Why All the Hate?

This is an all-to-familiar chant heard not just in San Francisco. (via slgckgc)

This is an all-too-familiar chant heard not just in San Francisco. (via slgckgc)

During the postseason, with each game carrying ever-greater significance, it can be understandable why fans of a particular team take increased pleasure from the failures of their opponents. If the other team is doing poorly, your team is doing well. So screw those other guys, I want my boys to kick their butts.

If you’re a Kansas City fan during the 2015 World Series, you likely want New York to stumble, fumble, and bumble its way into a 30-year championship drought. And if you’re a Mets rooter, you want your team to decimate the Royals on the way to a ticker-tape parade through the Canyon of Heroes.

But what about fans of the other 28 teams? Whom are your rooting for? Or, more importantly, whom are you rooting against? Because it seems for many fans, the team you cheer for is only a skosh more significant than the team – or teams – you vilify.

(Before I go on, full disclosure requires me to identify myself as a St. Louis Cardinals fan. Yes, I can hear your groaning. No, I don’t consider myself one of the “Best Fans in Baseball.” Every fan base has its share of good-natured rooters as well as its share of morans. I’m just a guy with some thoughts to share. I’m not representative of some larger group.)

If you cheer for the Yankees, odds are slim you’re currently pulling for New York’s other franchise. Ditto those living in Philadelphia, Washington, D.C., Atlanta and Miami. And folks in Minnesota, Cleveland, Detroit or Chicago’s South Side – and even in eastern Missouri – are unlikely to be rooting too hard for KC. Sure, lots of fans root for “their” league if their team isn’t in the playoffs, but division and regional rivalries often overwhelm DH-versus-no-DH allegiances.

I suppose the question isn’t so much, why do people root against other teams, but why do they do it so fervently? Booing the opposition is a long-standing tradition in all sports, and naturally an event that hurts your team will evoke a negative reaction. But when – and why – does good-natured jocularity turn into full-blown antagonism?

Is throwing a home run ball back onto the field of play acceptable? I would say this activity, which seemingly has its origins at the Friendly Confines of Wrigley Field, is fine, though I can’t imagine why someone would toss a home run ball back. Millions of fans go to games each year, and only a small percentage of them get a ball as a souvenir, let alone one that has been blasted over the outfield wall. I wouldn’t care if it was hit by my least favorite player on my least favorite team; I’m not chucking it back onto the outfield grass. At the very least, give it to a kid who roots for that team.

At what point do verbal barbs directed at the opposition go too far? Certainly, alcohol often plays a part in these loose-lipped diatribes, but sometimes people are just naturally venomous. Giving a player grief over an error or an 0-for-5 the game before is part of the give and take between players and fans, but when the comments get personal (such as insulting family members) or the language gets too salty (remember, there are kids at the games), the line of civility has been crossed. One would hope people have the decency – and creativity – to come up with clever jibes that are merely playful and not crude.

Of course, there are the absurd situations in that long-time rivalry between the New York Yankees and Boston Red Sox that simply defy explanation. Television networks remind us every time these teams face each other it’s the greatest rivalry in sports, but perhaps nothing serves as greater evidence of the unfettered loathing these fan bases feel for each other than the fact that Boston fans will start a chant of “Yankees Suck” … in the middle of a Red Sox-Orioles game … in Baltimore!

And then we get to the physical, which is a clear line of demarcation between civility and insanity. For example, when fans get so wrapped up in a simple game, they’ll fling batteries at the guys wearing different colored clothes. Never mind that, as Seinfeld points out in that link, some of those guys in different colored laundry were wearing your team’s laundry the year before. In fact, those are some of guys who get the most abuse.

When confrontation gets way out of hand, you get situations like what happened with Bryan Stow, the San Francisco Giants fan who was savagely beaten by two Dodgers fans in the Dodger Stadium parking lot in 2011. Sadly, events like this have been repeated in the ensuing years. Of course, there are numerous less-publicized skirmishes every year, shows of bravado and stupidity because another person has the gall to root for a different team.

What is it that causes some people to lose all sense of rationality, all because of a children’s game being played by adults? What flips the switch from, “Hooray for my team!” to “Your team is garbage!”?

Rooting for your favorite team to win every game it plays makes perfect sense – yes, even when your team is facing a starting pitcher on your fantasy roster. But when people say something like, “I root for the Giants and whoever is playing the Dodgers,” I can’t help but wonder why. Certainly if the Dodgers are battling the Giants for a playoff spot, San Francisco fans will want the Dodgers to lose. But if LA’s results have no impact on the Giants’ fortunes, who cares?

I have to admit I can’t claim full innocence in this realm. I still have some lingering ill feelings toward the Royals that stretch all the way back to the Denkinger Game in the 1985 World Series. No, it doesn’t make any sense, but they beat my team, and I didn’t like it. And “those stinkin’ Mets,” as I often referred to them in the late ’80s, were a nuisance as they and the Cardinals – with the Cubs part of the fray, too – battled for supremacy of the old National League East division.

A Hardball Times Update
Goodbye for now.

Still, the idea of hating another team is lost on me. Maybe it’s because there’s so much hate in the rest of the world, I want sports to be something better, an escape from the ugliness we hear about so often. Maybe it’s because these are simply games we’re watching – the greatest sport ever created, in fact – in which the object is simply to go home.

So, root, root, root, for your favorite team. The others? Well, just let ’em be.


Greg has been a writer and editor for The Hardball Times since 2010. In his dreams, he's the second coming of Ozzie Smith. Please don't wake him up.
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Jim S.
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Jim S.

When I was growing up in the 50s, the Yankees seemed to win every year. For one team to have so much power and money didn’t seem fair to me, and it still doesn’t. For me, a successful baseball season is finalized when the Yankees are eliminated.

Dallas Keuchel
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Dallas Keuchel

Glad I could help

Legion Coleke
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Legion Coleke

Yes, nobody wants Satan’s team in the playoffs.

Dennis Bedard
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Dennis Bedard

In the 50’s, someone coined the phrase “rooting for the Yankees is like rooting for US Steel.”

Frank Jackson
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Frank Jackson

The whole us-versus-them thing is also over the top in party politics. Once one becomes a student of the game (baseball or political science), the game itself is often more interesting than the results. But I wouldn’t expect the Bleacher Creatures at Yankee Stadium to agree with that observation.

hopbitters
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hopbitters

I think you’d be surprised if you spent some time with the Creatures. Based on nothing but anecdotes, conjecture, and small sample sizes, I’d wager that hatred is largely the domain of the media and casual or pixilated fans. I wouldn’t recommend wading into the bleachers at Yankee Stadium sporting Sox gear and an attitude, but if you can take shrug off the ribbing with good-natured aplomb, you’ll do fine and maybe even make some friends. The same goes for pinstripes in Fenway and likely other combinations elsewhere.

Peter B
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Peter B

As a native New Englander transplanted to New York City, I can second that. Never had any issues rooting for the Red Sox at Yankee Stadium, even in the playoffs. I took some good-natured ribbing from people around me during game 7 of the ALCS in 2003, and felt totally comfortable walking out of the stadium after game 7 in 2004.

Sports fans in New York are like, well, New Yorkers: a little stand-offish, a lot brash, and frequently abrasive, but unbelievably kind to strangers in the ways that count.

Cool Lester Smooth
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Cool Lester Smooth

Yeah, I’m in the reverse situation, and New York and Boston fans are two sides of the same coin (although Yankees fans are a little more honest about how entitled we are, haha).

We’re dicks to each other, but it’s all in good fun.

Bort Fulwiler
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Bort Fulwiler

see, I had a much more unpleasant experience my one time in old yankee stadium. i’m an orioles fan but dad insisted we go to a game while we were in new york during the last season just to appreciate some history, which was a fair point, so we go to see them play the mariners, and being about 10 or 12 at the time i bit my tongue through the whole game not wanting to cheer for either team, one that i hate and one that was the away team in a hostile environment. but it being the summer,… Read more »

Punctuation
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Punctuation

Come see me about these things called “periods.” They have nothing to do with Meghan Kelly.

some perfectly pleasant people
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some perfectly pleasant people

Why do we get lumped in with your hatred, Bort?

David P Stokes
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David P Stokes

People are both stupid and evil (not everyone, of course). Why should we be surprised when they do stupid and/or evil things.

RE: throwing stuff at opposing players. It’s not just that they might have been your team’s players last year (as pointed out, sometimes those guys are the ones that get the worst abuse); it’s that they might be your teams players next year.

Stinky Pete
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Stinky Pete

For me, it has less to do with the team I am rooting against than how many obnoxious fans I know and will have to listen to. I’m sure the fellows on that team I hate are delightful and certainly deserve the chance to win. But holy hell if I have to listen to my neighbor go on and on about how many championships they’ve won or how great they are and how bad my team is…
To be fair, if the team I hate does, in fact, lose, then there are excuses like umpires, stadium size etc.

Mountain Adam
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Mountain Adam

I agree with Stinky Pete. I tend to hate teams based upon their fans…specifically fans that I know. I went to college in Western NY when the Bills were perennial Super Bowl contenders….and gosh did that get old in a hurry. “We’re NY’s only team and best team”, etc. etc. Still, I’ve also thoroughly enjoyed sitting with total strangers for opposing teams and really enjoying the opposing guy’s viewpoint, barbs and good natured fun. Good read overall and very good point. Enjoy the games and keep your filthy mouth in your pocket and your hands to yourself. Best way to… Read more »

Yankeebiscuitfan
Guest

I am from the Netherlands. I am a big Yankee fan since 1981. I root for every Dutch/Antillian player in US baseball and there you have a problem. I root for Didi Gregorius and I also root for Xander Bogaerts. But if the latter is doing well, the Red Sox may do well, and I really dislike that beantown bunch (hate is a very big word). But if there is one team I love to see losing, it is the Marlins; not for the players but because of their owner. I still hold Jeffrey Loria (partially) accountable for the demise… Read more »

bucdaddy
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bucdaddy

“What flips the switch from, “Hooray for my team!” to “Your team is garbage!”?”

Maybe when “your team” gets caught doing stuff like this:

http://www.nytimes.com/2015/06/17/sports/baseball/st-louis-cardinals-hack-astros-fbi.html?_r=0

And maybe just generally when your team is really really good for almost an entire century (so far)and my team sucks for most of it, and my team wins 98 games and STILL can’t beat out your team for the division, and … and … I could go on but I better stop now because blood pressure.

Also Ryan Braun. F*** that guy AND his team.

Tramps Like Us
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Tramps Like Us

I grew up a Giants fan in So Cal and attended a few hundred games at Dodger Stadium between 1965 and 2010. I found that, in the 60’s, 70’s, and even into the 80’s, the fans had fun with it. I was there the day Stow got stomped and made into a semi-vegetable and was genuinely frightened. Just walking to the bathroom before the game began, I was subjected to vicious name-calling by passing Dodger fans, most who seemed to think that any fan of the Giants must be (A) from San Francisco, and (B) gay, and dropped homophobic slurs… Read more »

Philip
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Philip

@ Tramps Like Us

You’re correct. Conduct at Dodger Stadium has gone south since the 70s and 80s, most especially since Peter O’Malley sold the club and stadium and the sale of beer returned in the left field pavilion after being discontinued in the 70s.

But the vulgarity and lack of civility in general is far more excessive in our culture than it was a generation or two ago.

As for the rooting against a particular team, from this Red Sox fan just want to say: GO ROYALS!

Tramps Like Us
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Tramps Like Us

Palpable. Not palatable.

Marc Schneider
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Marc Schneider

Certainly not in Washington, where the home team is new and there are many fans of other teams. In 1993, I went to a Braves-Phillies playoff game in Philly and, as a Braves fan, I was a little apprehensive given the reputation of Philly fans. I went with a friend who was a pretty big guy and had experience going to Eagles-Giants football games in Philly-as a Giants fan. I didn’t wear much Braves gear except a hat. I didn’t have much trouble except that after the game, which the Phillies won, some Phillies fans made a bit of fun… Read more »

Philip
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Philip

Re: “Boston fans will start a chant of “Yankees Suck” … in the middle of a Red Sox-Orioles game … in Baltimore!”

Not much different than the fact there are New York Rangers fans who still chant “Potvin Sucks” in the middle of a Rangers-Kings game … in Los Angeles.

Steven Scott
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Steven Scott

Being a big fan of the game itself, I realize that my perspective is in a minority. My “dislike” for teams is based on their current players and managers as being my idealized definition of Respectors of the Game more than anything else. I’m old and understandably Old School. My current least favorite team is Toronto. Great skill doesn’t equal great players. I was thrilled when the Royals finished them off. That gives them plenty of time to further perfect The Bat Flip and The Called Strike Whine in front of a mirror AT HOME.

ImInPa
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ImInPa

I think one reason some teams are hated is because of their fans. Some teams’ fans think their team should win every year and the other teams are there only for their team to beat on their to a championship. And when they don’t win, it’s an excuse. It’s never “the other team was better: ,etc.

Kevin
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Kevin

No horse in this WS for me. Interested to see how Duffy does (woops, there goes one over the fence), he’s a local guy. Was also interested to see the Jays, since Aaron Sanchez played on various LL teams with my son. Other than that, hard to get worked up about “teams”–at this point they’re all just gladiators with corporate sponsorships.

ragjag
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ragjag

I always root against NY teams in a WS because if a team outside the rotten apple wins the WS the hype about the Series is over quickly.
However if a NY team wins the hype goes on long into the following season and most players are immediately viewed as heroic figures on par with the likes of Hercules and Achilles , hell , they already got a guy called Thor.

Ben
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Ben

If you don’t hate every potential rival to your beloved team, you don’t love your team enough – you don’t want to win enough. If you don’t want to win enough (the maximum amount, the amount that requires hating all other teams) you don’t deserve to win. You are what they call a “Fair weather Fan.” True fans go the distance. True fans hate.

Marc Schneider
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Marc Schneider

It’s comments like yours that (assuming you are serious and not trolling) that have made me like sports-and, especially fans-less.

Ben
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Ben

I’m neither serious, nor trolling, but trying to explain the psychology of “rooting against” in a visceral way that reveals the ugliness of it. If I simply say “it’s ugly,” my statement doesn’t have the impact of an ugly statement that draws your ire.

Marc Schneider
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Marc Schneider

You are right. It’s like many of the political statements we see; years ago, you would have thought they were satirical but now you have to think about it. And the ugliness has certainly taken away a lot of the joy of sports for me.

Bob
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Bob

Rooting is more fun than not rooting, so why not just root against your rival as opposed to sitting there watching the game? It’s nothing personal, but if the Yankees are out it’s fun to experience the ups and downs of rooting through cheering against Boston if they’re still in it. And I never understood the aversion to swearing at baseball games. I was a child who heard many of these words at Yankee Stadium growing up, and I’m doing just fine. None of this is that serious to me.

Cool Lester Smooth
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Cool Lester Smooth

As a Yanks fan, I wasn’t rooting against the Mets (unlike the reverse, I don’t think any Yankees fan cares enough about the Mets one way or the other to actively root against them).

I was, however, rooting for the Royals. Those kids are just so, so much fun to watch.

Eric
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Eric

I think the writer is making too much of this, although I agree that there’s no excuse for harassing the fans of another team. I’m a White Sox fan with many Cubs Fan relatives. Hating the Cubs adds humor to family dinners, and gives me twice the reasons to watch the box scores. I can also hate the Rangers because I disproved of Nolan Ryan throwing at people, hate the Yankees and Red Sox for dominating through money rather than brains, love the Mets in gratitude for 1969 & 2015, root for the Giants because of Tim Lincecum and the… Read more »

Marc Schneider
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Marc Schneider

I don’t have a problem with rooting against particular teams. I just am bothered by the vitriol that it often entails. There should be some limits based on good taste and decency. Baseball “hate” is fine until it passes the boundaries of real hate.