META: How the BFIB Caused Me an Existential Crisis.

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(UPDATE 4/21/16: I wrote this in February, but this has become more relevant with recent Heyward BFIB story from the New York Daily News and subsequent stories from the Cardinals Double Birds Blog & NBC’s Hardball Talk)

The Best Fans in Baseball (BFIB).  It’s a term that will light up the BaseballTwitterSphere like a Michael Bay movie.  It’s a term sports media talking heads and broadcasters alike meaninglessly throw around to pander to their beloved “do-things-the-right-way-crowd” which is perfectly encapsulated by the mystique of St Louis and their baseball Cardinals.  It’s a term universally panned by non-Cardinals fans and frequently lampooned with the same ire as “Beyonce should have won.”  On social media, it’s the most public of inside jokes.  WE ARE ALL MAKING FUN OF YOU CARDINALS FANS!

I admit that I have dabbled in the BFIB genre.  

I have found the genre amusing and it takes care of a small compulsion to exercise some form of underlying frustration with the Cardinals’ prestige (not my best side).  I typically consume the latest BFIB moment and move on, categorizing the joy at a Cardinals fan’s expense as harmless.  After-all, I’m not only a non-Cardinals fan, I’m a Cubs fan.  I’m supposed to be poking those jerks in the ribs, right?  Some early morning Twitter reading gave me pause:

They’re right.  I’ve always felt like I ridiculed the BFIB the same way I ridicule American Exceptionalism – as a fictional idea that becomes entrenched as dogma and peddled as an absolute truth.  But when one reads through the social meme that BFIB has become, that joshing and ridiculing devolves into where one might expect – the exploiting of the impoverished for insults (not to mention the usual amount of homophobic slurs that get slung).  I don’t like it and it’s the equivalent to insisting calling a dude a girl is an insult to dudes.  It’s no longer harmless; however small the insult may be, it plays its part in encouraging a culture of callousness toward a class of people and it’s enough to bother me.  Also, my preference is to be sufferable.

After a bit, as I contemplated never being a josher again, I began to challenge myself with this thought: “Why do I even fan?”  What’s the point?  What do I get out of this?  I like joshing, but I may not like the results of my joshing.  I don’t think I’d find as much joy from being a fan without the occasional petty rivalry and banter.  What does that say about me?  This was a serious crisis guys.  Then I read some more:

Oh yeah, that’s one thing I do love about baseball, the data and analysis.  I dove deeper.  Could I continue a numbers-only love of the game?  If so, would my senseless fandom disappear; transcended by a love of jersey-less digits, dots, and dashes?  I sort of felt like I was trying to unify Newton’s Laws with Quantum Physics.  Projections, data, numbers are all fascinating, but they’re fascinating because like at the nuclear level all of our understanding of order gets flipped-turned-upside-down.  Those numbers so many writers now hash are the particles of the players and the game.  It’s not the whole being; the color of the uniform, the personalities, the beefs, the hat turned to the left.  I need to read about those things, too.  Those are the things that spark the emotional attachment.  I find more joy in that emotional dependence than I do in my fascination with numbers.

Like Jerry Seinfeld said “We’re rooting for laundry”.  It’s arbitrary.  Probably man’s evolutionary impulse to find a tribe and see to it that it destroys all of the other tribes.  It all seems so arbitrary and meaningless.  But why do we like anything?  Maybe it’s not arbitrary.  It brings me joy (and frustration that I must also like because there’s a lot of it).  And maybe it’s not meaningless.  Answering questions about what is happening on a baseball field may be simple, but I’m reminded by Adam Savage’s Ted Talk about simple ideas that lead to scientific discoveries.

If figuring out a problem like “why does a ball in the wagon move to the back when I pull it?” could eventually lead to diagramming the movement of subatomic particles, maybe finally figuring out a comprehensive defensive metric will lead to the discovery of dark matter.  Sure, that’s far fetched, but contemplating baseball research often leads me to make connections to wider matters like economics, social structure, and politics. 

So where have I landed?  Baseball fandom is maybe arbitrary but maybe not.  Baseball is maybe meaningless and maybe not.  But, I’m going to keep doing fan things, and I’m going to try and do it better.  Also, Beyonce really should have won tho. 

– Jesse Jensen, @jjrayn

About jrayn

A displaced Cubs fan stranded in the Great Plains perpetuating a life of self amusement. @jjrayn.

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