So I’m a big sports fan, which isn’t something I’ve written about all that much, although I was once really excited about starting a feminist sports blog. (That is still a thing that would be awesome to do. I’m even still sitting on the WordPress name. I am just awful at organization.) I think part of the reason I don’t write much about my love for sports is that it can be tough to be a female sports fan, especially if you’re also a fan of women’s athletics. Mainstream sports media dudes are, by and large, dudes, and their treatment of women’s sports (and women in sports journalism) runs the gamut from total ignorance to dismissal to super gross sexism.
But that’s not actually what I want to talk about in this post. Instead, let’s think about fandom, and taunting, and young Wil Myers.
I’m a semi-rabid Red Sox fan. What I mean by that is that I can’t recite statistics, but if you wear a balloon animal hat in the row in front of me I will probably bite you. I was always a casual baseball fan growing up because my state didn’t have its own team, and I couldn’t relate to any of the closer pro clubs; Oregonians are born with a distaste for everything from, and the Mariners have never made it to the World Series (which was the only baseball I could ever hope to see on TV as a kid). We did briefly have the Southern Oregon A’s (later, and unfortunately, the Souther Oregon Timberjacks), a super fun summer reading incentive, but I didn’t have the chance to watch any professional baseball until I moved to Boston for college.
Let me also clarify that I did not immediately become a Red Sox fan. While I understand that the Sox brand is about more than the sport–many people wear the hat, in particular, to broadcast the fact that they love Boston, just as many people wear Yankees hats to broadcast the fact that they are assholes–I have always found it a little distasteful when people move to Boston and immediately buy up all the Boston gear they can find. I also think it’s a little dumb to wear baseball gear if you’re not actually a baseball fan, but whatever, I’m not in charge of the world’s fashion decisions, much as it pains me.
Despite the fact that the Sox won their two World Series titles of the 21st century at precisely the time when it might have made sense for me to hop on the fan wagon–while I was a college student, and almost immediately after I graduated–I waited until I could make a passable stab at naming half the lineup before I even contemplated buying a hat. (Actually, all of my Sox hats have been gifted to me, which is lovely.) I would catch a few innings here and there at bars and restaurants, read the odd Sox-related piece in the Globe, and then I was lucky enough to get my hands on tickets to a couple of games, and I was totally hooked.
Fenway, to me, is a sublime place. Had I the means and the opportunity to possess season tickets, I would cherish them. I believe there’s no bad seat in the house (and yes, I’ve sat in obstructed view seats), although I’m particularly partial to the bleachers. When I moved into my own apartment for the first time, I bought cable for the express purpose of watching Sox games on NESN, but there’s absolutely nothing that compares to being there in person.
My fandom has ramped up over the past few years. I was crushed when we (yes, we) collapsed in 2011, particularly because I had gotten my hands on a pair of post-season tickets that turned into melancholy bookmarks. I’ve gone to more and more games each year, and now I’ve developed a perhaps unhealthy relationship with WEEI. It was in listening to my beloved sports talk radio that I heard about Pirates fans supposedly rattling Reds starting pitcher Johnny Cueto–chanting his name, perhaps getting him to drop a pitch. Could the Red Sox, our radio hosts mused, enjoy a similar situation in game one of the ALDS?
I thought about it, and at the time I had trouble imagining it. I’d never really experienced Fenway fans targeting an opposing player. Sure, we’d boo individual plays, and you do occasionally hear some creative epithets directed A-Rod’s way (my personal favorite: the lone dude several years ago who progressed from A-Fraud to A-Roid to A-Hole), but Sox fans at their most vocal tend to rally around our own players, not the opposing team. I miss howling for Youk, and I love when Let’s Go Red Sox changes to Let’s Go Papi.
So imagine my surprise when, in my happily dry grandstand seats, I got to witness the birth of the Wil Myers chant.
I want to mention that I pride myself on sportsmanship when it comes to high school athletics, and in general have never enjoyed what I consider mean-spirited chants (It’s All Over, SIF, etc.), although I feel better about the clever ones (That’s all right! That’s okay! You’ll all work for us one day!). But this is where the rapid part of my Sox fandom comes out–when I get to Fenway, all bets are off.
I seemed to be in the minority of spectators who really appreciated that classy Green Monster fan throwing back Rodriguez’s home run ball, but this is a principle I stand firmly behind, just as I will never participate in the wave when the Sox are losing. (I’m not a big fan of the wave ever, but when we’re losing? You are really going to need to get off my lawn.) When Myers inexplicably backed off of what looked like a very catchable Ortiz hit, I joined most of the park in pointing and laughing, but I didn’t think it would develop a life of its own.
I lost count of the number of times the whole ballpark–not just the fans in right field–taunted Wil Myers with his own last name. It started every time he came to the plate, but also inexplicably popped back up at other times when he was in the field. Sox got a hit? Myyyy-ers. Start of a new inning? Myyyy-ers. Sox fans even kept it up for the second game, although from what I could tell watching on TV things were a bit more subdued.
Rays manager Joe Maddon told Myers to just keep a smile on his face, and he did–TBS took just as much delight at catching him grinning in the outfield as they did in constantly replaying his blunder.
What’s the point of this now rather lengthy post? I’m greatly enjoying my experience with the post-season this year–I was fortunate enough to get tickets to the ALCS game 1 as well–but the whole thing with Myers has left a bit of a sour taste in my mouth. I’m not proud of myself for joining in the chants, although at the time it seemed like it was all in good fun (and, indeed, it is very easy to get caught up in something when you’re joined by 30,000 other screaming fans). There are athletes I strongly dislike because of their off-field behavior (Ben Rothlisberger, Kobe Bryant) or use of performance-enhancing drugs (Rodriguez), and there are players I strongly dislike because their egos just rub me the wrong way (LeBron James). But to target a player because of an in-game mistake just seems… wrong.
What about you, dear reader? Do you participate in sports heckling? Are there cheers or rituals you refuse to perpetuate, even if you’re a lone dissenting voice among the thousands?