Some Reasons Why Baseball Is Important & A Few Rules for Being a Good Fan

dugout (1)
(Mandatory Credit: Mike Nelson/EPA)

There’s a lot of panic on Dodger Twitter right now. Understandably so, because the Dodgers are struggling and have been since opening day. Slow starts, April games, too early to be meaningful—all true. But it’s not much fun for Dodgers fans.

Dodger Twitter is lit. At one end of the continuum are the Cassandras, convinced “the season is over.” “The Dodgers look horrible.” “They’re broken.” “The front office is staffed by morons.” “The wrong people are on the 25-man roster,” and “What’s-wrong-with-management-bring-up-Toles!” At other end of the spectrum are the complacent, “calm down,” “nothing is wrong,” “stop being so hysterical,” “don’t worry, be happy” crew. And both sides make good points.

I love baseball Twitter, but if there is one thing you can count on, it’s that there will always be a plethora of people declaring how to be a true fan, who the “good fans” are, who the fake fans are, and how everyone should behave. Well, since I’m Standard Error, Ph.D., I know a lot about a lot, so everyone should listen to me. Ready? I’m imparting some wisdom right here, and going Full Pomposity while doing it. Baseball is that important.

The golden rule in being a fan, the alpha and the omega is this: Fans should always approach baseball however the hell they want. Do you enjoy fretting about performance, worrying about the team’s chances of making the playoffs? Go for it! Do you prefer to look at the bright side, keep a stiff upper lip, never admit defeat? Go for it! Whatever works for you.

Most of us follow baseball because we enjoy it. I love it, and I love the Dodgers. I get a lot out of it, too. Few things bring me as much pleasure as going to a baseball game with my children. Plus, watching games on TV is fun, talking about baseball is fun, reading about baseball is fun. Fun is important, and part of a well-lived life.

Fun, though significant, is only one benefit I get from baseball. It also serves at least two more essential functions. It’s a big deal. Baseball has a very real impact on my life and my health.

What I value most, the thing that really matters, is that baseball is a family thing in my house. Both of my children, now almost 22 and 18, enjoy baseball and are fans of the Dodgers. I suspect whenever they think of baseball for the rest of their lives, they’ll remember the games we went to, the times we spent watching games, time spent with each other. That’s special. I can’t think of anything that matters more than my family. Those memories, I suspect, will be very important long after I’m gone, and hopefully, will play a similar role with my kids’ own families, if they choose to be parents.

Last summer, we played on a community softball league—my son, my daughter, my nephew and even me.

My daughter (the 18-year-old) has a decent knowledge base and can hold her own in discussions about the sport. Several of her birthdays were celebrated at Dodgers farm team games with family and some of her friends. Same for my son—birthdays at the ball park with family and his friends. And baseball.

When it comes to my son, though, baseball is special to the point of magical. He is as obsessed with baseball as I am. His knowledge is extensive, and by the time he was 16 he knew more than me (I’ve been a fan since 1976). And he’s as passionate in his commitment to our Boys in Blue, too. We lived near the Great Lakes Loons, the Dodgers Low-A team in Michigan, and were fortunate to go to a ton of games. In fact, we had mini-season tickets in 2014. We saw Corey Seager and Julio Urias and Kyle Farmer before they became famous. We saw Julio’s debut game when he was just 16. My son is maybe three months older than Julio. We had casual chats with the likes of Brock Stewart and Grant Holmes.

My son also likes the Tigers, but the Dodgers are first by a long shot. Last summer when they played the Tigers three games in Detroit, we got a hotel room near Comerica Park. Both of us proudly wore our Dodgers gear to all three games, too. We’ve gone to games in Chicago (Cubs) and Cleveland. Last summer, we saw Clayton Kershaw pitch, Cody Bellinger hit two long balls, Yasiel Puig hit a homer and flip double birds to racist hecklers near home plate, and Kenley Jansen close. Bucket list. Total bucket list.

He hopes to go to some games in Chavez Ravine in the near future, too. As for me, the last time I went to a Dodgers home game was in the early 1980s. I moved out of state in 1984. I’m looking forward to going to a game in the Ravine with Elder Spawn, hopefully soon.

So, baseball is a connection with my children. It was also a connection with my parents, though a much more casual thing. During the early 80s, I still lived in L.A. County and my parents (now deceased) were fans of the Anaheim Angels. If I stopped by to visit and the Angels were playing, the game was on. Those were the days of Reggie Jackson, my father’s favorite player. I liked him, too. During the spring freeway series, my parents bought tickets for one of the games played in Anaheim and took me along. That was in ’81, ’82, and ’83. Those are fond memories.

Baseball and family seem to go together naturally for a lot of people. That’s important, it’s special, and it matters.

I said earlier that baseball is important for my health. It is one of my major stress management tools. Everyone knows stress is a killer and I’ve already had one major heart attack (the “widow maker”). Really stressed out? Go have some fun. Have a few laughs. Be with family and friends. Enjoy yourself! Be around other people. It works.

But that’s not all: I think a lot of us use baseball to distract us from very real anxieties. Current events these days scare the holy crap out of me. Countries that don’t like the US have nuclear weapons and some of them are crazy enough to use them. The economy is uncertain, the job market is changing, unemployment is a problem not only because scarcity of good jobs but workers being replaced more and more by machines.

Baseball gives me something else to think about. Distraction—not sure what I’d do without it. If I’m not watching a game, I can read about the teams, speculation about trades, and discuss anything and everything related to the game. Hello, Twitter? Yup, Dodgers Twitter can be worth it’s proverbial weight in gold.

Sublimation, or channeling energy from problematic thoughts or feelings into some pro-social activity is another helpful tool. (Note for purists: although sublimation is usually thought to be unconscious, I can use a bit of rationalization to make it work. See what I did there?)

And, while we’re at it, let’s throw some displacement in the mix, too. Letting off steam by yelling at umpires, other teams, and the like can be a fairly safe way to express hostility and get blow off some anger.

To get back to the original point, all of us follow baseball because it works for us. There may be as many different reasons for being a fan as there are people. And since we have our own unique set of reasons for being fans, since baseball fills different needs for each of us, and since we all have our own unique personalities, there is no “one way to be a fan.”

Win or lose, enjoy the game and the season in whatever way works for you. While it may be “just a game,” games can matter. If the Dodgers finish the 2018 season with 140 wins and take the World Series in four, cool! If they limp along and rack up a pathetic sum of 60 wins, also cool. It’s the journey. Express your love of baseball (or disgust, etc.) in whatever socially acceptable way suits you best. Do it your way! It’s all good.

Unless you’re a Giants fan.


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