Every season there is that black sheep of the team. The one that has to endure embarrassing ridicule from their own fans.
The player has to constantly listen to the collective booing throughout the ballpark. Heckling angry voices on their own turf.
When fans are upset with a particular player they have no issue letting them know. Sometimes the cruelty happens even before the struggling player steps into the batter’s box. He is supposed to be supported at his home field, instead he is viciously mocked before he even has a chance to swing the bat.
As the regular season approaches, I wonder who will be singled-out this year.
It is no question that fans will be disappointed when a player’s performance is lacking, but how does all their negativity affect the player? The distraction must make it more difficult to break out of that struggle. Then as the howling gets louder, the player becomes worse until eventually some are booed off the team.
I often think about what goes through these players minds when all of this is happening. If they want to get traded or released after being constantly rejected, or if they use the haters as motivation to prove them wrong.
When I initially started to write this post it was more in the favor of the fans. I did not want the risk of the negative comments and being basically booed off this website, but I suppose no matter what the opinion is, some people are always going to find a way to tear it down.
So this is how I really feel: I do not agree with the lack of compassion that some fans display. Not only lack of compassion, but complete disregard for good sportsmen-ship. No one is polite anymore.
I do, however, understand the fan’s point of view.
I get why the fans are so upset. They are paying good money for some fine entertainment and they want to see their team win. They are the ones buying the tickets, buying the merchandise, filling the stands, so they should be able to voice their opinions. It is their team and they have the right to be involved. That I agree with.
But what I do not agree with is the obnoxious rants coming from an enormous amount of people. The basic disrespect of others. Just because they are professional athletes does not mean they are immune to emotions. During interviews they say they shake off the negativity and focus on the game, but I think it is more like pouring salt on an open wound. Kicking them when they are down. Constantly being bullied has to play a role in their continuing struggle in the game.
This is supposed to be America’s favorite past time, not a place to be surrounded by complainers. And not a place to show children, some of them future ballplayers, how to tear somebody down.
We live in a society where every one is aware of the bullying that goes on in schools. Adults try to stop it at all costs. There are meetings about it. Articles about it. Videos about it. Adults do not want their kids bullied. So what makes it any different if it is a school or a baseball field? A child or an adult?
Do people think it is okay to harass athletes because they get paid millions of dollars? Yes, I agree if they are paid they need to be doing what they are paid for, but bullying will not make them perform any better. Just as bullying a co-worker or a fellow student will not make them suddenly change.
The players already know they are struggling.
Obviously, being booed off a team is not ideal, and if I have to find a silver lining in all of this, I will. So here is my attempt: There seems to be a pattern where after these players get away from the unforgiving environment, they thrive. It seems like a huge weight is lifted off their shoulders when they find a new team. Suddenly they remember how to make contact with the ball. They figure out how to make plays on the field. They see the ball better.
Brandon Inge, for example, was basically booed out of Detroit and not long after putting on an Oakland Athletics’ uniform he cleared the bases with a Grand Slam. His former teammate Ryan Raburn also heard the boo-birds as a Tiger, and now with the Indians he has gone yard a few times in Spring Training already.
Josh Hamilton was torn apart by Ranger fans and is now expected to be very successful as an Angel. During Nick Swisher’s last at bats as a Yankee, he was maliciously booed and is now an Indian with a new outlook. Justin Upton had some unwelcoming cheers in Arizona as a Diamondback, and now has a fresh start in Atlanta.
Why has it become the norm for fans to be hateful? This simply should not happen. Not to their own team.
I am not saying the players need their hands held, or that they need a medal and some gold stars for just showing up on the field. And I am not trying to put the blame entirely on the fans for a player underperforming. I just think that fans need to remember that ballplayers are only human. They make mistakes. They are not perfect. That is what makes a great game. If everyone was perfect at everything, every single minute of the day, I think that would be boring.
Fans should still be able to cheer and mutter disappointment or use friendly banter, but there is a time when it goes too far. This is, after all, a classy sport.
Respect the game.