Sunday, February 14, 2010

Top 10 MLB Fan Psychosis

In This Week In Crazy, doctors are working on the new version of the fifth edition of the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders. Why should you care, beyond a general curiosity about how the human mind works? Well, the DSM provides kind of the owner's manual for mental health professionals all over the world, and if there's anything that Americans are particularly good at, it's defining mental illness in a kind of subtle cultural hegemony. A changed DSM means that kids might not be diagnosed with Asperger's syndrome (a form of mild and functional autism that, due to its generally anti-social and proud/helpless about it nature, is commonly referred to among skeptics and endurers/enablers as Assholer's Syndrome). Binge eating disorder and hypersexuality could become everyday words, rather than Freshman Year for Drama majors, and lead to new magic pills to save us from our demons. And so on.

Which is at least five bigger words than you really want in your snarky sports blog list, but I don't bring the unpopularity by chance, my peoples. But here comes the bring back.

When you look over the most commonly diagnosed (note: most common, not most famous) mental disorders in the US, it becomes really easy to pin particular sports fandoms on each... though, of course, some laundry lovers double and triple up. Major metro areas also seem more prone to this kind of thing, since it takes critical mass to achieve public awareness of a condition (and, of course, create more of it). It also helps to compensate from my hypochondria that has me convinced that I'm all of these things for, well, everything, depending on the stakes and situation. And with that, let's get on to the untrained and irresponsible diagnoses!

10) Major Depressive Disorder - Pittsburgh Pirates. A little while ago on another list, I fired up a top 10 of beat down fan bases and neglected to include the Pirates, mostly on the theory that (a) there are no Pirate fans anymore, and (b) those that do exist had been extremely well served by the Penguins and Steelers, who had both produced championships in the past year. Heck, hockey doesn't even end until June, so if you include preseason football, the town had 11 months of championship level play covered. Plus, Pittsburgh has undergone a major renaissance in the past decade, with new fields, an influx of clean economy (computers, colleges), affordable housing and more. I'd live there if I had the right gig.

Pirate fans descended en masse, mostly in the Eeyore-like fashion of becoming even more depressed at having lost even the thing that they were sure to win. Suddenly, the board was overrun with people who read Sylvia Plath and Nietzsche for a pick me up. They didn't even have the energy to be annoyed by the exclusion.

So here it is, you miserable people, you 15 years of losing records with few and far between watchable players, you certain to be six to 10 games out before the end of freaking April Buccos. You've earned it.

9) Bipolar Disorder - Boston Red Sox. I don't know if you've hung out with bipolar people, Dear Reader, but it's an absolutely exhausting condition to endure as a spectator. The bipolar person is basically someone who is in a constant stage of LookitMe, with the highs being so high that they just want you to absorb all of their spare happiness, and the lows being so low that you should be hiding the sharp objects and locking the medicine cabinet. It's just a 24/7/365 festival of making sure that Person X isn't going to kill themselves out of fool stupidity.

Sox Fan has the ever-diminishing weight of childhood trauma and the constant fear of the New Yankee Millennium to add to the condition, but honestly, even when this team didn't win championships, it was never boring or unwatchable. Which leads to the single biggest problem that non-sufferers have with bipolar people... the sense that it's not so much of a real condition as it is an overwhelming sense of narcissism, combined with an utter and complete lack of personal boundaries. Sympathy gets burned up quick.

8) Anxiety - New York Mets. When the Mets play, win or lose, there's this sense of exactly *how* they are going to blow it. Will it be via a big lead that evaporates in the clutch, or through a string of never-ending injuries, each one more questionable than the last? And how much aid and comfort is all of this providing to Yankee and Phillie Fan, who live to either antagonistically ignore or revel in the new humiliation that your team will provide?

Met Fan is an anxious fan, as befits people who generally live near, but not in, New York Proper (aka Manhattan), and who have a continuing sense of insecurity about that, along with many other things. (Ed. Note: There's also the constant economic insecurity at living in a relentlessly expensive part of the world, especially in a recession.) Small wonder that they are anxious. And if your season hung on whether or not a perpetually injured shortstop's hamstrings were right (shame about the recent news that they aren't -- hah, Mets Fan, made you look!), you'd be too.

7) OCD - Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder - Chicago Cubs. Wrigley Field is one of the oldest working stadiums in North America. People who love it really love it, and have made a comfortable little cocoon neighborhood around it in which they while away the summer months in a happy drunken slumber of not winning, all the while convinced that something beyond persistently awful front office decisions and mediocre farm system output is the fault of the last 100+ years of championship-free baseball.

Changing Wrigley, or even considering the possibility that this urine-soaked living museum to ineptitude might be part of the problem, gets you branded as a heathen, a Visigoth, a rank corporate shill looking for some new luxury box or worse. It doesn't matter that the people who are currently at Wrigley are first class trustafarians and frat boys; any change to it is just wrong, wrong, wrong. It has to be just so, don't you realize, or all of the magic is gone. Can't you folks at least turn your rally cap a half dozen times before each pitch while you are at it?

6) PTSD - Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder - San Francisco Giants. Listening to Giant Fan on Bay Area radio is a real treat, in that none of them were ever Barry Bonds fans. They all knew he was dirtier than dirt, and they never got sucked in to those sold-out days when baseball more or less stopped to watch the Massive Head's every at bat. It's all about Kung Fu Panda Sandoval now, or the mound mastery of Tim Lincecum, and how if GM Brian Sabean ever got his head out of his mediocre veteran free agents and developed an outfielder or three, they'd be sure to do more than challenge the Dodgers for mastery of the West. They are all so past Barry Ball, you see.

But if you probe just a little, and ask if they were at the games when Bonds hit # Whatever, and what the crowds were like when it happened, or how close they came to Bonds dragging them to a title against the Thunder Sticking Angels... well, the facade starts to crumble a bit. Because while everyone in MLB got taken for a bad ride by the Clear and the Crooked, Giant Fan took the hardest and worst of all of them. And if Barry somehow fit his skull through the clubhouse doors and added a few more homers to his totals? They would be right back on it.

5) Social Phobia - Anaheim Angels. Speaking of the Angels, how else can you explain the overwhelming lack of self here? Despite owning the AL West for most of a decade and breaking through for their first world championship, Angel Fan gets routinely punked in crosstown rivalry games against the Dodgers, and can't keep Yankee or Red Sox Fan out of the stadium when they play. Perhaps they have problems dealing with crowds, which would explain the whole Thunderstick and Rally Monkey issue, since both of those things helped to keep others far, far away from them. Boundary issues, Halo Nation?

4) Agoraphobia - Florida Marlins. Given the fire sale history and general leech-like nature of MLB's biggest carpetbaggers -- remember, this is the same ownership group that poisoned the wells and salted the earth in Montreal, only to suck out with two titles -- a fear of the outdoors could just be a sense of personal honor or good taste. But the Fish Fan, assuming he or she exists outside of the championship years, also has the horror that is the outdoor summer weather in the greater Miami area, which is to say a consistent and oppressive soup that is only tolerable if you are from far away and need to avoid your own weather. It can't just be the baseball that makes these people stay away, since the Fish are frequently .500 or better, and have some of the best young talent in baseball on display for a limited time, before they get old enough for an MLB+ franchise to come knocking. Then again, Fish Fan does have to deal with palmetto bugs, which are to cockroaches what Super AIDS is to a case of the clap.

3) ADHD - Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder - Tampa Bay Rays. As befitting a youngish expansion franchise who are so new that their most famous celebrity fan are pro wrestlers from the '80s, Ray Fan is easily distracted by shiny things, loud noises and sweet, sweet candy. How else do you explain how few of them came back for the Rays' attempt to defend their 2008 AL Championship year in 2009? It was as if the year had never happened, with Yankee and Red Sox Fan taking over their yard again, no one showing up despite very watchable players like Carl Crawford, Evan Longoria and Carlos Pena, and the national media being able to more or less forget about what had seen like a major new player in the AL East. Perhaps some Ritalin would help?

2) Alzheimer's - Baltimore Orioles. When you talk to an O's Fan, they inevitably bring up what the game was like back in Memorial Stadium, or when Earl Weaver shifted Cal Ripken from third base to shortstop, or when the '83 Orioles took out the Wheeze Kid Phillies, or how nice it was when Camden Yards opened and a few hours at the yard became a day in the Inner Harbor. That's because there hasn't been a new Orioles Fan made in the last 15 years, ever since Peter Angelos went on a campaign to commit genocide upon the populace with year after year of one-dimensional teams with pitching staffs that generally can't find the plate with binoculars and a map.

So it's understandable that a certain graying and willed senility has developed over the years, as younger people drift away to sports with less abject failure and more reward. Like, say, competitive eating. Or spiraling acts of physical sado-masochism. Same thing as Oriole Ball, really, but with more payoff. Now, where are your pills? MATLOCK!

1) Schizophrenia - Oakland A's. Let's see, we've got a gritty, street-smart urban fanbase that's more or less resigned itself to the fact that the team is trying like hell to leave town. They also have to embrace the idea that a one-time golden boy athlete turned media figure GM has the magic plan to win games and influence people, even though the book that was written about his team more or less showed all of his tricks, and they haven't really been good since then.

We've also got a nation of people that are said to worship at the feet of on-base percentage, despite the fact that most of the newer acquisitions don't do that very well. Finally, we've got the same sad split of fans that profited mightily from the Steroid Era, all the while rooting for the underdog... and the single most defining video moment of their lifetime as fans is underdoggie limping Jesus figure Kirk Gibson taking formerly untouchable closer Dennis Eckersley deep. All in a bastion of American liberalism and blue collar values, where the fan base simply and completely dreams of a day when they have the buying power of the rich Giant neighbors on the other side of the Bay. The ones who get 20X more for their games from their radio, television and gate receipts, despite usually not winning more games.

Yes, A's Fan, I'm calling you schizo, and I'd call you worse, but beating myself up over the performance of my laundry is almost as much fun as, well, watching it for the past few years. Not that it hasn't been really fascinating to see how Pitching And Defense Might Win Nearly Half Of Your Games, But Make Them All Unwatchable.

Still, it's nicer than saying what we really are: Billy Beane's Battered Spouses. At least that implies some level of offense.

(Ed. Note: After getting a lot of traffic on this piece and Sawx Fan puling about how mean mean mean I was to bipolar people, I'm struck by two things. First, that I didn't say that the condition didn't exist, just that it tried the patience of non-sufferers. Much like Sawx Fan. Second, that their concern over my mean mean meanness was only extended to the mean mean mean remarks about their laundry. Not a word for the cheap spousal abuse joke tied to the A's, or trivializing the horrors of Alzheimer's to Oriole Baseball. Once again, in proof by their actions, It's All About Sawx Fan. Moving on.)


Anonymous said...

You forgot shit for brains syndrome - aka The Yankee Fan

Anonymous said...

Megalomania - New York Yankees!

girlanachronism said...

So is your next post is going to compare different MLB teams to different types of cancer? Ooh, or maybe you could mock people who have disabilities and talk about why their conditions aren't real. Or is it only mental illness you feel entitled to refer to in this way?

I realize you're going to accuse me of having no sense of humor. But I hope there's at least some tiny part of you that actually does feel bad about this lame attempt at humor.

DMtShooter said...

Actually, no. Moving on.

girlanachronism said...

Good for you. Must be nice to have it take so little to feel good about yourself.

andy said...

"Met Fan is an anxious fan, as befits people who generally live near, but not in, New York Proper (aka Manhattan)"

Manhattan: 1,611,581
New York City: 8,214,426
Tri-state area: 18,750,000

With only 20% of New York City and 8& of the Tri-State area living in Manhattan- most Yankee fans also do not live in Manhattan. Your premise is befitting to many outsiders who only know NY from Hollywood features and sitcoms.

DMtShooter said...

Actually, I work in NYC, and know plenty of both. Yankee Fan lives in the Bronx, nice parts of Jersey, CT, etc. He wouldn't live in Manhattan even if he had the scratch; he likes space and his car.

Mets Fan is more often a Queens / LI guy, and if he had scratch, would take a shorter commute or nicer apartment. He likes being in the city more.

But by all means, assume that since the blog post isn't 5,000 words, tear me a new one. It's what happens when new traffic hits the page.

Anonymous said...


DMtShooter said...

For the record, comments are moderated for language to keep my advertisers happy, and I'm an A's fan.

But by all means, keep typing in all caps and refreshing the page.

andy said...

"Actually, I work in NYC" ..then you must not get out much. You should know NYC proper is as much the Brooklyn Academy of Music (BAM), as it is the Bronx Zoo, and Flushing Meadows-Corona Park - not just where you work. The point is there is no such thing as NY Proper and only an outsider would make that mistake.

Obviously you live here now, but spent your formative years somewhere else. At some point you may be a NYer- but as of now you still come across like one of the thousand transients who work here but don't really live here.

Hang with your Borough friend more and you may understand some day- its their parents that built Manhattan.

CMJDad said...

Hey Andy, other than the Yankees, NY really and truly SUCKS, you included.

Anonymous said...

If I knew who you where and where yopu lived I would beat the shit out of you (and yes I am bi-polar)

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