Social Media is an interesting beast. On the one hand it has changed the way that companies do business and in the world of sports it has forever changed the interaction between fans, players, and teams. I have seen a lot of positives come about as a result of this new communications medium but there are other aspects that still need to be worked out. Yesterday was a prime example.
The Arizona Diamondbacks are one of the more active franchises when it comes to Social Media. They are involved heavily on multiple fronts. From their Facebook page to the Instagram account to the numerous Twitter accounts fans have the ability to interact with the team in ways no one could have dreamed just a few short seasons ago. Besides the official Diamondbacks they also have accounts for D.Baxter their lovable mascot and a relatively new Diamondbackers account which touts itself as the “Official D-backs Fan Twitter Account”. Every couple of weeks the Diamondbacks select a fan to run the account and tweet from a fan’s perspective. On the surface that seems like a good idea but sometimes even good ideas can go directions that no one anticipated. Yesterday was just such an occasion.
Currently Riley Rico, a dedicated Diamondbacks fan who seems to be generally enjoying the experience, is manning the Diamondbackers account. Things were going well during Riley’s tenure until yesterday when a rather innocuous tweet caused a firestorm and led me to question what constitutes being a fan.
At the center of the storm are a fan and two players. Yesterday during a game between the Atlanta Braves and the Philadelphia Phillies former Arizona Diamondbacks All-Star and face of the franchise Justin Upton hit two moon shot home runs that may not have landed yet. These are the types of home runs that fans in Arizona longed to see from Upton on a regular basis and reminded all of us what kind of untapped potential Upton has. The Diamondbackers account posted a benign comment lamenting how we won’t be seeing home runs like that at Chase Field. This touched off a lengthy and heated series of tweets from the self-proclaimed Diamondbacks nation questioning a fan’s loyalty. As if that were not bad enough, current Diamondbacks outfielder Adam Eaton weighed in un-following the Diamondbackers account and suggesting the fan “Get a clue”.
Wading through the conversations it became clear that to many being a fan simply means posting nothing but positive comments and blindly following whatever the team does regardless of how it impacts the game. You cannot be a supporter or call yourself a fan if you are not 100 percent behind everything the team does. There is no place for loyalty to an individual suggesting that only the name on the front of the jersey matters not who is wearing it. What I find rather amusing is that many of these same people are ones who were up in arms at the conclusion of the 2006 season when the Arizona Diamondbacks released Luis Gonzalez choosing to go a different direction and turning their back on the “face of the franchise”.
Does being a fan mean that you cannot question the decisions being made by the team or wondering aloud whether the product on the field is the best it could be? Blindly following a team and cheering no matter what that team does doesn’t constitute being a fan it makes you a lemming. A fan’s role should be much more than that. We are the keepers of the game. It is the fans that determine the wellbeing of baseball. Commissioner Selig, the 30 franchises, and the players may think they own the game but it is the fans that are empowered to make sure the game survives and is the best it can possibly be.
In order to do that we must be diligent and question everything that goes on both on and off the field. It is our responsibility to question the motives of teams such as the Florida Marlins who seem to only be interested in turning a quick dollar. It is we the fans who should withhold our support for players that are linked to performance enhancing drugs and those who cheat the game. We are the ones who should question every decision that a team makes to ensure that our favorite teams are not being mismanaged.
I’m ok with comments such as those made by the Diamondbackers. Baseball needs to understand we are watching them and we will continue to evaluate their performance based upon the decisions they are making. That doesn’t mean we don’t care or we don’t support the team. On the contrary it means we do care and we will hold players, front office, and the sport to a higher standard.
Players such as Adam Eaton should understand that better than anyone. He has had to fight and scrap to reach the levels he has. He has never expected to be handed these opportunities but has seized the chances he was given. How would he feel if the Diamondbacks tomorrow decided he was expendable like the players that were moved this past off-season? Replaced with others who in his mind may not be as good as he is? It is the fans that should advocate and question the motives of the teams. When a deal goes down that looks questionable they should raise those concerns so the team knows that we’re watching and we care. We don’t need blind followers who stand by cheering while baseball makes decisions that affect the future of a franchise and possibly turn away generations of fans. I’m not advocating chaos where we boo everyone or every move that is made but it should mean that we have the right and the ability to comment on the state of the team without fear of loyalty being questioned and the players should appreciate that we do this because we are fans.