In October 2013, the St. Louis Cardinals and Boston Red Sox were playing in the World Series, the very same Series of which the Royals were a part in 2014. The Cardinals, ahead two games to one, were trailing the Red Sox in the bottom of the ninth 4-2 at Busch Stadium. Mike Matheny decided to insert Kolten Wong as a pinch runner at first base with Carlos Beltran at the plate. What happened was one of the most stunning endings to any World Series games in history:
Uehara's brilliant pickoff of Wong was a great way to end a baseball game. To Red Sox fans, the ending was hilarous; to Cardinals fans, the ending was furiously frustrating. Still, the Cardinals were behind two runs with only one out to play with anyway--it wasn't as if they were behind by a single run with multiple outs to utilize.
That didn't matter to many, as fans in scores took to Twitter to curse Wong and, yes, throw racial insults at him (I won't directly link any of those tweets here, as many are appalling, but you can check them out if you want to get depressed at humanity). Wong was extremely gracious on his part, apologizing to fans and teammates without mention of the terrible vitrol hurled his way.
All i want to say is i'm sorry #CardinalNation I go out everyday playing this game as hard as I can and leaving everything on the field.— Kolten Wong (@KoltenWong) October 28, 2013
Although the 'Best Fans in Baseball' meme does indeed lend this event an additional layer of irony and amusement, I'm not setting out to vilify Cardinals fans. It was this particular response, by a vocal minority in an extreme environment, that truly widened my eyes to the insults that professional athletes endure on a daily basis. Every single team has fans who would have done the same thing if Wong played for them in that situation.
So, I'd like to air a public service announcement: athletes are people, humans, and should be treated as such.
Facebook, Twitter, and blogs have given fans unprecedented ability to broadcast their feelings. Humans are emotional creatures, and we are rarely thoughtful or kind when angry (which is often). Lashing out at the idiot who dropped the double-play ball that would have sealed a victory is so easy, especially if we know that they won't hear us.
By the very nature of the sport, baseball players invite criticism. Everybody can improve on an aspect of their game, some moreso than others. But criticism of skills or talent is different than a personal attack. If you wouldn't say a racist joke about your friend and coworker when angry why would you do so with a baseball player on your favorite team? If you wouldn't email a friend a sexist slur because you just feel like it, then why would you Tweet it at a player?
We here at Royals Review enjoy cynicism and criticism. We enjoy snark, sarcasm, and dumb jokes. We do not tolerate cruelty. Don't cross that line; it's beneath us.
We all bleed Royal blue anyway.