Colin McGowan wrote an article over at The Classical about Anderson Varejo in their "Why We Watch" series. It was a well written article about an interesting player for a website that has really found it's writing niche, so I suggest you read the full piece if you have time and/or care about basketball.
Besides discussing Varejo, the article made a strong point about fans of teams stuck in a cycle of perpetual losing that really struck home with me. McGowan makes his point far more clearly and eloquently than I could, so I'm going to use blockquotes generously:
Team-specific blogs and a relatively newfound fascination with front office personalities have conspired to turn a lot of fans into amateur team-builders....It makes sense that the sports-destitute do this. If you're laid up on the couch for two months with a broken leg, you probably spend a lot of time daydreaming about all the stuff you're going to do once mobile again.
We, the amateur team-builders, are quick to remark, when a GM makes a short-sighted move in an attempt to push his team out of the lottery and into the outskirts of the playoff picture, that the guiding principle of team-building should be that the goal is to construct a championship contender, not a seventh seed. That's fine and well in a vacuum, but only one team wins the title each year...
All this title-or-bust rhetoric shifts our focus toward an endpoint. We are directed toward the result of sport, not the process-the part we're watching 99 percent of the time. Surely, a championship is the apex of sports fandom, but this is not a zero sum affair, and basketball played happily and well can offer a series of gleeful moments of relief and release even in losing efforts. We too frequently confuse the object of sports fandom with the in-the-moment purpose of sports fandom, which is to care deeply about something that doesn't actually matter and take what that experience gives.
Most of the contributors and regular readers/commenters at Royals Review definitely fall under the amateur team-building category. I don't think this is a bad thing, since it helps us watch Royals baseball even when there is no chance for contention. It also helps elevate the discourse when discussing the team, which is refreshing when compared to most of the noise that revolves around sports.
The apex of these conversations occur during the offseason, when their is no actual sport to distract us. All we can focus on is management making optimal decisions for the team. The lack of any baseball causes fans to zero in on roster decisions, and can cause us to exaggerate our reactions to these decisions.
I'm not trying to argue that the furor surrounding the Wil Myers/James Shields this off season wasn't warranted, but people would have started the rationalization process earlier had they been able to see Shields pitch (successfully) immediately following the trade. Instead, many dedicated fans went into a winter long depression that spring training is starting to stir us out of.
While I believe a front office should be focused on a title-or-bust endpoint, or something close, as fans, we engage in an interesting balancing act. Can I enjoy a "strong" performance by Jeff Francoeur if I fear it's going to result in another contract extension that might hamper the team in the future? How can I root for the Royals to sweep the Tigers at the end of the season if it will cost them the first pick in the draft?
As Royals fans, I feel like we have had our fair share of ideological dilemmas over the past few years that have helped shift my perspective less from fan and more to team-builder. There's no reason you can't be both, but I've definitely thought far more about how a move will help the Royals in the future, instead of enjoying how they can help the team now.
For better or for worse, I'm going to attempt to engage more with the in-the-moment purpose of sports fandom this season. It's not that I was completely emotionally removed from past Royals games, but it became easy to shrug of losses and lose focus during another lost season. The front office has decided it needs to contend this season at all costs, and despite my objection to that line of thinking, I'm going to raise my expectations with them.
Even though letting my analyticaly-driven guard down is more likely to cause disappointment by then end of the season than bliss, it could also help me enjoy more of the 162 game marathon than I have in the past. While an 82 win season should be viewed as a failure for contention, I can still enjoy the ride the team takes me on this year. I want to appreciate whatever experience the Royals give me this season, there will be plenty of time to construct a winning team next winter.
1) What is your favorite moment from the Royals 2012 campaign?
2) When and where was the worst winter storm that you have personally experienced?
3) What type of Asian cuisine is your personal favorite?
4) Which was the most damaging coup d'état the United States successfully pulled during the Cold War?
5) What is the biggest injustice from any of the major award shows in your lifetime?
Bonus: Favorite conspiracy theory regarding the Russian meteor?