Wednesday, October 20, 2010

A Liberal Interpretation of the Word "Teamwork"

On the news this morning at 5 AM, the camera turned onto a person waiting outside AT&T Park (is that what they are calling it these days?... It's so hard to keep up with the ever changing corporate sponsorships). Dressed head to toe in black and orange (fitting colors considering the season), he proceeded to scream "GIIIAAAAANNNTTTSSSS!!!!!!" into the camera while first pointing to his hat (which said "Giants"), then to his shirt (which said "Giants"), then back to his hat. And just when you think he's going to point at his shirt again, he puts on a large (some might say "giant") foam finger (which says "Giants") and points to the ballpark wall (which has a sign that says "Giants"). I'm not entirely sure, but I think he might have been excited about seeing the Phillies.

Oh sports fans, I adore you and your clinically insane enthusiasm. I love the fact that you have tickets for a 4:30 PM game, but show up at 5AM knowing that you'd be useless in the office since you are way too excited to do anything except proclaim your love for the team (also, the dress code doesn't allow face paint or fake beards). I love the fact that you will spend hundreds of dollars on tickets and another hundred on really ugly merchandise. And I love the fact that you have this delusion that you are on the team and speak of their accomplishments as if they were your own. This is best manifested in the way sports fans speak in a collective "we" when talking about wins ("We dug deep tonight and really played our hearts out."). Interestingly enough, the proper pronoun of "they" is used whenever the team loses ("Those bums! They played like garbage tonight!")

I know this sounds like I'm being some nebbish elitist who scorns sports. Not so. When I was a kid, I played a ton of them. Enough to know that playing sports is hard work. Really hard. Professional athletes train for years to get to the point where they can play so that it looks effortless. Do you know how far a pitcher's mound is from home plate? Or how fast 92 MPH is? Do you know how frightening it is to have a line drive flying directly at your head? These are not simple things that they do. That's why we admire them. Sure, their salaries might be on the ridiculous side (looking in your direction Yankees), but let's just ignore that.

Fact is, singing "Let's Go Giants! (clap. clap. clap clap clap)" is not the same as pulling off a double play. Waiving a towel in the air is not the same as sliding into home headfirst and angling your arm just so that you avoid the catcher's mitt but touch the base. The win doesn't belong to you. You watched it happen and you screamed your guts out, but they did the footwork.

This is not to say that the crowd is not important. It is. It forms a feedback loop which has the potential of affecting how a team performs. Happy crowds reward happy events in the hopes of leading to more happy events resulting in a deliriously happy crowd. This is done through cheering and sloppy hugs where beer is spilled on the other person's back. Unhappy audiences provide negative reinforcement hoping to break the chances of a downward spiral. This is done through unkind statements about the players' mothers and questions regarding their gender (the player's, not the mother's). And that's about as much as the audience does.

So tonight when the Giants win (yeah, that's right... when), give the athletes some credit. They won. You cheered a really good game though, and don't you forget it.