Maybe the better question is, “What should it mean?”
That question has come to light quite a bit this season. People in Boston seem to take pride in creating a tough place to play. Carl Crawford, they say, just couldn’t cut it here. He couldn’t handle such a tough fan base. Don’t sign Zack Greinke, they warn. He’ll never be able to handle playing in a place like Boston. The media certainly wears it like a badge of honor that they can make lives miserable for players.
But, they seem to have lost sight of the real goal. There’s a difference between a demanding fan base, and an annoying one. There’s a difference between a media that holds players to a high standard, and one that requires a thick skin.
There’s an interview by Nomar that pops up in a few Red Sox DVDs. He’s commenting about his 1999 season. Basically, late in the season he was hitting close to .400, and feeling pretty good about it. Batting .390 in August, or whatever it was, was a pretty good accomplishment. Then he heard a fan yell to him, “Come on Nomar…let’s go!” Clearly, the fan wasn’t happy with the .390. The fan still wanted to see Nomar go for it. Nomar concludes the segment by saying that even though he was surprised by the sentiment, he appreciated it. He was glad that the fans wouldn’t accept sitting back and coasting.
That’s being a demanding fan base. That’s expecting a lot out of your players. That’s demanding a high quality of play every day, no matter what you did the day before. That’s the kind of attitude you can be proud of.
If that same incident happened in 2012, would it have been different? I suspect that this year instead of yelling “Let’s Go!” The fan would have yelled, “Have you checked out?” “You went hitless today, are you sure you want to be here?” The media would write a four-page story on how Nomar was only hitting .390 because he was slacking. He looked paunchy to them. Was he as dedicated as he was the year before? (Ok, so they don’t write four-page stories anymore. How about a tweet?) If Nomar’s average dipped from .395 to .390, they would hound him after every game?
Is that the same thing as being demanding?
I didn’t think so either.
When did being a tough fan base stop meaning that we hold players to a higher standard, but instead hold our media to a lower one?
I get being a rabid group of fans. I like being a rabid group of fans. I get the dedication required to recognize a player at the grocery store. I understand that players can walk freely in the malls of San Diego because fans out there don’t watch enough games to know what the players look like. I want to be at a game and see people keeping score. I want people to question managerial decisions. I’m OK with passion.
It just needs to be directed better.