clock menu more-arrow no yes

Filed under:

On the subject of optimism and thinking about baseball

New, 65 comments

Optimism and criticism are both legitimate ways to root.

Denny Medley-USA TODAY Sports

One of the great things about sports is that there is no correct or incorrect way to consume it. Want to go to the game with your buddies, have a few beers, and only passively pay attention to the on-field happenings? Go for it. Interested in deeply analyzing every tiny component of the game? Have at it. Bored and just desire to have a communal experience on a cool summer night? Sounds great. Hey, if you're into ogling the exquisitely sculpted athletes as they move lithely around the field, then make it so. Alex Gordon, after all, is a sexy man.

When the Royals were bad, and the fanbase smaller, those who actively participated in discussion were generally more educated and had a deeper history with the team. You sort of had to be; casual fandom is oft-criticized but is usually the most sane way to approach the silliness and sometimes hope-devoid game of baseball. Games at Kauffman Stadium were meager things, and it wasn't uncommon to have a weekday evening game be attended by 15,000 people. Frankly, considering the existentialist drivel being vomited onto the grass every day, 15,000 people per game was a Christmas miracle come true.

I am the first to defend the bandwagoners, the casual fans, the non-fans who just want some of the pie. I get it. Sports economics is based on these types of fans, and longtime fans complaining about how 'we were there before it was cool' is just standard issue, toxic hipsterism. To those people I say this: It doesn't matter, so get over it; instead, cherish the hard times which make your experience so much more exquisite and rewarding. That experience is wholly unique to those of you who have been longsuffering fans; the newbies will never quite connect with that level of joy and satisfaction.

There is, however, a reaction that keeps coming up after the World Series victory, and it can be summed up in this one comment:

andrew

This comment was in reply to Shaun's article wherein he says that the Ian Kennedy deal is a bad one. While I disagree, it's hardly much of a hot take to suggest that spending $70 million on a pitcher with a spotty record isn't the best deal ever; Dave Cameron even listed Kennedy as one of the worst transactions of this offseason. But Andrew disagrees, as do 30 other fans of the Royals Review Facebook page.

It's very true that the Royals are World Series Champions. They will remain so until October 2016, when they will be crowned World Series Champions again (I assume). And it's very true that this is something that few accomplish.

But the notion that Moore and Co. are henceforth perfect and unassailable is silly, if you devote a few seconds of critical thinking towards the idea. Rosters are continuously changing, with players aging and leaving every single year. Those in charge have earned the benefit of the doubt, and we should treat their moves with the respect given to those who, well, just won a World Series and their second consecutive American League Pennant. I'd say they know what they're doing.

They are still human, though, and humans make mistakes. If you are a human and have not made a mistake, please let me know.

Let's step back a bit and look at an example of someone who achieved great success but did not sustain it:

george

In 1983, George Lucas was one of the hottest names in filmmaking. With American Graffiti, Star Wars, The Empire Strikes Back, Return of the Jedi, and Raiders of the Lost Ark under his name, Lucas was the brilliant creator and mind of his age.

By 2008, Lucas was more well-known for hating sand, podraces, trade disputes, Jar Jar Binks, green screens, and for sending Indiana Jones into a fridge to successfully escape a nearby nuclear detonation.

Lucas was untouchable until he wasn't. Paul McCartney continuously spurted hit songs until he suddenly didn't (and he's released eight albums over the last 25 years).  Look, guys: Dayton Moore's teams averaged 90 losses a year for seven years before achieving a single winning season, with little direction and much angst. Moore isn't resistant to second-guessing.

The thing about intense optimism is, in this mindset, any criticism of any kind must be false (and probably stupid) not because of its quality but because, by its very nature, it threatens a carefully constructed view of the team that may or may not have any ties to reality. Sometimes that's good; when parents see their preschool kid's drawing of the 'family dog,' they well with pride instead of recoiling in horror at the Lovecraft-style monster that was actually on the page. In baseball terms, it erases stress and frees up time and money with its efficiency.

But here's what I want to get to:

Don't assume that criticism or differing viewpoints about your team is stupid or bad.

We're still grappling with what it means to be fans of a successful organization at this level, and that means learning how to interact with different types of fans. Any time there's a vaguely critical article of something Royals related here, there will be comments that not only disagree, but are openly insulting. "This is stupid," "Royals Review doesn't know what he's talking about," "Are you even a fan of baseball?," "_____ is a terrible writer," "This article is shit." I've read every single one of those comments before--every one--and they happen all the time.

As one of my friends once put in a speech, loving something means being able to criticize and think critically about it. Choosing to do so and carrying it out does not mean that those who do so hate the thing they criticize.

This street goes both ways, of course. Those of us who analyze and criticize do a poor job of empathizing with people who don't like to be told that their perception about a player is wrong, and consistent doom or gloom can put a damper on how we interact with the game.

Royals Review will use analysis. Sometimes that analysis is positive, but sometimes it isn't. I do admit that it is far more interesting to write about weaknesses or how to improve the team. But that's what we do. That's our fandom. If you don't agree with our version of it, that's cool. But it rings awfully hollow to tell us how we can become real fans when we spend hours and hours every week putting together content, watching games and highlights, writing and editing articles, and scanning the news to spread the best stories. I have a day job. This isn't for the money or the glory.

Conversely, every opinion or point of view about the Royals comes from a position of merit. We're all fans of the same team. Disagreement will be common, for we are a diverse bunch. But we need to do a better job of understanding each other and considering other viewpoints. It will be difficult, as change always is. They said it would be difficult making back-to-back World Series. The Royals did not care.