As the ups and downs of the 2012 season continue for the Colorado Rockies, many writers and commentators (myself included) analyze the situation by gesturing to what “the fans” want or what “the fans” think. Having been fortunate enough to attend three Rockies games this week, I was reminded of something: nobody actually knows what the fan thinks, because the idea that there is some embodiment of what every single fan believes is a fiction. We can speak from the perspective of a fan, not the fan.
On Monday night, the woman two seats to my right was truly wearing Rockies gear from head to toe. She had various Rockies buttons draped across the front of her Rockies cap. She wore a Rockies shirt, a Rockies jacket, and black Rockies flip flops. She spoke to nobody, listening to something on a set of purple ear buds instead. I do not know for sure, but I think it is a safe bet that the play-by-play as told by Jack Corrigan and Jerry Schemmel is her jam.
The gentleman a handful of seats to my left that same night wore a Rockies cap and a Michael Cuddyer jersey. Wearing the apparel of a hardcore fan, his attention was divided up roughly 50/50 between the game and some sort of drawing app on his phone. As in, he was drawing stuff by using his finger as a sort of pen on the screen of his phone. This is not to suggest that he was not paying attention to the game, because I think he still was somehow.
The woman sitting behind me that night shouted encouragement that stoked memories of Little League Baseball for me. When Marco Scutaro made an out at the plate, she shouted, “It’s OK Marco, you’ll get him next time.” After a base hit was just out of the reach of Jordan Pacheco, she assured him, “Nice try! You’ll get the next one!” I was left with the feeling that if the Rockies lost 30 straight games, she would root so hard for them to win game 31.
On Wednesday night, the fan in front of me wore a puffy Rockies jacket that was surely purchased in the 90s. She kept score in a personal score book. Down the row from her was a fan who wore a “Larry Walker MVP” sweatshirt. That’s a hardcore brand of loyalty, boys and girls.
A young fan who sat behind me at Friday night’s game was totally miffed by Jim Tracy’s batting order. My best recollection of his complaints is as follows: “I mean, how can you have Cuddyer batting 4th and Helton batting 5th? Neither of them is even hitting .300.” His adolescent friends agreed that there simply had to be better options for the heart of the lineup.
Finally, there was a fan whose thoughts seemed to be wandering as the Rockies mashed their way through 9 innings against the Dodgers. He had just completed the task of moving and is getting married in one week. Normally when he attends a game he maintains a laser focus on the action, but less so tonight. None of this was helped by the knucklehead two sections over trying to start the wave. Nobody thinks clearly or is able to focus otherwise when smoke is coming out of their ears. (Busted: this last fan was me).
Benjamin Hochman wrote an article recently for the Denver Post in which he focused on fans who attend games for the party atmosphere first and for the baseball second. He spoke with fans who state, without reservation, that a trip to Coors Field is not necessarily about the game. The inclination is to think that this describes all or even a majority of fans who attend games, but that’s simply not fair or accurate. Similarly, you would be incorrect if you assumed every fan goes and concentrates on each and every moment, every at-bat and every pitch.
Different fans are there for different reasons, and isn’t that part of the historical lure of the game in the first place? After all, the genesis of baseball fandom as we know it was the increase in leisure time that resulted from the industrial revolution. Notice that word leisure. I cannot be sure, but I’m guessing very few, if any, of those fans were keeping track of players’ advanced statistics and demanding changes to the roster. They just wanted to chill and watch some ball. Today there should be room for those kinds of fans, just like there should be room for fans who know what WAR is and can write an article arguing for the best defensive lineup based on advanced metrics.
The increase in available information should not disparage fans who just want to watch for the sake of watching, just like a group of fans who just go to games to drink beer should not stand in for all Rockies fans. We should all quit trying to lump these groups together. We should quit trying to speak for all fans. There are plenty of other ways to enjoy being a fan and to have interesting discussions about the team’s future. I wouldn’t want the student in Hochman’s article who sees Coors Field like a party to speak for me, no more than he would want me speaking for him.
This week’s winning streak might be a better sign of things to come, or the losing ways of May might indicate that the Rockies are headed for a long and depressing season. Whatever the case, it will resonate differently with different fans. That’s a good thing.