Fans and Fanatics

The Other Bo

When I agreed to do Thursday recaps, I was certainly aware that Thursday was less busy than any day but Monday.  What I hadn’t anticipated was just how many Thursdays would find our boys idle.  That said, I’m going to write something anyway.

Paul Campos, a law professor at Colorado, just published a book: A Fan’s Life: The Agony of Victory and the Thrill of Defeat.  It’s mostly about football, and more parochially, the agony of being a Michigan Wolverine fan, but it touches on a lot of issues that are more universal.  In particular, the early part of the book focuses on what the Internet has done to drive devoted fans of a particular team mentally dysfunctional.  You may see some parallels between what he says and what we often see here on Braves Journal, but with a difference I’d like to talk about.  Herewith, a few (fair use… he’s a law professor, remember?) excerpts:

The Internet has changed – and come to dominate —  life in countless ways, but it is especially striking how it has created a complex world of communities, in particular communities that allow people with an especially passionate interest in a subject to find one another…. This should be a source of happiness…Yet being a fan of anything or anyone, especially in this mediated context, tends to make us deeply unhappy – the kind of communal unhappiness of people who choose to be unhappy together rather than alone….Yet deeply engaged fandom can be a good thing too…The friendships people form there are very real – especially, perhaps, for middle-aged and older men, who often find themselves isolated in a society where so many institutions (such as fraternal lodges, labor unions, and religious organizations) that once sustained communities have deteriorated or disappeared.

Deeply engaged fans know what it is to wake up, after a night of uneasy dreams, to a sensation of nausea and dread, as we contemplate the many hours before kickoff. We know what it is to relive again and again, through the insidious power of involuntary memory, the dropped interception that surely would have won that game five or fifteen or forty years ago. We know what it is to keep, among many, many other things, obsessive mental catalogs of final scores, starting lineups, nonsensical coaching decisions, and horrible officiating blunders—always going against our team, needless to say. Complaining about officiating—as well as complaining about fans who complain about officiating—are constitutive aspects of deep engagement. If you cannot recall off the top of your head a dozen occasions when your team was well and truly screwed by the refs, you are not a deeply engaged fan.

In any event, during Michigan football games, many otherwise normal board denizens become anoraks of a conspiratorial nature. (I  know  because  I’m  one  of  them.)  It  generally  takes  just  a  few  minutes—often only a play or two—for a group of highly educated, ordinarily reasonable, and otherwise unexceptionable people to de-compensate into a bunch of raving lunatics. Shared suffering quickly morphs into collective madness, as we—usually unintentionally—egg each other on toward ever more elaborate manifestations of conspiratorial thinking, histrionic complaining, and other florid displays of our communal masochism. If  the  game  is  close—that  is,  if  victory  isn’t  already  almost  assured—or, God forbid, Michigan is actually losing, then the board will  become  a  veritable  bedlam  of  agonized  cries  about  terrible  coaching decisions, poor officiating, inept play, and the existence of a universal conspiracy to ensure that Michigan will ultimately lose. This conspiracy can include the crooked or blind refs, the league office (which mysteriously wants one of the league’s best-known and profitable programs to fail), and the egregiously dirty players on the other team (who are obviously a bunch of thugs who would never be recruited by our coaches). Our coaches, by the way, totally suck, because they never ever learn from their mistakes, though we point them out constantly. They are almost as bad as the network television commentators, who everybody knows have always hated us, or the opposing fans, who are classless idiots….For as long as this mental state lasts (i.e., until Michigan has an unquestionably safe lead), we hate everything and everybody, especially ourselves, as we wallow in the realization that, once again, we are choosing to waste our lives in this pathetic way….. We live on the Internet, and while the Internet is many things, for people like us it is above all a factory of sadness.

To this I have two things to say: (1) Dude, you picked the wrong team.  Either pick a team that sustains excellence or pick a team that has no shot at all.  (I happened to grow up a Georgia Tech fan.  It’s fine.  We expect nothing.)  When you pick a team that hires Rich Rodriguez and Jim Harbaugh, you’re just asking for it.  (2) Dude, you picked the wrong board.  Find a better bar.  Does stuff like this occasionally happen on Braves Journal?  Yes.  But do we let it continue to happen?  We do not.  If going to the bar makes you unhappy, find a bar with better people.

We certainly have our shared agonies, agonies that bear telling and retelling. I suspect there are a lot more references on Braves Journal to Eric Gregg and Jim Leyritz than there are to Jorge Soler. And it’s not just the fact that Soler’s feat is less than a year ago that explains it. So I get where Campos is coming from.  If I were a Cardinals fan, I might be a little like him.  But we’re not, and Mac created a safe space for us here to be crazy but not antisocial and we should thank him in heaven for it daily.

Go Braves. 

Author: JonathanF

Alive since 1956. Braves fan since 1966. The first ten years were pretty much wasted. Exiled to Yankees/Mets territory in 1974 --- bearable only with TBS followed by MLB.TV.

29 thoughts on “Fans and Fanatics”

  1. Thanks!

    @1: Although Ciraldo’s calls of GT games in the Kim King era were unforgettable, for some reason I remember him best as a basketball announcer. He made me believe that Rich Yunkus was not just a good basketball player, but one of the all-time greatest basketball players. “Yunkus with the bunny shot… Good!” (I still don’t know what a bunny shot is. Nobody tell me.) In the 80’s I became good friends with Tom Brennan who was then Yale’s basketball coach, but had played for Georgia against Yunkus. He told me he used to listen to Ciraldo just to hear him talk about Yunkus.

  2. I was convinced Rich Yunkus was one of the all time greatest players. He scored 47 in leading the Jackets to victory over UNC and averaged 26 pts per game. At the time, I believed he could have been a great NBA player; he just chose not to.

  3. I guess I should be clear that I now know that Rich Yunkus was not the equivalent of Kareem or Walton. But Al Ciraldo, and my fan bias, had me believing it.

  4. Marlins 3, Mets 1, top 5 (& the Mets are already into their bullpen).

    The book is right. The internet can certainly facilitate misery. It’s up to you to avoid that. But if you think it can get negative here, just check out any Mets blog. You’d think it was 1962 in perpetuity & the Russians were at the beach.

    Yunkus was before my time, but growing up in Georgia — in an era when very few games were actually on TV — I’d tune into radio broadcast of the Tech football games just to hear Ciraldo say, “Toe meets leather!” (IIRC, he did that every kickoff.)

    Then, of course, I’d flip it back to Larry Munson.

    BTW, here’s how to watch tonight’s game free on AppleTV+:

  5. The full Ciraldo call of the kickoff, as I recall it, was: “there’s the toot of the whistle, kicker forward, toe meets leather, a long high kick…”
    You’re right, it never varied.

    We’ve talked before about how radio was the way many of us followed baseball as kids. College football was the same. Georgia Tech, my team back then, was almost never on TV. So Al Ciraldo was GA Tech football.

  6. JonathanF—you distracted me with the Al Ciraldo memories. But great job on the Campos book and the comparison to this blog. What Mac wrought here—and others have continued—is truly special.

  7. Whoever is doing play-by-play for Apple TV tonight is a worse fly-ball judge than Chip. Didn’t think that was possible.

  8. @14 I did enjoy the portion of the Strider interview where he described going up the Space Needle elevator with Jesse Chavez… turns out Chavez has a pretty strong fear of heights.

  9. @13 I agree that was a terrible call. However I respect the Apple play-by-play guy for owning his mistake. Chip would have just swept under the rug and never mentioned it again.

  10. It’s one of 162, but with a chance to go into first, this one means a little more morale-wise than others. Snit cannot let Jansen dangle out there if he sprays it all over the place as he has done too often lately.

  11. Atlanta 87-51 —
    NY Mets 87-52 0.5

    Just looks right. Order has been restored. Let’s keep it that way.

  12. Yeah, I didn’t see any of it. These 7-8 minute condensed games on MLB.TV are amazing. They give you about everything you need.

    Loved Harris’ hustle double. Honestly, I could see the guy turning into, ya know, a Rock Raines-type. 😜

    It’s gonna be weird seeing Dansby in another uniform if it doesn’t work out. I wish he’d go for 5YR/$100M like DOB threw out on his pod.

    Speaking of that pod, DOB made an interesting point: when they increased the size of the bases in the minors, stolen base attempts went up 20%. It also puts the distance between the bases 4 inches shorter. All the bang bang plays will go in the direction of the runner now. And since you can only throw over twice now, you’re going to see a guy take a little longer lead after the first throw over, and then take a bigger lead the second throw over. Ozzie, Ronnie, Dansby, Harris, and Grissom are gonna be racking up the SBs. I could see our analytics department having a field day.

    I like the new rules. Make the game more fun.

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