MLB Fans: Baseball Isn't Football
Football is, without a doubt, the most popular sport in America right now. The amount of time devoted to the draft alone dwarfs coverage of many sports.
I don't really think it's an issue, except I feel that the football fan's mentality is creeping into baseball, and that can be dangerous.
In college football, you can go undefeated and not get a chance to be considered for being a National Title. Even big-name programs from power conferences can sometimes only suffer one loss and be left out in the cold—I'm looking at you Colt McCoy.
Over in the NFL, 11-5 may get you a trip home after the regular-season, and as any Patriot fan can tell you, the "one game decides everything" reality of the playoffs can bite even the best teams.
So I understand why football fans sometimes go nuts after losses, because you don't exactly have a lot of wiggle room. There isn't a lot of room for mulligans, trap-game mistakes, or even plain bad luck.
What I don't understand is how this mentality has moved to baseball.
Baseball has a 162-game schedule. The most successful team ever in that format, the 2001 Mariners, lost 46 times. The 2006 St. Louis Cardinals lost 83 times including the playoffs and they won the World Series.
The reality is this: Baseball teams lose. A lot. To teams they're better than. In manners in which they shouldn't.
And yet, some fans can't seem to accept this. Mostly, it's fans of successful teams because, well, they're used to winning. The logic they use isn't necessarily flawed. Most times, their team is the better team. The better team should win. Therefore, if they don't win, well, someone is to blame. And blame they do.
And sometimes, they're right. Sometimes, there is a mistake so blatantly obvious, (Think, Grady Little in 2003) that someone's got to lose their job. And sometimes, if it's an ultra-important game, a win becomes a necessity. I get it. If you're a Red Sox fan, I can say you're probably correct in being upset about how Game 7 of the 2003 ALCS went.
But if you're a Yankees fan and you're getting worked up because New York, who had gone 18-5 in their last 23 games, lost to the Toronto Blue Jays on August 10th 5-4, well, don't you think it's going overboard? Just a little?
I can imagine some objections, so I'll try to address them here.
1) Hey, every game is important. Just ask the 2007 Padres.
Yes, if the Padres had won any of the 73 games they'd lost in the regular season, they'd have made the playoffs. But that logic cuts both ways. Don't you think some of their 89 wins were the result of beating teams they were worse than? Or because the other team's manager screwed up a move? Or because they just got lucky?
2) As a fan, you should root for your team to win every game, and expect them to. That's part of being a fan. You don't say "Eh, the Phillies will probably lose tonight."
There's a difference between rooting for, and even expecting your team to win, and being unable to accept that it's ok they've just lost. You might say you think your team will win the night before every game, but no fan sits down on March 17th, looks at their team's schedule and says "You know, if things break right, 162-0 is possible". Holding a team to an impossible standard is not being a fan. And knowing the Yankees are going to lose a few dozen times this year and being ok with that doesn't make someone a bad fan. I may not know which games the Yankees are going to win, but I know somewhere throughout those six months, there are going to be 60-70 losses sprinkled in there.
3) Yeah, but if you start saying losses are ok, then the team doesn't get motivated, and then those 60-70 losses turn into 85 and you miss the playoffs.
Every player, owner, manager and fan wants to win every single game. But any player, manager or owner will tell you that you can't get hung up on a single loss in the regular season. It's not about saying it "doesn't matter" if you lose. It's about understanding that it's impossible to win every game and looking at the bigger picture. I admit, this last one is a fine line to walk, but it's one fans need to do.
4) The media does that all the time
While I think that that is one of the worst things about sports media, I would argue they don't do it to the extent that the fan does. Besides, if the media's doing it, it's probably because they're aware the fan wants that. The media will talk about anything they think fans want to know. Additionally, when you're required by your job to come up with something interesting to talk about every single day, that's what you'll do. Trust me. When it's your job, you've got to write about a lot of things even you may not see as important.
I want my team to win as much as the next person. But I'm not going to sit there, lamenting every move made or not made, that contributed to every loss and demanding someone pay for it. In baseball, that mentality just doesn't make any sense. I used to be that way, and man, it was draining. Sure, in the playoffs, things may change. But I'm not going to go crazy because the Yankees lost to the Nationals on June 17th.
I'll save that for the first Atlanta Falcons loss of the year.
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