By The Common Man
As Bill pointed out yesterday, we’re trying especially hard to be positive this week about the game we love and why we love it. The Common Man can’t promise to remain completely cynicism-free (after all, The Common Man essentially runs on cynicism), but he’s gonna try his level best.
All of us speak through a filter, based on how we want the world, or parts of it, to perceive us. Baseball players are exceptionally good at this, having learned at an early point to speak in platitudes and clichés as they give interviews with the media. After all, one misquote or misstatement could be hugely embarrassing to them and to their employers, like Luke Scott’s paranoid and racist interviews with Dave Brown and ESPN earlier this year.
There simply is no incentive for a ballplayer to be himself, which means we’re left to get to know them second hand (through the descriptions of sportswriters) or to simply admire them from afar. Sometimes, though, that’s not enough. Certainly, we’re all too mature to still idolize players like we did as kids, but isn’t it nice to be able to root for a person as much as you’re rooting for a player?
That’s yet another reason why Twitter has become an essential tool for sports fans, as it allows them to get to know their favorite players in a different way, by allowing them to interact directly with them.
Take last night, for instance, when Bill caught Oakland pitcher Brandon McCarthy being predictably amusing on Twitter. While Bill didn’t mean to include McCarthy in his conversation, tweeting “So the same one person both tweets as brilliantly as Brandon McCarthy AND posted a 2.86 FIP in 2011? Nope, not buying it.” Then, as Bill and the excellent Wendy Thurm of Hanging Sliders went back and forth about McCarthy’s qualities, McCarthy himself showed up with an, “O Hai! What are we talking about?”
What followed was a friendly back and forth, but wasn’t particularly substantive, but McCarthy has become a must-follow because of his humor, his willingness to engage in and enthusiasm for open and fair conversation, and his interest in and advocacy for advanced statistics. What we see when we read Brandon McCarthy’s tweets may not necessarily be the “real” Brandon McCarthybut what we see is someone who we like an awful lot. A really entertaining and smart young man, who is equally happy to talk about baseball and just about stuff. What we see is a player who is not only fun to watch, but fun to root for.
Similarly, The Common Man’s conversation last week with LaTroy Hawkins over the new Collective Bargaining Agreement led TCM to appreciate Hawkins as a smart man and understand the players’ mindset regarding the CBA better. That said, TCM and Hawkins were forced to agree to disagree, given that TCM steadfastly believes that the players selling out amateurs was an example of the powerful sticking it to the weak for personal gain. Hawkins’ struggles at the start of his career have made him a compelling player to root for already, but to better understand his innate intelligence makes it that much more fun to watch him pitch.
You can learn to appreciate the humor of Logan Morrison, the struggles of Dirk Hayhurst, the cultural interests of Fernando Perez, or the English-language adventures of Ozzie Guillen. You can watch Bert Blyleven try to figure out how Twitter works, or simply enjoy the schadenfreude of learning that Drew Butera can’t even do Black Friday shopping right.
It’s also fun to find out which players, pardon The Common Man here, are giant douchebags. Some, for instance, one (let's not name names) took to Twitter after the season ended to complain that he was stiffed of a security deposit by his in-season apartment complex (even calling out the complex by name) and that the first class accommodations on American Airlines for his all-expenses paid, MLB-sponsored trip to Taiwan were completely unacceptable. Others, such as former relief pitcher Steve Karsay, meanwhile, are prone to making bombastic and controversial conservative statements in his Twitter feed.
Understanding some of what makes our favorite players tick makes them more relatable and more human. It reminds us that, for the most part, they’re incredibly young and successful. And it’s pleasantly surprising when they choose to interact with you. The Common Man would have loved to have a direct line to ask Kirby Puckett, Kent Hrbek, Tom Brunansky, and Frank Viola back in the day, and it would have made falling in love with baseball even easier.
Plus, there's the burgeoning community of baseball fans from around the country who track games and communicate back and forth like they're all hanging out in the same section of the ballpark. Watching games while on Twitter has become a great way to learn about the game, stay engaged in the contest you're watching, and meet like-minded souls who just want to talk baseball. It is also high comedy.
We're living in the future now, with our smart phones, electronic books, tablet computers, and constant access to an internet feed, and Twitter is the meeting splace for baseball fans. And it's deepening our love for the sport, as we continue to have our fanship reinforced and echoed back at us across the web. God bless Twitter.