The Atlantic’s Steve Tuttle has written one of the most asinine columns on the subject of fans since Mike Lupica wrote that “[y]ou are owed nothing in sports, no matter how much you care. You are owed nothing no matter how long you’ve rooted or how much you’ve paid to do it.” (You are, in fact, owed a great deal because of you’ve given owners tax dollars and tax exemptions and antitrust exemptions.) But while the point of Lupica’s lecture was to say that Knicks fans deserved better than the James Dolan-Isiah Thomas era, the point of Tuttle’s boorish screed ripping Washington Nationals fans as the worst in baseball seems to be little more than allowing him to vent about his own neuroses.
Let me first admit that I might be a little sensitive because last week I penned a love letter to the Nationals and then they got their asses handed to them this weekend by the New York Yankees. (In case you missed it, the Yankees swept the Nats and outscored them 16-6.) But this is still an exciting team to watch and there has never been a better time to go to Nationals Park. Trust me. But since a Nationals fan used an outlet as big as the Atlantic to rip on his fellow fans, I am obligated to reply.
Washingtonians are dead last in baseball fan etiquette. I don’t know if that’s because all of this success has brought an infestation of new fans to the park who have no idea how to watch a game, or that we don’t really have a baseball tradition in this town after losing two teams, or if I’m just getting older and more get-off-my-lawny.
Spoiler alert: It’s the final option. (At least Tuttle recognizes this and I will give him credit for creating the brilliant “get-off-my-lawny.”) But let’s break down Tuttle’s “evidence” that “Washingtonians are dead last in baseball fan etiquette.”
Tuttle’s primary objection is that Nationals fans walk down the aisles and return to the seats while the ball is still in play. I am with him that this is very annoying, but it is hardly unique to Nationals Park. And that’s the primary problem with Tuttle’s column – he blames Nats fans for a whole host of fan behaviors that happen in every park.
Tuttle lectures Nationals fans on doing the wave. Again, I’m with him that it is outdated and unnecessary, but hey, what do I care? I just don’t stand up when it goes by. Tuttle writes: “Recently, fans on Twitter were rightfully upset about the Nats crowd doing the wave, and posts were sent with the hashtag #STILLLEARNING.” Since we’re using Twitter as evidence that Nats have terrible fans, let’s consider a few tweets about other fans doing the wave: Angels fans. Cardinals fans. Orioles fans. Even Red Sox fans.
Tuttle’s next criticism is that Nationals fans leave early: “Unless your house is on fire and there is still a chance you can put it out, stay until the end.” Has Tuttle been to a Los Angeles Dodgers game? Most fans there show up in the 3rd and leave in the 6th. Baseball is not football or basketball or soccer or hockey. Most games are 3 hours and there’s 81 of them at home. I don’t care if you leave early because you have a hellacious commute back to the suburbs or because your kids are exhausted. Fans leave early in every sport in every stadium in the country.
And on the subject of kids, Tuttle actually excoriates parents for bringing their children to the ballpark: “You will not have fun. More importantly, I will not have fun if you sit anywhere near me.” No other sport in America is as family friendly as baseball. I don’t even have kids and I don’t care if they come to the park. You know why? Because I am grateful that my Dad took me to baseball games when I was a kid. Even the “world’s best babysitter” cannot provide your kids with the social experience of taking in a baseball game.
Tuttle rips fans who wear gloves to the game. I don’t wear one, but again, this is hardly unique to Washington. But he does pen this gem: “Also, if I catch a ball, I’m not giving it to your kid. He can catch his own damn ball. I learned my lesson once when I caught a t-shirt, gave it to the boy in front of me, and his little brother cried because he didn’t get one, too.” Is there any bigger jerk in a stadium – any stadium – than a man who won’t give a ball to a kid? And Tuttle is willing to admit he wants to be this guy?
Tuttle’s next criticism is people who talk on their phones. He truly must be stuck with the worst season tickets in the stadium because I’ve been to at least 15 games this season – each time in a different section – and I’ve never once noticed someone using their cell phone. Even if they did, I wouldn’t blame them – the service (at least for AT&T) is so poor that texts won’t go through. Your only choice is to call.
But the capper is how Tuttle ends his column, by ripping on Philadelphia fans: “I’m not saying the Philly fans are coarse and abrasive and crass, but when thousands of the Jerky Boys descended on D.C. last year, a bunch of them had a burping contest in the row behind me, and the winner was a woman wearing a Chase Utley jersey.” So Tuttle is suggesting that there might be worse fans elsewhere? Or that Nationals fans should also be blamed for obnoxious Phillies fans? (At least the team and fans got behind the brilliant Take Back the Park (from Phillies fans) campaign this season.)
Look, there are a few jerks in every ball park in America. And there are a lot of fans who come for the atmosphere and not the game. But all of the criticisms that Tuttle is assigning to Nationals fans happen everywhere. Tuttle offers no evidence whatsoever that he’d frequented other parks and seen better behavior. Further, he offers absolutely no praise of Washington fans – for anything. From my own experience of going to many Nats games since Nationals Park first opened – I’ve met a lot of great fans from very diverse backgrounds.
It’s one thing to rip baseball fans in general for some of these behaviors, quite another to use only one fan base as a sample and then pen a national column ripping that fan base as the worst in baseball. Particularly when that fan base is your own.
That’s a clown column, bro.