Friday, October 20, 2006

Not in my Stadium: Rules for fan gimmicks

So the Mets went down in historic fashion, a game in which the worst pitching matchup in Game 7 history all but solidified the fact the National League is officially AAAA level ball. (And when the Tigers sweep next week, will anyone be surprised?)

But the biggest disappointment was not the game, but the Mets fans. I don’t really like the Mets, but I respect Mets fans. Mets fans are real fans, fans who know the game, respect the game, and respect the traditions of the game. They’re down-to-earth, salt-of-the-earth types. Guys you would shoot the shit with you if you sat next to them at the bar, and girls who wouldn’t mind sitting on the couch watching football with you on Sunday.

But the first cut FOX made to Shea last night showed nearly the entire stadium waving around towels like a bunch of mindless bums who couldn’t tell you the difference between a suicide squeeze and a sac fly. For a minute, I thought we were in Anaheim or Chavez Ravine. It looked like someplace where the majority of the fan base spends the year tanning in 80-degree weather, essentially making it impossible care about anything more serious than “I need a manicure” and “Is that Ben Stiller!? It IS Ben Stiller!!!”

I even laughed when I read the Sports Guy this morning—he had the same thought:

Hey, what about the Mets fans waving these white hankies? What is this, amateur hour? I thought the Mets had real baseball fans? I'd expect that crap at Tropicana Field or Chase Field, but not a place like Shea. Come on.

And it even came up with my friends Alana, a NYer (but Yankees fan) and Josh, a former NYer (and Mets fan) when we did our traditional morning after e-mail recap. Clearly, we were not the only ones who cared about this.

Alana was very opposed, but Josh didn’t mind, because “It looked cool on TV.” If I didn’t know Josh was a very good Mets fan I would question his integrity, but I’ll let that slip.

All this got me to thinking: what gimmicks or traditions are acceptable at what sporting venues? Are towels okay everywhere? Rally Monkeys? I think it’s time we got a ruling on this. What you are about to read is most definitely a work in progress, but I think this is an important topic if you give a crap about sports and have no work to do on a Friday.

I’m not quite sure how to characterize this, (By Stadium? By gimmick?) so I’m just going to set forth some ground rules for gimmicks and then maybe we can go from there. I’m not going to run down every gimmick, because there are sure to be some I’m not even aware of, but just set some guidelines.

Before you participate in a gimmick, such as towel waving, these are the questions you need to consider:

1.) Is the gimmick original to your stadium/fan base, or has the “statute of limitations” expired on it so long ago that no one really remembers where it started?

For example, towel waving is clearly indigenous to Pittsburgh, whose denizens have proudly waved the patented Terrible Towel for as long as I can remember. Now, I could be wrong, and this could have started elsewhere, but the point is that Pittsburgh fans took this idea, made it their own, even copyrighted it to the point that when you think about fans waving a towel Pittsburgh is what you think about. Therefore, unless you are in Pittsburgh rooting for a local Pittsburgh team, you should not be waving a towel.

By this rule, that also means other native traditions such as the cool octopus tossing in Detroit and the incredibly stupid rally monkey in Anaheim get grandfathered in. Which makes me think rule number 2 should be:

2.) Is the gimmick stupid and completely out of the blue?

Now, what on God’s Green Earth does a Monkey have to do with Baseball or Anaheim? Are the streets of Anaheim overrun with baseball-loving monkeys who eat bananas and discuss the merits of grass over Astroturf? I’ve never been there, but I’m guessing that’s not the case. I tried to find the origins of the Rally Monkey, but this was all I found on a random Web site not even worth linking to:

He was born by accident on June 6, 2000, at Edison Field during a game against the Giants. When the Angels trailed by six runs in the sixth inning, the video board operators showed a clip of a monkey jumping up and down with the words "Rally Monkey.

Right. So can we all agree that this: A.) Has nothing to do with baseball, and B.) Any gimmick that makes people bring stuffed animals to a baseball game is wrong. I think we can agree on that.

However, Octopus tossing? That’s permissible. Why? Because: A.) There’s a good reason for it B.) that’s just creative, C.) They toss real octopi, and D.) It’s just fun to say “octopi”.

Now, if the folks at Anaheim tossed live, crazed, shit-tossing monkeys on the field at Anaheim, I’d be all for the Rally Monkey. I’d probably move to Anaheim and buy season tickets. Or even if they tossed rotting monkey corpses. That would be interesting, if just to hear Joe Buck get indignant about it.

Until then, I’m declaring the Rally Monkey dead. Moving on. Let’s discuss gimmicks that include fans dressing up:

3.) If there’s a general A.P.B. out that tells fans to dress up in a certain color, is that okay?

The quick answer here is: Yes. Absolutely. In fact, if you attend an important game, like a playoff game, and don’t wear your team color, everyone in your section has the right to one free punch in your face. However, there is one important thing to consider:

3B.) Is the color we’re dressing up in actually a team color?

I know, it sounds like a dumb question. But if you’re sports fan, you already know who I’m getting after here. Everyone in Miami, I hate to break it to you, but White is not a “team color.” It’s just not, unless you are Penn State. The White Out can get away with it, because their most popular uniforms are about 98% white. I’ll give them a pass, but White is actually not even a real color in the technical spectrum—white is a combination of every color. Every team in every sport has a white uniform, or a uniform that has white on it. White doesn’t count.

I couldn’t even find the Heat’s official team colors on the official website, which I should have expected from a Miami sports franchise. I had to go to Wikipedia—which is equivalent to getting your news from Geraldo—where I discovered the Heat’s colors are Red, Black, White and Yellow. First, that’s wrong, because no team should have four freaking colors. And also, because as we’ve discussed, white is not a team color, unless you’re Penn State. So Miami fans—and I use the term loosely—please dress in RED next time. Seriously, the rest of the sports world will have a lot more respect for you if you do. The general rule should be, whatever your team’s primary color is, that’s what you should dress in. It’s not hard, people.

And those rules are general enough that they should cover just about every gimmick out there, I think. I just want to close with one additional rule that I believe anyone who is actually a fan of sport and not just “there for entertainment or a fun night out” will appreciate.

4.)Under no circumstances, and I mean, none WHATSOEVER, should you ever, ever, EVER, touch a thunderstick, let alone bang two together.

Seriously, treat thundersticks like they have herpes. Don’t even touch them. Step on them and pop them. They are the curse of the true fan. The annoying kid behind you will bang them incessantly. The drunk girl will wave hers around and hit you in the head, or worse, knock over your beer. Some guy 10 rows back will inevitably toss his toward the court like a penile javelin—but the damn things don’t fly straight, so they’ll smack you in the face on the way down. Which or course will cause your friends to make fun of you for getting hit in the face with a giant inflatable dildo. I’m just saying, they’re evil.

But there’s a bigger problem with those things: Who gave you the right to take the easy way out as fans? When I was growing up, you wanted to make noise, you wanted to be loud, you wanted to support your team in a tight spot, you screamed. You clapped. You chanted. You banged on the chair in front of you. When that chump missed that free throw or that pitcher threw ball four, you felt like you were a part of the team because you earned that break. No easy outs here, kids. If you don’t leave the game hoarse, you didn’t do your job. People that use thundersticks aren’t fans. Thundersticks are below Rally Monkeys on the fanolutionary chain.

At least until we get some live monkeys chasing Vlad Guerrero around the outfield. Then the Rally Monkey moves up to the one spot.


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