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Jason Kipnis, Social Media, and the Warped Mentality of a Cleveland Fan

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There has been one question that I've been wrestling with in the back of my mind for some time. I'm sure you have an idea what it relates to if you know me at all and if I tell you what that question is, you'll scoff at me and probably say something along the lines of "You are still trying to figure THAT out? Good luck."

But recently, in the past few months, there's been another question that has sort of clouded that. It made me think that perhaps maybe I did figure things out, or I had pinpointed the actual root of the problem/mindset/however you want to term it. Probably less so now, because this new question has fully evolved into a thought of its own. It has brought to the forefront something that I just couldn't grasp, until I saw a little more development that made me start to realize what it was I was looking at.

I realize I need to get to the point, because I'm already two paragraphs in, and speaking in generalities, and you're like, okay, what's he talking about? I'll get there, I promise. And this is going to come off rambly, but when haven't I been rambly?

When I ask myself these questions or have a thought, I typically jot them down because I want to explore them further. If it is worth writing about or I can formulate something other than a rambling coherent mess (yes, it is both rambling and coherent, didn't say well-reasoned, and regardless, I'm gonna ramble), I'll keep going and it develops into something more than just a question or thought. I've probably had five or six thoughts or questions that I wrote down that were explored or ended up being nothing more and completely scrapped. What wasn't, came to fruition. My first piece here on EHC about Nick Swisher, the thing about Jose Ramirez and Francisco Lindor, all things that initially had more legs than I could have initially thought when I scribbled something down.

There's something I wrote down though in the offseason that I wanted to explore more, and did, but nothing came of it. I scrapped it pretty quickly and I can't remember the reason why. But the question still beats around in my brain. And lately, it has taken on a new perspective. It has gone beyond "Why do Cleveland fans suck sometimes" and has decidedly been more specific and involve one particular player.

So I ask...

Why is Jason Kipnis so polarizing?

Kipnis is off to an incredible start to his 2015 season. He's statistically the best second baseman in the game with his bat and as of right now, according to WAR, is better than Mike Trout. BETTER THAN MIKE TROUT! This is following a miserable 2014 where he labored through injuries, poor play, and harsh criticism from the fan base.

Those first two, most players deal with. I mean, you get injured, or you play poorly, or you play poorly because your injured. What player hasn't dealt with that. I think that was the case with Kipnis. And based off the way he's playing this year, now healthy, I'd say it is quite accurate to say that his decline in 2014 from his All Star caliber season in 2013 was the result of an injury, or a modified approach due to injury.

What I can't get past though is the third prong to that. Most players don't deal with harsh criticism. Look, some guys get ragged on, some players will get some negative treatment, your occasional "play better!" from a fan base or a voicing of displeasure. But the stuff towards Kipnis. I mean, maybe I'm just looking too much into Kipnis specifically, but some of it was downright vicious and/or borderline absurd. It was sort of on level of Chris Perez-type stuff, but perhaps not as mean or vitriol, but it seemed unjustified. It was steady and it didn't make sense to me. Kipnis went from darling to dump-on.

Players have bad stretches, they have a bad year even, like Kipnis did. They play poorly, it happens. But the way the fan base started treating Kipnis was rather shocking. The guy plays the game the right way. He's never out there halfheartedly or playing dumb. He works hard, and you can tell he's incredibly passionate about the sport he plays, the things he does, and he loves the team he plays for. He's very likable and he's very proud. I'm not going to pretend to know Kipnis in that way, but I gather all this by just watching what he says, how he conducts himself in the public eye, and his interactions with us as a fan base.

I appreciate Jason Kipnis. I love what he is about, I enjoy watching him as a player, and I feel as if ever since he has been in Cleveland, he's been a guy that has been easy to root for. It is pretty awesome to watch him right now light the world on fire, because everyone that supports the Tribe is backing him 100% and all is well and good again. Even though some of it is a bit hypocritical, we're fans, we are often hypocrites.

So even though he struggled, and there's going to be a little bit of negativity thrown his way, and people are going to call him a bum, I was pretty shocked at how amplified it got, how nasty some of it became, and often times, how ridiculous some of it sounded. So I'm going to be that guy, and I'm going to revisit something that stuck in my mind that makes me feel the way that I do. And it may be silly for what I'm going to bring up, but this is my space, so you're going to follow along and call me crazy afterwards if you'd like.

Let's go back to an Instagram post he made, showing a picture of some Playstation 4 games he just purchased. Here are some of the responses. To be clear, he posted this before the season ended and the comment simply said "Prepared for the winter now!"
A photo posted by Jason Kipnis (@jasonkipnis22) on
Or you could get better at baseball

U r having such a bad year. zach Walters just came to the indians and he has as many home runs as u

Ya because you're already looking forward to winter #mathematicallyin #goplayyourgames

Good thing you have started now... winter usually comes early for the indians

Maybe you should spend your offseason working on your hitting, your batting average dropped 43 pts in one year. Lay off the video games!

The same person in response to someone telling them they are an idiot: You're the idiot. The guy is worried about playing little kid video games with 3 games left in the heart of the wild card race. EARN YOUR PAYCHECK @jasonkipnis22 .241 average and 6 HRs. Nice season...NOT!

Maybe I'm making a big deal about something really stupid. It is one Instagram post and it was four or five really dumb comments. It may also be a few stupid people. But I feel as if I've seen it go beyond that at times. But this is just a small sample size of stupid, so it has to be singled-out.

We have an athlete, posting a picture of video games and saying he was prepared for winter. The response to that, largely, was people asking him for PSN gamer tag or whatever it is kids call it these days. And then there was comments like the ones above. People telling him to "get better at baseball," fine, okay, whatever, they're just being dumb. And then people criticizing him about his year, the stats he put up, and telling him to earn his paycheck. If you want more of it, dig back into his Twitter, it likely isn't hard to find, but again, I didn't do that to myself and wouldn't want you to do the same.

The thing that kept getting to me as I watched Kipnis this spring and hoped for a bounce back season from him was rather simple. It's a question I kept coming back to. Why on earth is does this guy draw so much heat with fans? Is there something attracting the attention?

I mean, there was this little thing in September when a fan tweeted at the Indians and mentioned Kipnis, and he fought back.
And I know what my reaction was at the time. Good for him, and f*** that guy, for real. I know he's a good fan, but that was a stupid comment and I'm glad Kipnis had the personality to stop and say, hey wait, no, screw you dude, we played hard and you can't take that away from us. We didn't fail on purpose and we didn't fail because we didn't try, we failed because the other team was better.

That's who Jason Kipnis is. He's a guy playing baseball. Like pretty much all of us are, only, without the baseball part. He's Cleveland in all the ways that Cleveland can be a person. For as much as Cleveland gripes and carries on about a thing, they are definitively without a doubt, passionate and tough as any other fan base out there. They fight hard to the very end. Kipnis is Cleveland without the whining.

I have my issues, but that isn't what this is about. This is about a little more than that and why the response to Jason after his poor 2014 didn't make any sense with me and how we treat him and others on social media. The stuff with Nick Swisher makes sense, overpaid, tons of hype, lots of charisma, a free agent that came in and we highlighted all that stuff. But Kipnis? Jason is a homegrown player from a similar city, who plays the game hard, was out there injured and still trying his ass off.

Why this garbage about how his batting average dropped? Why this stuff about playing video games? The man is a man, and outside of his job, he is allowed to do things a man does (even if that man likes to play video games). Do I go onto your Instagram account and comment on the picture of your guitar and say "Stop playing music, and get back to doing your accounting job."?

No, because when you go home from your job as an accountant, you want to do things that don't involve Microsoft Excel spreadsheets. When I get home, I go for a run or a bike ride, I don't sit around and answer emails. When we all, as fans, go home from our jobs, we do things normal people do, like watch the Indians. This may be too logical, and you're probably like, "why are you ranting about this?" but, some people don't get it and I think it is imperative that they do. When Jason Kipnis goes home from work, he plays video games, because he can't work his job every single minute of the day he isn't sleeping. Let's stop acting that athletes are perfect and do nothing but focus on their sport, should be active role models in the public, and are completely without flaws.

So that's what this is, right? People are illogical. People are just being people who are being dumb. People are shouting because it's what people do and they are fans and they paid their money, blah blah blah, right?

That's what I thought. But then I thought, it can't be that simple. People aren't just rude to be rude, or being fans to be fans. People aren't stupid (even though, sometimes they are) and they just aren't commenting because they don't understand, at least most of them. There's that fan that was passionate and wanted to win, to see his team succeed, who drove all the way from Detroit to support his team, and that boiled over to him being angry and tweeting at the team and Kipnis, and out came something stupid, and Kipnis called him on it.

There's that, but people aren't stupid about him being a video game out of passion. I can't fault that guy for saying something out of angry even though he needs to stuff a sock into his mouth. But I can certainly fault stupidity as it stands. But I refuse to believe stupidity as it stands.

I put the question to bed awhile ago. I didn't develop the thought anymore, because I simply didn't have an answer. I had nothing further to go off of, and I had nothing like I did with the Nick Swisher piece to develop anything that made sense in my mind.

And then this piece by Zack Meisel came about, and Kipnis was featured. Kipnis is perhaps the biggest personality (I mean, Swisher is, but no one likes him) on this club. He's got a huge following on Twitter. He interacts with fans, he posts videos of pranks he plays on his teammates, he really gets it and understands it. He does it right. That's an athlete that gets how to use social media and sometimes he gets it too well and it gets him in trouble.
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He not only speaks his mind, because that's who he is, but he is a human. He is a man who does things like play video games, attend Blackhawks games, golf, and eat food. Do you not do the same thing? Just swapping out some of the particulars, like Blackhawks game with Indians game, golf with biking, and I sure hope you eat food. I do, I eat lots of food.

And that's when this all hit me. I said that I refuse to believe stupidity as it stands and I don't have to, because I think I figured it out. This is all a mentality. Where it derived from, I have absolutely no clue, but it needs to change and it has to stop. The mentality that some people take needs to change and we need to better educate ourselves and our fellow fan about things so that we don't have this environment continue to sprout spores all over the place.

You've probably seen me pick fights here and there with people on Twitter. I say pick fights, and I don't mean that actually, but I don't have a better way to say it. I more less press them on some of the things they say. The Indians can only defend themselves so much on social media. I'm sure they get hundreds of tweets and comments where someone is disagreeing with the lineup, or criticizing the stadium renovations, or here on and what not. I can disagree with them and that is fine and so can the Indians. And they can troll the fans that deserve to be trolled, and they can take the justified criticism because they are a sports team and all sports teams do that.

But then there's times when you go away from disagreeing with someone, to them being flat out ignorant, and that is when I feel the need to chime in, and sometimes, I do. It can be perceived as me picking a fight with them, but it really isn't. I just want to call them on their bullshit.

And that's really what Kipnis did to that guy back last year. He called him on his bullshit because he is a human and he understands and he knows that guy was being ignorant. It was out of frustration, but it was ignorant. Perhaps the most "human" quote that I've ever seen attributed to an athlete was what Kipnis said in the Meisel piece about how he'd like to sometimes respond to people.

"The other ones, where it's like, 'You're a [expletive] joke. You should give your money back. You should ask to be benched and give someone else a chance.' You just want to say, 'Go [expletive] yourself. I'm [expletive] trying here. I'm not trying to do bad. Trust me.'"

I don't just love this, I super lover it to the point I'd like to marry it and have babies with it. This is a hell of a quote from someone, especially an athlete in the public eye and unfortunately it will go unseen by a lot of people who need to see it. And some that see it, will brush it off and scoff because "they help pay for Kip's salary" or some other ridiculous argument topper of the sort. We often forget times that at the root of it all, these are people with real emotions and real feelings. It may be in some people's minds that the internet isn't quite "real" and that they probably wouldn't say something like that to someone's face, but guess what, it is real. And some would say that to someone's face, but those people are just assholes to begin with. And the ones who wouldn't, but still think of it, assume they can say it because that's an athlete making millions of dollars and I'm just some schmo with a Twitter account.

But here's an athlete that busts his ass every time out there, that will go out there hurt if he has to because he is trying as hard as he can and wants to win, not because of anything else, and he's likely failing because of it. But a good majority of people aren't gonna know any of that, so they'll tell him, on the internet through social media, that he needs to give back the money he's earning for his job.

I know I keep going back to it, but I could go to your place of employment, find out any time you made a mistake, and then ask that you give back a week's worth of salary just for being bad at your job. Doesn't sound too nice does it? I know that he's an athlete, and with that, there comes a different "code" of sorts that sports isn't a regular man's working job, and that it is a bit different, but, no. Seriously, no. There's no difference when you are dealing with a human being. Kipnis plays this game for your entertainment, yes, but he also plays this game as a means to make a living. He has that privilege and from what I can tell, he respects that privilege. He doesn't mistreat it like some athletes do, and if he did, then I'd probably be a little more less defensive of him for all of this. Some athletes disrespect the idea of playing sports for a living and they lose the benefit of the doubt.

But Kipnis goes out there and gives it his all and I respect the hell out of the type of player and person he appears to be. So for that, I think he deserves a little more credit in regards to how you treat him on social media, or even just in general. Perhaps this is a thing that is bigger than just this with Kipnis. And it probably is, way bigger than five responses to a silly post on Instagram. But you have to start somewhere. And to think, it all derived from me wondering why Jason Kipnis was so polarizing.

I think he gets a little more attention because he's out there a lot more, and perhaps his tendencies to interact makes him a little more accessible and therefore an easier target. But Kipnis isn't anymore polarizing than someone else on his team. He's just a little more well-known and vocal and that has produced some of this stuff you're seeing me recap.

At the heart of it though, I just want us to treat the players on our favorite teams with a little more respect. It is downright irritating to see a guy like Chris Perez say interesting things on social media and interact with fans, but then turn away and delete his account entirely because too many people were dickheads to him. I know and realize Perez's tenure with the Tribe ended roughly and I'm using an example that will make you shout at me. But look at it this way.

You keep interacting with Kipnis this way when things aren't great or the minute he makes an error and he'll likely do the same. Because when you aren't allowed to react, eventually if it continues he'll just stop completely. Yes, things are good now and every time the guy gets a hit, the fire emoji and pictures of molten lava are posted and it is completely awesome and the reason social media rocks.

But this is a two-way street. Yeah, he's in the public and he needs to maintain a public image, but you are an adult, so perhaps act like one when things are not so great. Have fun and express yourself. Be angry and be mad or sad, or do what you want to do. But always maintain some level of respectability and don't be a dick to someone who is out there to entertain you, even though you may be self-entitled enough to say that you sign his paychecks. Reality check for you though on that note, you don't, so get over yourself.

If you don't, it goes away and Kipnis isn't on social media to give away tickets to a broke college student who asks for them, probably not expecting the guy to ever reply. He won't post videos of him pranking a teammate to give you a laugh. It all goes away because you were an asshole and couldn't respect him enough.

No one is telling you to not voice displeasure with your team if you are mad. But have a reason and back up your points, and make it civil. Most people are, and only the idiots aren't civil. But if all you have to say to someone who posts a picture of their hobby is "put down the video games and get back in the batting cages" you aren't really contributing to the conversation in a meaningful way and perhaps you are the one who should delete your social media account until you can learn how to use it properly.

I'm saying this all now when things are good. And you are probably wondering if anything brought it on and why the timing is so peculiar. Nothing did and it is peculiar, but again, the question rattled in the back of my mind and sometimes, when you find the answer to a question that you've been looking for, you just need to tell someone. When it's good, enjoy your Tweeting, and more pictures of Barrio tacos and selfies with Sliders. But if things go south, by all means post angry GIFs and be pissed, but at least maintain a level of respect that you'd give yourself, because you wouldn't disrespect yourself, would you?
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