“Fans” vs. Fans

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As a native San Franciscan and lover of the great sport of baseball, there’s nothing I’ve hated more since March 31, 2000 than Giants “fans”.

Giants “fans” are the absolute worst.

They’re worse than high ticket prices.
They’re worse than the lines for public transit after games.
They’re worse than torture.

So, what exactly is the difference between a “fan” and a fan?

A “fan” is at the absolute bottom of the sports viewer totem pole, even lower than fair weather fans and bandwagon hoppers. At least fair weather fans need to somewhat follow a team to know when they’re good and bandwagon fans need enough awareness of sports news to make sure their favorite team is the one who won the title. “Fans” don’t even put forth this minimal effort.

I’m sure every major sports team in the world has their fair share of “fans”. But when PacBell Park (then SBC Park & now AT&T Park) opened, they came out of the woodwork faster than a Robb Nen fastball. These “fans” didn’t really like the Giants. Hell, they didn’t even like baseball or know anything about it. They were there because it was cool, because their company owned a box, they were with a sales rep, they were on a date, or more in more recent years, they wanted a photo of them holding garlic fries on Facebook and Instagram.

I can’t fully blame them. It’s easy being a “fan”. You don’t have to learn anything. All of you have to do is show up, enjoy some good ballpark food, drink a few beers, and if it was between 2000 and 2007, pay attention to what’s happening on the field 4 to 5 times a game when Barry Bonds was up. But just because it’s easy to be a “fan”, doesn’t mean it’s acceptable.

There’s something special about catching a ball game in person. Baseball’s the only major spectator sport without a time limit. As real fans, we dedicate hours of our days to our team, the experience of being there and the people we share that experience with. And nothing ruins that more than sitting next to, or near “fans”.

I’ll never forget a game in 2011 when the number of “fans” multiplied after the Giants won their first World Series in San Francisco. The row in front of me was empty for the first 3 innings and I was enjoying the extra legroom. In the 4th Inning, a group of hipster “fans” finally decided to show up and take their seats, but I’m not sure why they bothered. Instead of paying any attention to the game, they talked about random clubs and DJs. One of them even fell asleep before the end the of the inning.

The only time they all focused on something the Giants were doing was during the 7th Inning stretch when Giants’ entertainment team decided to use LMFAO’s Party Rock during the Dance Cam segment. The sleeping “fan” instantly woke up and joined his friends in a spirited session of shuffling. When the 8th Inning started, the “fans” went back to their previous activities before leaving in the bottom half of the 8th.

Again, I can’t fully blame the “fan” for falling asleep, waking up for LMFAO and then falling asleep again. The glory days of the “fan” (the home run years) were over. The Bonds Show was over. Our middle infielders weren’t hitting for power like Kent and Aurilia. So without the obvious and dramatic home run, how was the “fan” supposed to pretend to participate?

The time between Bonds and the 2010 championship team was nice. The Giants weren’t bad, but they were bad enough for the “fans”, fair weather fans and bandwagon hoppers to find other places to spend their time. It was easier and cheaper for the rest of us to get tickets and enjoy the game.

Then, without any perennial power hitters, the Giants won a second World Series title in three years. That’s pretty impressive. But, what’s most impressive about this current run is that the Giants have been good enough to turn some of the “fans” into fans.

Scoring a minimal amount of runs has forced “fans” to find other things to occasionally cheer for other than Splash Hits. They found themselves looking for strikeouts, double plays, well-placed bunts, shoestring catches, triples, stolen bases and saves. But because these events are easy to miss, “fans” have had to pay closer attention to the games and learn about its nuances. And with many of the names in the lineup in 2012 different from those in 2010, they’ve also been forced to learn a new set of names to cheer for.

While I do hate that ticket prices are at an all-time high, Fan Fest is full of people from the far reaches of the Bay Area–you can’t walk to work between April and October without swimming through a sea of Giants hats that look like they were purchased the night before–I do like that our city has finally turned into a great baseball city instead of a city with a great baseball show.

 

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