Monday, June 19, 2006

Fenway South

I was fortunate enough to attend Friday's Boston-Atlanta game at Turner Field, and if you had moved in the left field wall some 50 yards and jacked it up a bit, you would've sworn you were in Fenway Park.

Not only were the Red Sox fans distinctly louder throughout the series (except for a brief moment following Jeff Francouer's home run in the seventh inning of last night's game ... and the place settled down after a six-run eighth inning with two outs for the Red Sox), but the Braves fans seemed downright lethargic.

I know you're stuck in a slump unseen since the days of Andres Thomas, losing 17 out of the past 20 games and falling into last place in the National League East, 14 games back from the Mets, but still ... show like you care a little bit, will you?

"It sucks. It's very irritating. I've never experienced anything like that. I'm in my own place, and I hear all these 'Let's Go Red Sox' chants. It just kills you in the outfield when they're cheering against you in your own home park. The Red Sox are getting louder cheers than we are."
- Atlanta outfielder Jeff Francouer

BTW, if I had audio of this, I might make it my cell phone ring.

The Red Sox sweeping the Braves, particularly after Francouer thought he had singlehandedly saved the day, almost makes up for Phil Mickelson's collapse at No. 18 in the U.S. Open.



Blogger hillary said...

I'm going to try to remain unemotional here and point out that it's not a recent problem. Fact is, Atlanta has a large transplant population, and many of them also choose to jump on various bandwagons.

7:26 AM  
Blogger GP said...

Most of the Red Sox fans that I know in Georgia are extremely irritating. Not because they support their team, but because the Sox aren't really their team at all. Living in Boston as a child, my earliest memories of baseball were at Fenway park. I used to love the Sox, however, having lived in Georgia for the past 15 years, I've become a die hard Braves fan. The vast majority of Red Sox fans in the state(Cubs and Yankees fans to a lesser extent) are not from New England and jumped on the bandwagon during the '04 playoffs. Everyone loves a winner and the "fans" that came out of the woodwork in that series wanted to be part of the magic. I used to love the Sox and will still root for them when they are playing any team but Atlanta. Unfortunately, the Red Sox bandwagon that the false fans of the south have jumped on makes me like the Red Sox just a little less.

10:11 AM  
Blogger ctrosecrans said...

who woulda thought that monty would have the second-biggest choke of the day?

and, well, georgia tech third :D

2:11 PM  
Blogger Jmac said...

I'd say the bandwagon problem also sweeps down to the Braves as well. I only know of few people - for instance, Xon and Hillary - who were fans before 1991. The problem is that 2004 is more recent in memory than 1991, and you've got a generation of 14- to 20- year-olds who are legitimate Braves fans. Many folks in their later 20s and on, however, I'd argue jumped on the bandwagon back in the day.

For Boston fans, the bandwagon ones that is, they jumped on in 2004 during the postseason run. I, of course, remember the days of Dwight Evans.

Plus, more than the Braves, the Red Sox - like the Yankees, Cubs, White Sox and Dodgers - have more a national appeal because of their history. So you're more likely to find a pseudo-Boston fan (or New York-fan) in somewhere like Topeka than you would, say, a Braves fan.

But what makes a bandwagon fan? Why wouldn't you be considered a bandwagon fan? You moved down here, found a connection with a successful team and now love them. Is their a bandwagon fan for those who like, say, the Devil Rays? If someone became a Devil Rays fan tomorrow because they love Carl Crawford and sub-.500 baseball, and then stuck with them for the rest of their lives, would we say 'oh, now you're jumping on the bandwagon?'

Doesn't something have to trigger than special connection to the team? For some it's a winning season where one gets caught up in the passion of a pennant race. For others it's a geographical move. For others, perhaps it's a trip to the ballpark.

3:06 PM  
Blogger hillary said...

I believe the definition of a bandwagon fan is one who hops off as well as on, depending on the fortunes of the team. It's not that the Braves don't have them. It's just that, well, they're my team. Also, they get a lot of shit from others (friends, media) for the behavior of those fans.

If you've been married to the same lady for 14 years, is the passion as strong as it was the first day? It doesn't mean the love's not there. It's just mellowed.

3:28 PM  
Blogger GP said...

I'm not saying that someone is not a true Sox fan unless they know who Dewey Evans, Jim Rice, Marty Barrett etc. are. One can be a true fan of any team regardless of whether that team wins or loses or where they live. My problem is with fans who wear their Red Sox garb, yell "yankees suck" at every opportunity, and can't name more than 5 people on the roster. They don't watch more than half a dozen games each year, but will transform themselves into rabid fans when the Sox come to town. The same can probably be said for Braves, Cubs, Yankees, and Dodgers fans in other parts of the country. If someone likes the Red Sox, that's great. Unfortunately, it seems to me that a lot of folks are fans for fashion.

3:32 PM  
Blogger hillary said...

My problem is just with assholes.

3:45 PM  
Blogger Jmac said...

This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

4:13 PM  
Blogger Jmac said...

Marty Barrett. Good call.

Well, yeah, I don't think I disagree with you in that there are fashionable fans for all sorts of teams - and the Red Sox are fresh in the mind because of, well, 2004 and the recent series this weekend. If the fans fall off the bandwagon when the team starts to lose, then yeah, they're not really true fans.

(Though I should make an important caveat in this discussion - my father refuses to watch Georgia when they lose ... not because he all of a sudden hates the team, but rather he literally can't stand to watch them do poorly. So you've got some fans who aren't technically of the bandwagon type, but inadvertantly display bandwagon qualities.)

But Hillary makes a good point - obnoxious fans abound everywhere. I've been to plenty of Georgia events where I've seen loud and lousy Bulldog fans.

As another aside, I've found a good way to gauge someone's loyalty to the Red Sox fans is by seeing how much blame they lay on Bill Buckner. True Red Sox fans know Calvin Schiraldi and Bob Stanley are just as responsible, if not more so for the debacle in Game Six of the 1986 World Series. That was my primary problem with Fever Pitch, which I actually enjoyed as a movie - it put all of the blame squarely on Buckner's shoulders.

4:13 PM  
Blogger Xon said...

JMac, I agree that it doesn't do a lot of good to blame people for being "bandwagon" fans when they move to a new place and start following that team, etc. In fact, I'm not particularly interested in pointing fingers at "bandwagon" fans at all.

What bothered me about your post is not that you root for the Red Sox, even though you were born and raised in Georgia and once said in 7th grade (early 1991 season when the Braves started off like 2-1 and we everyone was joking that this year would be different) that you had a dream that the Braves would win the World Series and Jeff Treadway was going to be the MVP. This is all fine and dandy with me. When I was in fifth grade (1988), and the Braves were forsakenly awful, I decided to root for the Mets in their race with the Pirates for the NL East, and then in the NLCS against the Dodgers. But I was still a Braves fan, first and foremost. If they decided to be good, nothing would have excited me more.

So I have no problem with becoming a Boston fan. But what shocked me in your post was the way you took delight in the suffering of the Braves. It is one thing to embrace a new team, but it is something different to shun the old one.

You carpetbagger.

1:52 AM  
Blogger Jmac said...

I was a huge Jeff Treadway fan (to the point that this past Masters, my uncle had a client come in town for the tournament was named Jeff Treadway, and I spent the entire afternoon staring at him to see if it was possibly him ... sadly it was not), and I distinctly remember that dream.

As I think I've written before, much of my allegiance to the Braves stemmed from the geographical location of myself and the team. They were the team in Georgia and, thanks to TBS, they were always on the air.

But, growing up as a child, Atlanta was not a good team and Boston, for at least 1985 and 1986, fielded pretty good squads. With family from New England, and knowing that most of them were Red Sox fans (aside from my grandfather, he loved the Yankees ... shudder), I developed a strong fondness for Boston.

And this wasn't linked solely to baseball, as I also had a peculiar affection for the New England Patriots ... I recall being the only kid at the bus stop pulling for the Patriots in Super Bowl XX against the Bears.

I would have said I was a Boston fan first with the Braves a close second in the 1980s (I also remember wearing a 'Braves. Just do it.' T-shirt in 1990).

So my allegiances have been torn for most of my life, but when the worst-to-first season rolled around, it was impossible to not get caught up in the magic of that run. With the Red Sox being hundreds of miles away and rarely on TV, and the drama of the runs of 1991, 1992 and 1993 - along with close friends like you who also were wrapped up in the magic of those early years - my dedication shifted to Atlanta and Boston was pushed to the back of my mind.

And then two things happened ...

1. The Red Sox acquired Pedro Martinez;

2. Jim Leyritz hit that home run in Game Four of the 1996 World Series;

When Boston picked up, literally, the best pitcher alive it reignited those lost passions. Coupled with that was the heartbreak from the '96 World Series, and I determined if I was going to be heartbroken, it might as well come from a team whose reputation is built on squashing its fan base's hopes and dreams.

Perhaps that's a bit cynical, but that's also not the entire story. Like my mother - who was a huge Braves fan in the early years (crying at each final out) - I get attached to particular players and the resulting chemistry of particular teams. It was difficult not to like those early Braves teams, and that made it that much more easier to love them (seriously ... Sid Bream).

My mother swore them off when Terry Pendleton was let go, and I don't think she's ever warmed up to Chipper Jones.

So the later years, up until now, have seen Braves teams that I simply don't connect with. I don't care for Chipper Jones. I don't really like Jeff Francouer. Same goes for Marcus Giles. Nothing against them personally, but as a fan you like some and you aren't as crazy about others I suppose.

Boston, however, has fielded teams I absolutely loved (and perhaps that's because my true allegiance woke up, rekindling the days of my collecting Jim Rice and Dwight Evans baseball cards). Truth be told, when the Red Sox decided not to sign either Derek Lowe or Orlando Cabrera or Dave Roberts after 2004, I was pretty bummed out (I saw Pedro's departure coming, and Damon hurt ... but he did go to the Yankees, so there's that).

And I am crazy about this year's team (I'm a big Kevin Youkilis fan). That isn't to say if the Red Sox unloaded their rosters and brought up the Nationals' Class AA team, I'd dislike them. I think my loyalty to them as a fan goes much deeper than what it does for the Braves, and that just came into clarity in the mid-1990s when the early '90s Atlanta squads began to be broken up.

I'd still rank the Braves my second favorite team, and if Boston can't do it, I'd want Atlanta to.

And also ... I wanted to have some fun with Hillary.

7:29 AM  
Blogger Jmac said...

Another thing ... we became friends in 1990-1991, and I think everyone wanted to prove they weren't bandwagon fans for the Braves, when in reality, like, 75 percent of them were.

I wasn't a complete bandwagon fan, but I wanted to prove that I was legit.

7:31 AM  
Blogger hillary said...

I get attached to particular players and the resulting chemistry of particular teams.

Ugh. This is not how it works, dude.

Or rather, it is, but it's not right.

And what it leads to, when applied, is pain.

But life is pain in a lot of ways. Hence the baseball love.

One of the things I've always appreciated about Atlanta as a team is that they take a long view. It's not all living and dying with every game. That's healthier, I think.

This year really sucks.

8:52 AM  
Blogger Jmac said...

Well, right, which I pointed out was revealed when the Braves team of the early 1990s was dismantled. I didn't have the type of allegiance to them as I suppose I thought I had.

My commitment to the Red Sox, however, hasn't wavered, despite the fact that several players I've loved - such as Orlando Cabrera - have moved on. I have a connection to that particular organization, regardless of who's playing.

11:06 AM  
Blogger ctrosecrans said...

this post makes me kinda leary about going to next week's royals games at great american ball park... i mean, hell, i'm going to be the real royals fan there. the rest are just bandwagon fans. they're just there because all the kids at school think elmer dessens is cool. shit, i was a royals fan long before elmer dessnes was in blue. bastards. but i'm gonna be keepin' it real in my powder blue jersey. fuckin' bandwagon royals fans are going to be all over the place, but everyone will know that i'm a real royals fan. fuck those frontrunners.

3:23 PM  
Blogger Jmac said...

I think we all know the destination of the bandwagon those Royals fans are on.

4:16 PM  

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