The truth is rarely pure and never simple. - Oscar Wilde
What is right is not always popular. What is popular is not always right. - Albert Einstein and Howard Cosell
Go to him he calls you, you can't refuse. - Bob Dylan
In 1995, before playing the greatest game in Atlanta Braves history, outfielder David Justice criticized his hometown fans, meaning me, for not being as loud and enthusiastic as Cleveland Indians(the Braves series opponent) fans. Everyone I knew lost their minds in anger in reaction to Justice. I was 25 years old and much more foolish then. While grabbing dinner with friends after work that night I tired of the Justice bashing and after my second adult beverage said this, "you know, dude's right. We are lame. I mean Georgia fills up their stadium to watch some directional school. The Falcons sell out when the Saints come to town and most of the times those teams are playing for first round draft positioning. We kind of suck. Get over it." I think I lost at least two friends that night and I wasn't invited over to the game six viewing party. I watched the Braves win the World Series the next night, on David Justice's home run, alone. It was a great night.
Yesterday, as the Tampa Bay Rays clinched a playoff birth for only the second time in their 13 season history, their two star players, third baseman Evan Longoria and starting pitcher David Price criticized their fans for not coming to their games, despite their success. Today, they are the subject of derision. Tampa Bay plays in a horrid stadium in a poor section of the city. Their area's economy has been hit hard by the recession. There fan base is split between blue collar twenty and thirtysomethings and the elderly. Those are cute excuses. Yet, they are just that, excuses.
I have never told anyone what to do with their discretionary income. If you saw my CD collection or my wife's DVD colelction you'd harangue us with insults. If Tampa's fans want to ignore their awesome baseball team full of young talented stars who play with reckless abandon, fine. Yet, the insouciance the Tampa area shows to their sports team should be reason to contract them. The teams, not the fans.
Major team sports have to stop overvaluing the public's interest in their products. Baseball has seven teams that are either hemorraging money or now using their profits to make their teams better; Tampa Bay, Kansas City, Pittsburgh, Florida, Arizona, Washington, and Baltimore. Hockey has more than that. Even the amazing NFL, which is by far the most successful sports league has teams in St. Louis, Buffalo, Detroit, and Cleveland that are laughingstocks in finance and relevance. Instead of criticizing the "fans" of these teams in these towns, the leagues should do the right thing and take the teams away. We do not need 30 teams a league. Is that harsh? Yes. Is is right? Yes.
That warm October night in 1995 is a funny memory to me. The friends I gave up weren't really friends, because they didn't like what I had to say. While I have learned that being too punk rock for the room has consequences and thus my tongue needs harnessing at times, I like being honest more than I like being nice. I always will. Longoria and Price are backtracking to the backlash today and that's ok. I hope they know that they are being kicked by the myth that the customer is always right. Neither will be as honest as they were yesterday, because it takes money out of their pockets through endorsements they will lose by being pariahs in their town. In professional sport, like politics, it's bad business to be honest.
Here's Like A Rolling Stone, listen to the lyrics: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fM4LgoxvoEI