What makes a sports fan spoiled? Or rather, which sports fans are generally spoiled? I’ve been asking myself these questions recently, thanks in large part to the sudden proliferation of San Francisco Giants fans that have appeared at the beginning of this baseball season, in which the Giants will try to defend their World Series title.
Giants fans are popping up everywhere these days. Everyone seems to be a Giants fan. People who just moved the Bay Area, people who don’t know the rules of baseball and even some Oakland A’s fans are all touting the defending world champions as heroes. And many of the Giants fans that predated the World Series championship have become entirely incorrigible. They are miserable to talk baseball with, as every conversation turns back to either some reminder that yes, the Giants won the 2010 World Series, some comment about how Brandon Belt or some other Giant prospect is the second coming of Babe Ruth or their own man-crush on Tim Lincecum or Brian Wilson and his beard.
During my first four years at Stanford, I passively rooted for the Giants. Now this year I’m getting close to actively rooting against the Giants, simply because of those fans–but is that fair?
I’m a New York Yankees fan. In my lifetime, the Yankees have won five World Series championships, including the World Series immediately prior to the Giants’ championship. Maybe I’m missing something, or maybe I’m naïve, but I really don’t believe that Yankees fans’ reactions to their championships were as intolerable. There is an “act like you’ve been there before” attitude.
This is actually not meant as a criticism of Giants fans or Yankees fans. It is just a discussion of the mindset of fans of different teams. Are Yankees fans spoiled because their team has won 27 titles? Probably. Is that a good thing? I think it depends on what you consider “good.” I hope the Yankees win the World Series every season, but even if they did, each one would still be as sweet.
The Giants, on the other hand, hadn’t won a World Series since 1954 when they still played in New York, so perhaps their fans’ enthusiasm, even if it is often obnoxious, is justified pleasure.
Going back to the initial question, who is spoiled? I think a good way to look at this is by city. Bay Area sports fans aren’t spoiled whatsoever. In fact, prior to the Giants World Series championship, professional teams in the Bay Area had been decidedly mediocre for some time (the exception being the San Jose Sharks, who have been good, but have combusted in the playoffs year after year).
New York fans are another story. New York is a pretty good place to be a sports fan, but I wouldn’t say New York fans are spoiled. The Yankees are a heck of a team to root for–but somehow this year is the first time since 1997 that both the New York Rangers and New York Knicks are in the playoffs at the same time. Both have been overspending and underperforming for years. Yes, the New York Giants and New York Jets are normally pretty good, but they are by no means the class of the league.
So what other cities have strong cases to be called spoiled children? Philadelphia and Boston come to mind. In recent years the Phillies, Flyers and Eagles have all been near the top of their respective leagues, while the Sixers remain competitive. Boston, ever since the Red Sox won the 2004 World Series, has had an embarrassment of riches with the Patriots, Bruins and Celtics all competing for championships alongside their peers on the baseball diamond.
On the other hand, what cities have the toughest luck when it comes to sports? I know there are lots of bitter fans lining up to be on this list. Obviously Cleveland immediately comes to mind. The Browns are consistently very bad, the Indians have been bad for a while now, the city doesn’t have a hockey team and you may have heard that some guy named LeBron James threw a knife in Cleveland’s back on his way out of town to Miami, burying the Cavaliers.
Life is bad elsewhere, however. I wouldn’t want to be a sports fan in Seattle. “Sure, the Cleveland Cavaliers stink,” Seattle fans would say–but at least they have a team! The Supersonics were jettisoned to Oklahoma City a few years ago, and the city’s two remaining franchises, the Seahawks and the Mariners, are both substandard. Kansas City fans can’t be too happy either. Kansas City has two teams: the Royals, who haven’t been to the playoffs since 1985, and the Chiefs, who haven’t won a playoff game since January of 1994.
What’s the moral of the story? If you ask me, sports fans will always want more, but in most cases things can be a lot worse.
Daniel Bohm neglected to mention the other, forgotten half of New York baseball fans. Remind him of the Mets at bohmd “at” stanford.edu.