Bible verse about shaking the dust of a town from one's feet if he is not wanted.— Jon Morosi (@jonmorosi) October 6, 2012
Cryptic response aside, I don't blame Hamilton one bit, and I'm in the category of people about ready to already run him out of town after the dropped fly ball against the A's.
Let's be honest, Dallas fans, we helped Steve Nash leave town. Mike Modano didn't feel enough love to sacrifice another title run by staying to retire. Dirk Nowitzki has two years left on a contract with no future guarantees. Why do big free agents like LeBron James, Cliff Lee and Prince Fielder avoid us like the plague?
It's time Dallas looked in the mirror and accepted the title of something that isn't easy to sputter.
Dallas has the worst fans in professional sports.
I don't know how to fix it. As a lifelong fan of the city, each team and certain players, I'm not sure I qualify to understand the emotional and personal disconnect the majority of Dallas feels for some reason.
But I am qualified to point out something when I see it. So do yourselves a favor, Dallas. Jump off before the bandwagon gets too heavy with fair-weather fans.
To shed this label, we need more Tom Landry ideals and less Jerry Jones in Dallas. We need more Dirk Nowitzki and less Josh Hamilton.
And yes, that occasionally means taking shots at players who underperform so greatly that it clearly affects the well-being of their franchise. But take a lesson from towns like Pittsburgh, Oakland and even the hated New Yorkers.
Hate all you want, at a respectable pace. Don't beat up on a guy who has converted all but one save before blowing one in a big moment. And don't boo your franchise player, even if he is a self-absorbed enigma with the focus of a five-year-old.
Criticism is due to certain players. Jason Terry accepted it when it was dealt his way. It's made lesser men out of certain former Cowboys QBs.
But recognize when to criticize and when to stand behind the ones you go to watch on the field, court and rink. And if that sounds like a cynical, or uppity approach, I apologize. But it's hard to get over the Joe Nathan hate after his All-Star season.
Take pride in the success as much as you lavish in the failure. It's okay to hurt when your team loses—it's part of the game. As Josh Hamilton leaves this offseason and says happy trails to Texas, take a deep breath and realize the boos had a part it in it.
For better or worse, this is the state of the city, and the sports fans, right now. As No. 32 becomes a distant memory, what's the next step in making this town one that uses sports as a spring board, and not a jumping off point?
You decide, Dallas.
So bring on the hate comments, the angry comments and the ones lambasting me as a fool of epic proportion. Dallas needs a new villain to hate on, and if I can be that guy, maybe it will take some pressure off of the Mavericks heading into their season.
I welcome it.
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