Defending the fans
Last night, Josh Beckett removed himself from the Red Sox/Tigers game in the third inning. In the rainy ballpark, his back had begun to spasm and he had walked in a run. As he walked off the mound, Beckett was showered with a rain of boos from the crowd on hand. Today, Boston.com sports reporter Pete Abraham takes these fans to task for booing an injured athlete, and reminding Sox fans of what Beckett has contributed to the team the past seven seasons.
I agree with Pete, fans should not boo Beckett or any other athlete for an injury. But, of course, that’s not why the fans were booing. They were having a collective gut reaction to an unlikeable player, one who regularly makes it known he doesn’t care what the fans think. Beckett was part of the chicken and bear brigade last year. Remember the September collapse when Beckett appeared to be out of shape and regularly provided sub-par performances when his team needed him most. When chicken-gate was outed to the public, instead of being contrite, Beckett was belligerent and seemed mostly to only care about who snitched on him. Then, earlier in this season, Beckett had to skip a start due to stiffness or some such ailment, only to have it revealed that the day before his skipped start, he was playing golf. His performances this year have been extremely inconsistent, crossing into terrible on at least a few starts. Not only that, he’s surly and he may even have contributed in a small way to the trading away of Kevin Youkilis.
So the fans booed Josh Beckett, not the injury. Not the right thing to do in the circumstance, but nevertheless understandable (don’t forget the fans were getting rained on too and they couldn’t dry off in the dugout between innings).
Pete Abraham tells us that Beckett has been an elite pitcher in the league, which we should appreciate. And we should. Although the Sox couldn’t get any of the other 29 clubs to make a trade for Beckett, so maybe he’s not as valuable as Pete implies.
But this is beside the point. Fans by definition are not logical in the way Pete asks us to be. In fact, the last thing Pete or anyone else whose living depends upon professional sports should want is rational fans. What happens to the Red Sox does not put food on my table or money in my checking account. Materially a Red Sox win is no more meaningful to me than some guy in Pecoima finding a plastic ring in his box of Cracker Jacks. Being fans costs us. It costs us money. It costs us time. It costs us heart ache, and we get nothing tangible back for our passion. Nothing but the ingratitude of the spoiled athletes who get wealthy from our fanaticism.
If we fans were rational, we would not spend hundreds of dollars taking our families to games. We wouldn’t spend precious time reading meaningless articles about meaningless athletes. We wouldn’t dole out $100 for an uncomfortable “authentic” jersey with Beckett’s name on it. We wouldn’t waste three-plus hours every evening listening to Joe Castiglione call the game on the radio.
No, fans are not rational. And if they were Pete Abraham and Josh Beckett would both be working in different fields. Because no one would go to the ballpark, no one would read the sports section. In fact, there wouldn’t be a ballpark or a sports section. What would Josh Beckett be doing if fans were rational and didn’t waste so much time and money supporting him and his team? He’d probably be selling cars or in some other occupation that would actually require him to be nice, and to care about what his customers thought of him. He’d smile and say, “thank you.” Either that, or he’d be on the bread line.
But fans are not rational. In Boston they’ve demonstrated their crazy support, spending their hard-earned money to sell out Fenway Park for over 750 games in a row.
And we really don’t ask for much. Just make us think you enjoy the game. That you appreciate us. That you understand how lucky you are to be making millions of dollars playing a game. If you do that, we’ll love you no matter what. Just ask Mike Lowell or Trot Nixon. But if you can’t be bothered to do that, then don’t be surprised if we boo.
Should Josh Beckett have been booed last night? No. But you might as well ask should the fans even have been AT the ballpark in the first place?