I have a confession to make. I spend waaaayy more time than I should on the message board at the White Sox website. I am convinced that I routinely get trolled, and in all honesty have become too easy of a target. I tend to wear my heart on my sleeve when it comes to fandom, and easily am annoyed by dissenting opinions from other fans (and am quick to argue) but I guess that comes from a lifetime of being right most of the time (at least in my own mind). I have come to realize though, that it’s not the people who disagree with me that irritate me so much, it’s the ones that don’t have good enough reasons behind their arguments, and some plainly have no reasons (or arguments) at all. With all that said, it is not without use, as I often am inspired by small topics of discussion, as is the case today.
If a player gets to a certain age in baseball, he is viewed by some as “over the hill”, especially if his stats have declined for a number of consecutive years, and thus has been deemed to have nothing left to offer and should just go away. I find this a remarkable point of view, and could not just let it lie, as just someone’s opinion. It’s much larger than that, I think. Some say that baseball is a young man’s game, and after a certain period of time as described above, the same player who once had much to offer and may achieved great things, could somehow now just be “washed up”. I never understood how a person with a brain in their heads could arrive at this conclusion, since by the very definition of being employed by someone, that would constitute value. How much value is negotiable, but give it whatever number and (in baseball contracts) length of time, and there you have someone who has something to offer a ball club. How many players have demonstrated over the years an ageless quality that have defied the odds, or have proved the pundits wrong to go on to have very valuable seasons well past their “prime” or “shelf lives”. Too many to list now, and so as not to leave out any of the most obvious names, I’ll move on to my connecting point.
It seems increasing clear to me, that a fan’s useful life can equally be used up. When you were young, and before the proverbial “weight of the world” had crushed your spirit, you absolutely loved baseball because it was a game. Maybe because when you were a kid, you played, or maybe you just enjoyed watching the sport, but throughout history it is undeniably America’s game. And the team you chose as worthy of your praise and time spent following, they were your team and you would fight tooth and nail to defend their honor against rival fans of any sort whether it was a local team or a team across country. That’s what you did, because you believed in it, and it was fun. But then, somewhere along the way, you lost that intensity. You cared less and less about the outcome of the games, and then eventually whole seasons came and went without as much as a whimper of reflection on the seasons passed. Those are not the fans that I speak of here today though. Those fans were turned off for a much different reason, they felt like the game changed on them too much to follow anymore. Maybe it was the DH, or Astro turf, or the lack of a salary cap, or steroids, or the player’s strike…pick a reason. That fan made a conscious choice to not follow what was once something in their mind” pure”, which was now and forever tainted and never again to be salvaged. I get that, that’s what I call Old School, and I can understand and respect it.
What I cannot respect is something that has no reason. To criticize just to be critical. To try to impart “wisdom” on those that are genuinely excited and optimistic. “Hope Springs Eternal” every year in Baseball, but not to some people. They see each failed season as another notch on their belt toward why nobody else should experience joy, since it all will end up as a disappointment, and I suspect that is from a longer life spent getting disappointed in many ways that have nothing to do with baseball. Life is difficult, life is disappointment, I get that, but baseball does not need to be polluted by negative views unnecessarily. If it no longer offers hope, and enjoyment that a young man’s past time is designed to create, maybe it’s time to hang up the old fan spikes, and go off quietly to die. Too morbid? Or better yet, just keep quiet, and don’t ruin it for everyone else, we don’t want to hear it…we’re too busy hoping to catch that next glimpse of something great that can raise us up out of the doldrums of everyday life, and something that we can remember and pass on to our young ones to continue the chain of life’s lessons that baseball has always been able to hold together through generations of fans everywhere in the world.
I have great admiration, and respect for so many of the “old fans” who obviously have been able to stay young in their views, and have adapted to a game they have seen change dramatically from when they were young. For most, with age brings wisdom, which is worth sharing with the young, but ultimately we will all need to find our own way in this world. But when I see any fan, young or old who seek to poison what I consider an elixir of life, I have a term for you. It’s “washed up fan”, and I politely ask you to go away, or at least be quiet so as not to ruin it for the rest of us attempting to enjoy ourselves. Admit it, it’s always sad when you see anyone out stay their welcome, and unfortunately that person who has done so, is often the last to know it (or admit it). Be on the look-out for that type, and kindly ask that they not ruin it for the rest.