The Baseball Desert

Tuesday, August 31, 2004

Georgia on no-one's mind

The Braves had a walk-off victory against the Giants last night and look to be heading for yet another division title, but what caught David Pinto's eye were the empty seats at Turner Field. Richard, over at Pearly Gates, suggests that the Atlanta fans are purely and simply bored with success. As mad as that makes Richard, it is understandable - you can tire of pretty much anything. You can that "you can have too much of a good thing" is a cliché, but clichés become clichés because, generally, they're true, and I think it is entirely possible for baseball fans to be blasé about their team's nth division title.

I was thinking about this the other day, in the context of the Yankees / Red Sox rivalry. It must be great to have been a fan of the Yankees over the last few years, with all the success they have had, but the downside of winning four World Series titles in five years is that there's only one way to go from there - down. Yankee fans and the Yankee organsiation (for Yankee organisation read "George Steinbrenner") are often criticised for appearing to think that the American League / World Series title is some kind of birthright, but I don't see it quite that way.

Success breeds a certain level of expectancy, and once your team has that kind of success it's only natural that management and players and fans hope that it continues. However, when the success is repeated over a period of time, the hope is slowly transformed into expectancy. In some cases, the expectancy is coupled with an unpleasant arrogance, but in most cases I would venture to suggest that it's a natural human reaction - if you see something happen four times out of five, there's a good chance that you're expecting it to happen the sixth time around too. If it does, that's great, but at the same time it creates yet more pressure on the team (and on the fans who live and die with the team).

I'm not saying that losing is preferable to winning, and I'm sure that any fan / team in their right mind would sell their soul for the Yankees 26 World Series or the Braves' 12 consecutive division titles, but you're then in a situation where you're living under constant pressure rather than in constant hope. A pop genius once sang
"They say it's better to be travelling than to arrive"
and that's exactly what this is. The Red Sox live in hope that this year will be the year, whilst the Yankees and the Braves and other successful sports teams live in fear of the moment when this is no longer the year. The French have a saying - "l'espoir fait vivre" - which translates roughly as "hope keeps you alive": on that basis I think we can probably pronounce a large chunk of the Braves' fanbase D.O.A.