Mr. Granderson, Here’s Why Fans Boo
Like just about everyone else, I have been impressed with how Curtis Granderson handles himself. His charitable work, his inclusiveness with teammates young and old, his generosity with the media, his high energy, quick smile, upbeat tone — as a fan, it’s hard not to like the guy. One thing that particularly stands out in his interviews is his ability to mix personality with politics. Most players either avoid controversy by being steadfastly dull and obvious, or provide quality entertainment at the cost of some feather-ruffling. Since signing with the Mets, Granderson has seemed able to, at the very least, deliver the usual cliches with his own verbose flair, and occasionally he’s gone further to actually say something interesting, all without causing any stirs.
Until Thursday night.
On Thursday night, Granderson told Newsday’s Jim Baumbach:
“I’ve always wanted to know why someone would boo, because in the next second they’ll cheer. So which one is it? You like your team or dislike your team? You call yourself a fan and then you’ll boo? I understand you’re a fan, but at the same time, you aren’t playing. I can see you getting that intense as a player or have played. But if you’re just a fan and watching, enjoy the excitement of the game that is in front of you, win, lose or draw, whatever the case is.”
Some people may read this and think, “Of course. Watching sports is casual and relaxing entertainment. I like rooting for my team; I enjoy it, regardless of how they play or whether they win.”
On the other hand, it’s possible that no one will read this and think that, because the people who bother to read Mets coverage are not those kind of fans. The people who put on SNY and actually watch it instead of using it for background noise, the people who write and read blogs, the people who follow minor league prospects, the people who analyze every lineup and pitching change, the people who pay a non-trivial amount to come to Citi Field — these are the fans who have reasons to boo. We boo because we care about hustle, and good baseball, and focus, and winning. We are invested in these things. We are very disappointed when we see laziness, or obviously bad decisions, or inattention, and we are especially disappointed when those things contribute to losses. We boo because we care. We are fans because we care. You can’t ask for investment without reaction, cheers without boos, the celebration of victory without the lament of defeat.
Being a fan of a bad team in a dense market leaves no room for the front-runners and geography-based in-groups who can call themselves fans of the Yankees or Cowboys without actually caring whether a missed sign on a pick-off play costs their team a game. No one gets to feel proud of a history of victory by saying “I’m a Mets fan.” No gets to represent their turf by showing up to Citi Field and yelling, “Go New York!” Mets fans don’t have the luxury of shrugging off bad baseball, because the baseball is what we’re there for.
It’s hard for me to believe that an aware, intelligent guy like Curtis Granderson hasn’t seen this dynamic in action. To say, “I can see you getting that intense if you’re playing . . . but if you’re just a fan and watching,” is, then, pretty weak. Mr. Granderson, fans who feel like “just” a fan won’t fill your stadium and fund your paycheck. Are you genuinely not aware of this? Or is it simply that you don’t like being booed?
If you wish to make the point that booing hurts the team and you’d have a better chance of delivering the wins that your fans crave without the boos, well, feel free to enlighten us on how that works, and perhaps we’ll take heed. But this, “if you call yourself a fan, be supportive,” nonsense sounds like fandom is about blind allegiance rather than any sort of transaction. Make no mistake, it is a transaction — fans give their time and money, and expect best efforts from ownership, management, coaches and players in return. When you jog out a grounder, or throw to the wrong base, or take a huge hack in a situation that calls out for contact, or forget to cover on a steal, we are not getting our money’s worth. We are not getting the best you can give toward winning the game and sending us home happy. We don’t like it. And so we express our displeasure with boos.