This week the Pittsburgh Pirates, losers, won. They won consistently against teams that each contenders for the World Series. After sweeping Cincinnati, splitting a pair of games against the St. Louis Cardinals and (as of this writing) taking two of three against the team with the best record in baseball, the Atlanta, Braves, the Pittsburgh Pirates are showing they are, once again, a competitive ball club.
For some that is just not good enough.
Since the decade-long explosion of public opinion, whereby anyone with a computer keyboard can tell you what they “think” on any post-heavy social site or news outlet, the inmates have not only taken over the asylum, but they’re burning the mother to the ground.
This week, following the Bucs’ run, I have read a multitude of comments from posters who are not only unimpressed with the team’s play, but also go so far as to tell the world why they’re “not buying in”. The snarky sideline snipers go on to criticize the ownership, management and players and, most tellingly, any fan who has gone public with his or her own belief in the team.
“How stupid! Anybody who uses this mini streak as hope for the future or rest of the season is blind. Wake me in October,” wrote one guy in the comments section of Bob Smizik’s blog from the Post-Gazette’s website. Another added, “Haven't we learned our lesson yet? Let's talk in October.”
So, what are we to take from this? It would be easy to say that these are just two examples of the general population’s self-love affair with the ability to take pot shots from afar without fear of ever having to prove an argument. They are drive by side effects of the new, open public communication.
We could also draw the conclusion that sports fans, at least those inclined to voice an opinion, are not happy unless their team wins.
Having spent a disillusioning period of time as a sports talk show host, I can honestly say that most outspoken sports fans (the types that call talk shows and post comments on sportswriters blog pages) will find something to complain about in the best of times, much less during a twenty year stretch of losing.
Negativity is the fuel that runs social media, and serves as honey in attracting opinions.
The difficulty arises when snipers offering little constructive criticism (other than the constant calls for ownership, management and player changes) take it a step further to call out Pirates supporters. They scoff at those who praise the team’s good play, then go to explain how they, being more intelligent and insightful, won’t be fooled again, refusing to “buy in” because they’ve been “burned” by the Bucs in the past. Judging from these arguments, rooting for a sports team is some kind of commitment to be upheld by law. If the team plays poorly, the sniper argues, they "owe" him for his time.
They, the wary sports fan, know the truth. They are wise. If only the rest of us would stop being so “stupid” about wasting our passion on some team that’s just going to “burn” us in the end…
It reminds me of when the eight year old, having learned the truth about Santa, can’t wait to ruin the four-year old’s day by “educating” her.
Year after year.
Believing in your team (sometimes against all odds) is part of the fun.
Deal with it.