Siberian Baseball

Saturday, May 12, 2007

Can we define "fan?"

I know I'm coming to the party late on the ESPN poll that broke the Barry Bonds home run chase along racial lines, but it's too big a deal not to at least mention.

Wednesday evening I heard an extended rant on sports talk about how not everyone rooting against Bonds is a racist and I just got more and more annoyed as the story was pretty much read verbatim on the air.

Bonds is being singled out because he's black. Black fans love Bonds, while white fans are no better than Dixie Walker was. If white people had their way, they'd reanimate Babe Ruth and let his clone run the score up to keep Bonds out of the record books forever.

It's all pretty insulting as a baseball fan and as a pretty progressive member of society. Personally, I think being an educated, well-rounded member of modern America means that you can call black people jerks for the same reason you can call whites, Latinos or Asians jerks - namely because on a case-by-case basis, they are - but that rubs some people the wrong way.

Forget that most people with even a cursory knowledge of the Bonds story think that he's guilty of juicing - just look at how many intelligent design proponents there are, and that's becoming a lost cause arguement - what worries me in the poll is how they are defining fan.

If I remember correctly, they listed black fans and white fans, but I highly doubt they did exit polls at every major league park. This isn't a black/white issue for baseball's ticket-buying public and it's a shame that ESPN couldn't set out to prove that.

I'd imagine the numbers between the average person who doesn't have a vested interest in baseball is more likely to vote along the lines that ESPN "discovered" but for the paying fans, many are tired of Bonds and his chase - it's worth noting that the current baseball game for the Xbox 360 has Mark McGwire listed as the single-season champ... hmm...

Here's the thing - for such a racist movement, most people who weren't Cubs or Cards fans cheered both Sammy Sosa and McGwire in their single-season pursuit. There was no caucasian backlash when Ichiro broke George Sisler's hit record and I see no real problems with Latino players rising in the all-time ranks.

So, where is the friction coming from? You have an unsympathetic player in a small market who is chasing one of baseball's biggest records and even the man he's chasing - worth noting here that Hank Aaron is black, right? - can't be bothered to be there when the record is broken? These should all be red flags that something is amiss with the ESPN poll.

One of the final points I heard the other day was that with MLB being very protective of its records, that fans didn't want to see a black player stand alone atop the standings and definitely didn't want him to pass Ruth, the figurehead for power hitters.

This all confuses and angers me, but I think would be a great place to start to shed a little light on the data - what do the fans think?

Not the people who are vaguely aware of baseball, not those who can correctly identify Bonds as a ballplayer, but actual fans. What do they think?

I'm guessing those are the people protective of baseball's legacy - regardless of race.

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