Hating the Hater, Not the Game

Something has changed. Something is different. Given the general snail’s pace in which societies move, I’m fairly certain the change has happened in me. My engagements, interactions, and communications within the baseball community have mutated. More specifically, they have been truncated – lessened through a conscious effort. I don’t watch the game like I used to. I don’t talk about it like I used to. And, honestly, I’m enjoying it way more than I used to.

My father is a baseball fan, at least until the Packers start playing. He’s a fairly big fan, watching all the Brewers games he can. He watches other teams, too. He likes certain players and likes to watch them play. We’ve had in-game text message chats during the postseason this year. He pays attention. He is also the type of guy that thinks RBI is an important statistic. He’s not dull, that’s just the way he grew up. People cared about those things 40 years ago, and so he does too.

However, the last time I was visiting, we had a discussion about pitcher wins. We must have been talking about Zack Greinke because he loves Zack Greinke. The rest of the details aren’t coming to me. But we had a sincere, honest discussion about the importance of pitcher wins. He laid out his case and I laid out mind. And he actually started to come around. He listened and absorbed what I was saying, and contemplated it with an open mind. I don’t know, nor care really, if he believes in the uselessness of the stat to the extent that I do, but I don’t care. I don’t care if he thought I was full of it. This wasn’t about winning the argument. He listened and responded and discussed. There was discourse. I can’t fully explain how refreshing it was.

I have come to the very sad realization that the more I try to engage with baseball people, the less I wish I had. I tried to engage more on social media (at least by following more people) and by reading more articles and books. Some of it has been absolutely fantastic. I have learned a lot, added many sites to my bookmarks, and have even made some friends in the process. Opportunities to write and be creative have come to me, and I could not be more grateful for that.

But much of it – SO much of it – has been, for the lack of a better term, exhausting. MVP debates, managerial decisions, and front-office moves have been the fodder for my timeline for a very long time. When things like this come up, it becomes easy to tell the difference between people interested in conversation and people on a mission to prove they are right. I’ve un-followed a lot of the latter. I’ve deleted sites from my bookmarks. I honestly can’t take the bickering any more. Obviously this kind of thing can be part of what makes baseball fun for some people, but I’m removing myself from it. I don’t find it fun, I don’t find it productive, and it’s kind of ruining the game I love.

I am not advocating a radio silence of discourse and criticism. That would be silly. But it is also silly to needle each other back and forth not for the betterment of understanding, but to prove that you are smart/right/better/etc. I’ll admit that in the past, I’ve taken part in this kind of behavior, on the very pages of this site, no less. Perhaps it was in an attempt to prove my worth, to prove that I’m cool, essentially. No more.

What I want to advocate is a more civil arena for discussion. Let’s try and have real conversations. Let’s walk away from a culture that deals in snark, and toward one that actually betters our comprehension of the game we love. Let’s refrain from calling managers and GMs idiots, simply because our understanding of the game differs from theirs. Let’s cut out the public shaming of people. Let’s quit pretending we’ve learned everything there is to learn, and that we possess all the necessary knowledge. I want to talk. I want to learn. I want to have funny, off-the-cuff, whimsy discussions. I want to be creative, not destructive. I want to be told when people think I’m wrong, and for what reason. I’m not so thin-skinned that I can’t take criticism or accept alternative ways of thinking. If people want to make a point, I’ll do my best to be open-minded. How else will I learn anything?

Look, there will always be sports fans that are, let’s say, the worst (warning: contains very terrible language). There will be no changing that. But if we consider ourselves discerning fans, to understand and appreciate the game on some sort of higher level, don’t we owe it to ourselves to try and act civil? Have your bar debates, reply to each other on Twitter, but try and do it without raising your voices or rolling your eyes (real or digital). Avoid name calling. Remember that you have a common love.

I fully realize that this may come off as soft, non-confrontational, touchy-feely fluff. It’s not my intention, but re-reading what I’ve written, I can see how people would see it that way. This isn’t some hands-across-America call for nothing but peace and love. I want arguments and debates. This is how things are learned and discovered. I implore people to keep searching for answers, because there are certainly more out there. I encourage people to challenge norms preconceptions. This is what gives life meaning. This is how we grow.

Given my age, race, location, and overall lifestyle choices, I figure I have about 50 more years to live. I’m going to spend a lot of that time watching and thinking about baseball. I’ll make posts, some silly, some serious. I’ll cheer and curse my favorite team. When that team inevitably misses the playoffs, I’ll cheer and curse my adopted underdog team. I’ll play fantasy and simulation leagues. One of these years, I’m going to make it to Spring Training. I hope to catch games in other cities. I’m going to learn so much from people I know, and people no one has heard of yet. I’m going to find flaws in my way of thinking, and have my mind changed a dozen times over. I’m looking forward to all of this, because I love baseball. I’m not going to engage in stuff that negatively affects that love anymore. It’s just not worth it.