Bryan Joiner

Why then I

Don’t listen to Johnny Damon

If you’re listening to Johnny Damon on any subject except barbershops in the New York area, I’m not sure I can help you, but I’m inclined to dismiss any and all of his comments about the 2011 Red Sox. The flip side of enjoying the World Series as a standalone event is that each one has its own story and texture—you don’t learn “how to win,” which should be glaringly obvious when Proven Winners Josh Beckett, Jon Lester and even, yes, John Lackey lead whatever renegade charge was fomenting under Yawkey Way. Johnny and Joe Buck may talk in platitudes, but you don’t have to, and Johnny is easy enough to ignore.

But Pete Abraham, of the Globe? “Johnny Damon, a player who knows a thing or two about winning and good team chemistry […]” I mean, really? The guy’s going to get 3,000 hits, at which point the smoke will be sufficiently blown up his behind to last a lifetime. This is him sticking his nose where it doesn’t belong in a situation where he has nothing to add to the discussion. Let’s not pretend he does.

The World Series

I’m surprisingly excited about this World Series. The Cardinals have become the Steelers of MLB—the team one half of the league sends up to represent it when it can’t come up with something better, and one that works for everybody.

The Rangers are particularly compelling because they lost last year. They lived with defeat for a year, and they go into this series knowing that if they lose, they might have that same feeling for a lifetime. They (many of them, at least) know what it’s like to deal with this particular loss, and they know as well as we do that they might never get another chance.

To which many people might say, hey, that’s nonmeasurable mumbo-jumbo, knock it off. My response is this: If we know who the best teams are by measuring, what’s the point of the playoffs? The playoffs are measuring something different, by definition, That’s why they exist. They exist to make heroes out people who don’t necessarily deserve it, which drives some people batty. To non-fans, it’s no less batty than us making heroes out of people we think DO deserve it, people like Barry Bonds, Ted Williams and Don Mattingly, who never won championships, nor invented the Polio vaccine. (Salk was a lousy shortstop.)

The celebration of one group of ballplayers does not have to be a repudiation of the other, and it’s not a stab to the heart of cold truth to celebrate the World Series champions for having accomplished something great. “The test of a first rate intelligence is the ability to hold two opposed ideas in the mind at the same time, and still retain the ability to function,” said F. Scott Fitzy, and that’s something to remember when the games are played.

I’m sort of beating a straw man here, but I’ve spent enough of my life tearing down artificial constructs like the World Series, and now I’m interested in why we need them, and how they work. It makes everything more fun, for me.

Sports need fans, continued

A few more thoughts on Chris Jones’s Grantland headscratcher:

• Either rooting for a sports team is an inherently silly enterprise or it isn’t—that’s your judgment call. I say that it’s not, and I say that is only by the collective decision of myself and others that it’s not that the Boston Red Sox continue to exist. If we all disappeared tomorrow and John Henry still roamed the Earth, the Red Sox would no longer be a viable business enterprise. We are, in a sense, the real owners of the team, with our NESN surcharges and MLB.tv subscriptions. Breaking the experience of a fan down into its discrete elements, and evaluating them logically, will lead you straight to volunteering at a health clinic in sub-Saharan Africa. (If you would like to do this, by all means go, and you are a wonderful person.) For the 99.9 percent of us who live in a world where we acknowledge that hardships are relative, and life can be tough enough as it is, including ourselves in team experience is neither conspiratorial nor grandiose—it’s just reflecting the reality of the situation. Can it be annoying? Sure, but it’s a key draw for why people become fans in the first place.

• Using the Marlins as an example would seem to be the exception that proves the rule. The Marlins are only able to exist because the Yankees, Red Sox, et al have so many fans that there’s spillover cash. If anything, this would give Yankees fans an opportunity to call two teams “we,” instead of zero.

• It just seems like it’s buzzkill for the sake of buzzkill, and preaching to a choir instead of trying to make any real argument.

I understand that tearing Grantland down is easier than putting it up, so I’m trying to be nice about this (for once), but jeezo peezo, as Frowns would say.

In which Chris Jones gets something very wrong

From Grantland:

“I’ll tell you what you call a team without fans: the Florida Marlins. AND THEY STILL EXIST. They’re still watched over by their evil, small-footed owners, and they still put on their terrible, freshly laundered uniforms, and they’re still managed and coached, sort of, and they still go out on their nicely kept field to play every last one of their scheduled, mostly meaningless games. None of their day-to-day functioning actually requires fans. Sure, they might require your money somewhere down the road — if they can’t siphon enough from the New York Yankees, that is — but they don’t actually require you.”

For a more fundamental misunderstanding of how sports work, see Memphis Grizzlies vs. The Trade Deadline.