Negativity Kills Sports (Baseball Too)

Mariano Rivera, Mike Mussina, and Lee Smith at the 2019 Baseball Hall of Fame roundtable.Dan Schlossberg, IBWAA

By K.P. Wee

As fellow IBWAA member Jason Takefman (a former co-host of the weekly “Baseball Writers: The IBWAA Podcast”) would say, “It’s great to see the passion of sports fans for so many different teams. It’s great for the game.”

That part is definitely true. 

But I would say when that passion turns into constant negativity and name calling, for me everything is ruined. Why can’t fans agree to disagree in a civil manner?

Obviously, such a problem has existed throughout the beginning of mankind. It just seems worse in the world of social media that we live in today. 

To be clear, I don’t mean having pessimism when it comes to your own team. I get it if you’ve been burned too many times by your home team that you don’t trust the players to get the job done when the game’s on the line. 

What I’m talking about specifically is the use of insults to attack others. 

It pains me to see posts appear on my Twitter feed every time fans attack baseball writers simply for not voting in their favorite players into Cooperstown. Why do people need to resort to childish name calling just because a writer didn’t check off the name Larry Walker, for example, on his ballot? Just because someone else doesn’t think Walker is a Hall of Famer doesn’t make him or her a lesser person than you. We’re all entitled to our opinions. (And why do we need to know who voted for whom in the first place? But that’s another discussion for another time.)

And it’s not on fans only. Too many times I’ve read tweets from national baseball writers using the word “idiot” to refer to those who didn’t agree with their opinions or players who did things which they didn’t think was cool. Of course, it’s hard to tell the tone when these are tweets and not an actual discussion. But when it gets to the level of name-calling, you just have to assume the intent was to be mean-spirited. So, what kind of society do we live in where people can’t act in a grown-up manner if they didn’t agree with each other?    

Just to give specific examples, earlier this year a prominent national writer used the word “idiotic” to label fans who disagreed with his take on Jacob deGrom having one of the greatest seasons ever (before the Mets’ ace ran into injury woes), and just a few weeks ago another media personality tweeted that the Mets players were “absolute idiots” for giving their fans the thumbs-down. Why are we so mean-spirited with our tone and words? 

Just because we’re passionate fans? I’m sorry, but those types of insults just turn me off as a sports fan. Sports should be fun and give inspiration, but when I read these insults—bullying words, essentially—it just loses me. 

In my opinion, if a person is being mean-spirited on the keyboard, it’s no different from any other form of bullying. It makes me wonder how many people out there, behind closed doors, behave in just the same way as, say, people such as Jonah Keri, the disgraced sportswriter? 

And words can escalate into bigger incidents. We see video footage of fans fighting in the stands at Dodger Stadium. Hey, we get it, your Dodgers won the World Series. But what gives you the right to fight with people who don’t happen to root for your team?  

Perhaps worse of all is when fans show cruelty toward their own team. Again, it’s hard to tell tone when these posts are on Facebook or Twitter or whichever social media platform people are using. But don’t sports fans tell themselves that they simply want to see their team win just one title in their lifetimes? 

Yet, in the middle of a pandemic, Dodger fans throughout this season have been writing very negative words on social media about the likes of manager Dave Roberts, former MVP Cody Bellinger, closer Kenley Jansen, and others. And this is a team that had just won the World Series and has won each of the last eight NL West titles—and has one of the best records in all of baseball this season! I’m not going to repeat the words that those “fans” use because they are sickening. 

But they are along the lines of why does Roberts still have a job, or that fans feel they could manage the team better than this World Series champion skipper. Or that the manager shouldn’t be using analytics or having bullpen games. Or that Jansen should be kicked to the curb because of one bad game here and there. (Last time I checked, Jansen is a human being, not some AI, so of course he’s going to have good games and bad games. He had a bad day—but he’s had way more great days for him to still be employed as a major-league closer.) But hey, if they get their wish, maybe their team should just release the entire roster!

Of course, I’ve not included the bullying words that these “fans” have used in their posts. 

I can sort of get it if your team is the Seattle Mariners, a franchise that has never sniffed the World Series. Or the Pittsburgh Pirates, whose last title came in 1979. Or the Milwaukee Brewers. I even get it if your team is the Mets because of the lack of championships since 1986. Okay, I get it if you really, really hate a certain team and you don’t want to see them win. I get it. There are many fans who just despise certain teams for whatever reasons. Yes, regarding that last statement, I’m guilty of that myself. 

But if you’re a fan of the Dodgers, Red Sox (2018), Yankees (2009), Cardinals (2011), Cubs (2016), and other teams who have won championships recently, what exactly are you so negative about? Does the world truly need more negativity than we already have? Do we need to really stoop to calling other fans and ballplayers and managers and writers “idiots” and other insults? 

Can’t we all just enjoy sports in a world which isn’t normal at the moment? Can’t we be just thankful that we can even get to watch sports during a global pandemic? 

Yes, sports is supposed to be an outlet, a release from the stress of our daily lives. But when you (fans and the media) are too negative and use bullying words when discussing your teams, it’s way over the top and you don’t make sports fan anymore. The beauty of sports is that games are not scripted. There are winners and there are losers. If you’re expecting your team to win every single day and be champions every single year, I’m sorry but you’ll be disappointed. If sports make you more stressed out and feel more negative, maybe you ought to do yourself a favor and turn off the TV—and turn off Twitter—and do something else to have that outlet. 

For me, the team I rooted for as a kid won the World Series in 2004 — and I experienced the sporting moment that I’d dreamed of since my childhood. That’s what I’d wished for and, really, I couldn’t ask for anything more. I’m going to spend the next couple of hours watching again a game from July 31, 1991, when Jack Clark became Clark Kent for one night and bashed three home runs in a win against Oakland.

Those times were simpler and you couldn’t read what others were writing online. 

K.P. Wee is a teacher and sports author from Vancouver, Canada. His books include The 1988 Dodgers: Reliving the Championship Season; The Case for Barry Bonds in the Hall of Fame; and Tom Candiotti: A Life of Knuckleballs

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