The majority of my baseball information consumption comes online, via twitter, podcasts, and various blogs. Despite being a big baseball fan and having lots of friends who are also baseball fans, I don’t really ‘talk baseball’ much in person. The type of baseball talk that I experience online is of a different, more sophisticated/esoteric sort than the typical in-person fat chewing. However, with the start of the baseball season, this Royals team being more hyped than most recent vintages, and the successful opening weekend in Anaheim, baseball chatter among the general Kansas City public is at a much higher level than usual. At work, random people that I rarely talk to at all are approaching me to talk baseball. I’ve always had a schedule on the wall of my cubicle, some bobbleheads and other Royals knickknacks on display and I guess that makes me known as sort of the resident Royals baseball guy. I’m being forced to talk baseball with people that simply do not speak the same baseball language as I do. How do you guys handle in-person interactions with the non-digital version of the facebook fan?
These interactions seem to go along the lines of, “boy that hose-mer looks like he might be a good player, think he might drive in a hunnerd this year? How long ‘til the Yankees take him from us?” Mentally, my response goes “it’s hoz-mer, you idiot, and driving in runs is an overrated, context-driven stat that reveals extremely little useful information about offensive performance – Hosmer is pre-arb and under club control for six years.” My actual, audible response usually comes out something like, “yeah, sure, maybe” followed by an abrupt, awkward attempt to end the conversation or change the subject.
This is a bit of a surprise to me, in some ways. I love baseball and I love the Royals. I spend an unhealthy amount of time following and thinking about the team. You’d think that I’d relish the opportunity to converse with others about something that is obviously so important to me. But the exact opposite seems to be the case.
There seem to be two issues at play. First, I’m the baseball equivalent of the hipster that resents his underground band getting mainstream publicity. I’ve been a loyal Royals fan through years and years of putrid play. I followed them when they weren’t worth following. I spilled intellectual blood analyzing Ross Gload extensions and Justin Huber’s playing time. Now that the Royals are borderline relevant, I’m kind of protective of them. They’re MY team, YOU don’t deserve to get to talk about them, you have EARNED that right. Who are you to talk about Hosmer? Did you follow the draft live? Did you stay up until midnight of the signing deadline to make sure that he’d sign? Did you gnash teeth when he made his full season debut and largely flopped, while Justin Smoak tore it up? I knew about Hosmer before he was mainstream.
The second issue seems to be an elitism concerning baseball discourse. While there is a lot of chatter on Royals Review that isn’t exactly intellectual – such as taco bell orders, overflow girls and the like - the talk on actual baseball matters is pretty sophisticated. But it is also sophisticated in a pretty exclusive kind of way. Advanced stats are exactly that – advanced. I guess I’m saying that it’s hard for me to come down from my ivory tower to talk baseball with the common man. Am I a baseball one percenter? Maybe I just don’t have time to educate...
So my question to you all then is this: how do you talk baseball with the average fan? Do you ‘stoop to their level’ and talk about RBI and ERA even though you know that they aren’t the ‘right’ stats to be using? Do you try to teach them about the better stats to use? Do you try to bolster your own cred by talking about how you knew who all of these prospects were before they did? Do you just try to avoid baseball talk with people who aren’t like-minded?
And my other question is does this make me some sort of elitist jerkface? It should not be difficult to uncover my political beliefs – as a big hippy liberal, I tend to want to stick up for the little guy and stick it to the elite. Am I not becoming what I despise for feeling the way that I do? Or does it not matter because it’s freaking baseball and not something more tangibly important?
As the Royals continue their march toward relevancy, these forced baseball-related interactions with casual fans will likely become ever more commonplace. I’m curious how I’ll respond. Perhaps my metaphysical examination of fandom in the internet age is the catharsis I’ll need to be able to endure baseball talk with the general public. Or maybe if the increase in Royals dialogue is a result of the team winning, I’ll be too happy that my team is doing well to care.