What does it take to be a good fan? Faith, hope, charity, fortitude, justice, prudence, and moderation, says John Thorn, in one of the best pieces of writing on baseball I’ve read in some time. A sample:
As players have wrung ever more money from the game — redressing a century of wage slavery — a chasm has come to separate fans from the objects of their admiration. (Players have always taken a dim view of them.) Older fans may long for a return to the days when a Brooklyn boy might bump into Gil Hodges on the streets of Bay Ridge, but they know that ballplayers have fled the lunch-bucket fraternity for good.
Younger fans, however, have taken matters into their own hands through the strange revenge of fantasy baseball, which encourages them to act like oldtime owners, holding full sway over their chattel. In turn, this view of ballplayers as mere property — rather than members of a team and champions of civic pride — has spawned a mob hauteur. For an increasing number of today’s devotees, the players are game pieces whose failure to perform to expectation triggers simmering frustration, even rage. The logorrhea of the blogs and talk radio further fuels fans’ impatience and sense of entitlement.
I share Thorn’s reservations about rotisserie baseball, though I’m not sure it’s the only (or even the primary) culprit in changing the way younger fans relate to players. That said, this essay, in its entirety, is well worth the time—it’s full of ideas, knowledge, and suave turns of phrase that let you know you’re in the hands of a true master. Another of Thorn’s finds, Washington’s Swampdoodle Grounds pictured ca. 1886, is above.