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When the Anti-Fan Gets a Voice

Cleveland Indians
One of the most frustrating parts of being a Cleveland Indians fan is the fact that there are other Cleveland Indians fans.

Hey there, me again.

I'm searching for the correct way to say this. Which likely means I'll spend a good amount of the time to get to the point, but I think that's almost expected of me at this point. One of the things that you've come to know me for is my desire to analyze the Cleveland Indians fan base, and on a larger scale, the Cleveland sports fan. I mean, I'm the resident sociologist, because all I do is talk about non-baseball baseball stuff.

The first thing that I don't want to do is offend someone by telling them they are a terrible fan. But honestly? That's been my first inclination throughout this entire entry. A first draft of this ended up with me just calling people shitty fans. Something clawing at me is saying that isn't fair, especially when my end game with all this is to improve fandom in Cleveland. I want us to all be better fans and I want the Indians to have a fair shake from their fan base. I want there to be knowledge and spirited debate. I don't want everyone to just blindly love the Indians, that wouldn't be fun, and that isn't the point. If you are a fan of a team, even to some degree, you are a fan.

But, I hate some of the flawed and irrational logic that floats around, some of which we've covered before. I feel like I should be able to disagree with someone and still respect their opinion and appreciate their stance. I may not agree with how someone roots for a team or how they've come to have a perspective, I can still admire it if it has some merit and justification. There comes times though, that I can't and at the end of the day because of that, there are terrible fans, at least through my lenses. I sort of feel bad for saying it, and I hate to be the one that "questions" how someone follows sports. But you know what? It exists. And because it exists, and really, because it is the way that I feel, this is going to have to be the way it is. Am I the law of the land in this? No, but I feel my compass is strong enough to be the guide on this, so, here it goes.

Here's the prefaced apology. If you are offended because you feel like you fall into this grouping that I'm calling a terrible fan. I'm sorry. But sometimes the truth hurts. I'm sorry you feel that I'm questioning your fandom or how you choose to display your displeasure with a sports team. But, here's the reality. While there isn't a right and a wrong way to follow a team, because that would be silly, there's largely agreeable ways that you can choose to be a really shitty fan from a matter of perspective. And that perspective is mine. So, here you go. Deal with it. Okay? Or just stop reading, because, I'm done with the flawed logic and warped narratives.

Let's try and make sense of this. Instead of referring to the groups of fans in their specific subsets that I have in the past, like Dolanz Cheap Fan or Stuck in the 90's Fan, let's just categorize them into one larger umbrella. Because this is about all of them, not just a specific subset.

Let's call them the Anti-Fans, shall we? I call them the Anti-Fans because while they are fans of the Cleveland Indians, they are very much detractors as well. They come in all shapes and sizes (or in this instance pleas and plights), but they are all one collective group of people that make you want to throw yourself into a wall. At least, that's how I feel when I read Facebook comments, Twitter @replies, or Instagram messages.

We're in a bit of an interesting landscape right now with the Indians getting off to a much better start than in years past. There also seems to be a little bit of swagger about this team, and they look like not only do they have the staying power for an entire year, their division looks ripe for the picking.

It has seemed to shift a mindset among the specific subsets of the Anti-Fan contingent. There's some strange cross-breeding going on, as well as some once hidden or low-key players making more of a outward display. Or, I'm just taking notice. Or they're just being painfully more annoying.

While you have those "yeah that's great, but..." that's not what has been most prominent to me. What has been is the mass breeding produced by your once-more quieted celebrity fan that seems like his opinion is more validated than others, but not for the reasons you would think. A loud opinion often becomes a popular one just because of the volume.

The following paragraphs is incredibly dangerous, but I'm going to go for it anyway because I'm already calling people terrible fans, so why not? Please don't read into it or draw a conclusion that isn't what is being stated.

Look at the Donald Trump campaign. Whether you believe he's wrong or right, he's had a very loud opinion and, unarguably, his opinion has garnered support and it has become a more popular one. This is not a political stance or anything meant to support or not support him, it's simply an observation that I feel is pretty accurate. Again, take it at face value. That's all the political talk you'll ever get from me in something about sports.

But, that being said, it's the same principle we can deal with in sports and specifically for our talk here concerning the Cleveland Indians. I've brought up some aspects of media coverage in the past that have played into all this. Just recently, we had a prime example of the false narrative growing when a certain newspaper journalist perpetuated a bitter agenda. You have a medium, a platform, a person, whatever, who garners a large number or certain amount of eyeballs and ears, and that right there helps form an opinion base. Whatever is being said is going to be taken by a large majority and furthered. That's just the nature of media. It's what people have time for and if that's what's being said, then that's what's being taken. A grand majority do not have time to go further than that, and really, these are the people closest to the story, so why wouldn't we take what they have to say and run with it? Why not make it my own opinion?

This is where we bring the two together and introduce today's featured figure.

Ladies and gentlemen, may I present to you, ESPN's biggest Cleveland Indians fan, Jay Crawford.

Crawford, an Ohio-born broadcaster who gained notoriety by being the host of Cold Pizza/First Take/whatever they called it and the middle-man moderator between hot air snark master Skip Bayless and whoever wanted to get into a shouting match with him. He's an alum of Bowling Green State University, but an unabashed fan of The Ohio State Buckeyes. Buckeye by birth? Doh-kay.

Along with that, he's a Cleveland sports fan, which seems to be a rarity in the national media...perhaps because as a sports journalist, you aren't really supposed to have fan allegiances. But we're talking about a national guy that doesn't really influence the "news" at a network that stopped reporting on "news" about a decade ago, so, eh who cares? It actually isn't all that important. Even though, as a journalist, regardless of your medium, market, or platform, you probably should check your allegiances and bias at the door. Remain a sports fan, yes, especially at a place like the Mothership where you have to love sports and champion it, but individual fandom? Maybe not so much. I'm digressing. Who's to say I wouldn't be the same? But, that's a gray area and a whole different debate for a different website and a different time.

Jay Crawford is the worst type of Cleveland sports fan. I mean, at least he's a Cleveland sports fan, but he's the absolute worst for someone to perpetuate an opinion from. Here comes where the long intro comes from. He's really terrible. Seriously, it sucks that a guy with some fame is a terrible Cleveland Indians fan. He falls into the Anti-Fan umbrella, but if you want to subset him among Cleveland Indians fans, he's a Dolanz Cheap member but blends it with a delightful smattering of holier than thou and a chunk of I played the game before so I know more than you. And he's got a platform, with a lot of people who know who he is, so of course, his opinion is more influential than others. Warranted or not. He says positive things a lot, outwardly cheers for them, has a tweet or two when they play a good game, a few when they don't. He's a casual observer from afar, a fan just like most of us.

Crawford has never been one to back away from a stance that the ownership doesn't spend money or needs to spend more money. It was a talking point most of April and somewhat in spring because he feared the team didn't have offense. Alas.

Here comes the chunk of I played the game before, right as you get into the best part of the dish. He has bit back to criticism in the past on Twitter towards people who question his opinion, by discrediting theirs because they didn't play ball like he did.

Look, however he meant it, it comes off incredibly pompous and arrogant. And even if it doesn't, how does that statement support your point in anyway? I now feel stupid for saying I feel bad about calling people terrible fans, because, this is just being really shitty period. Oh, you didn't play the game before? Great, call me when you do before you give an opinion, because until then, it doesn't matter.

It gets more nauseating the more you look at it. I don't know if Jay Crawford is a nice guy. People always say "I'm sure he's a nice guy, but..." before they rip them for something else. Who knows, maybe Jay Crawford isn't a nice guy. Maybe he's a total jerk. I don't really know, maybe he is a good guy. I don't really care, nor does it really matter. What he's said in the past few months, despite the positives and the cheering for the team, really sucks.

On the surface of what I can see, Jay Crawford is the type of Cleveland Indians fan that sucks. He'll go on about money and how the ownership doesn't spend enough. But there he'll be, when the team is having success, cheer-leading out in front as if he had been there the entire time. That's great, you support the team to make it seem lile he likes them, and he probably does. But he furthers these weird narratives about how ownership doesn't spend money, it's undoubtedly 10 times worse because he has 100,000 followers rather than 100 or he's on television at 11 AM instead of working in a cubicle.

He's no different than some of the other really terrible Indians fans that are out there. He's displaced because of his job, but he's the type that, had he still lived in the area, would complain about the product or the team on the field, never go to the games even though he can, and then complain some more. Again, the only difference between him and Dolanz Cheap fan is the notoriety. Oh, and he played before, so there's that too.

Famous fans can be terrible. They can be really great, or they can absolutely suck because they perpetuate a false narrative or they contribute to a problem. Their word is taken a little more because people know who they are. And one who believes that their opinion is more important (and don't make a mistake, Jay Crawford believes his is important not because he's a famous fan, but because he played baseball, which is just another annoying subset of fans...) are worse for everything.

Lots of people will take what Jay Crawford says and roll with it and they will roll with it because they know who he is. That's how we've created these narratives and these opinions out there that don't draw logical sense. It fits a narrative or it fits the argument, it is good to go. Even though something may be brought up to counter it or make one think twice, if it doesn't fit, it gets disregarded or unaddressed. You get the "Well, I played before, what do you know?" types of responses.

The Anti-Fan gains his voice and the voice is pretty loud. More people hear it, and more people buy into it, and more people echo it, and it gets louder, and more annoying. It gets more powerful and then we reach a point where the Cleveland Indians are terrible because they spend money on scoreboards instead of a middle of the order bats, whatever those are.

The Anti-Fan having a voice is bad. It makes for a terrible experience for many of us who are not that way. Who watch ever pitch with hope and like to take a more rational approach to this team and how they operate. It makes it hard to push out the parts of everything that make sense or that fit together to build this entire structure, even it's flaws. Every structure has a flaw. The Cleveland Indians are not perfect, and there are times when they absolutely deserve criticism or something about them should be up for a discussion. But that should be a discussion and it should have two sides with valid points and logical arguments. It should have facts and findings and should have reasonable information all around. Not, "They don't spend money, they never have, and they won't win until they do, neh neh neh, end of argument" or "What do you know about pitching since you've never played ball?"

It shouldn't be up to the large contingent of Anti-Fan to construct a narrative or an argument based off what they believe and what's the loudest. It shouldn't let slanted media or famous fans perpetuate it. It makes for a really terrible experience for the rest of us. So let's do our best to lower the murmur's of the Anti-Fan and mute the one's with the loudest voices.
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