If you thought there would be an escape from furor after Spring Training started, think again. This week I’ve watched people celebrating the Astros hitters getting barely grazed by off speed pitches. I’ve seen the national media leading off with stories about the Astros getting booed at Spring Training games. People have spread around video of Springer missing on a pitch and falling to his knee as if that somehow means something other than the fact that Springer swings hard at pitches sometimes.
All of that I get, but there have also been Astros fans showing up to point out the absurdity of all of this, and it is absurd, only to be ridiculed endlessly. I’m sorry, but watching people celebrate our players getting hit on a 3-2 breaking ball from a single-A player as if it’s some kind of retribution is laughable. Seeing other Spring Training games devote whole innings of their broadcasts to talking about it and putting up graphics and not even talking about the game actually being played is ridiculous. I get the reporting of it, but the over the top frenzy to report on boos and a baseball grazing a jersey is more about milking a months-old story than anything else. But when Astros fans point that fact out we’re met with the same opinion: That we’re somehow a classless group of tarnished jerks who love cheating.
Look, the Astros cheated. We know this and admit. Astros fans have internalized it and come to personal conclusions about it. Those conclusions are as varied as fans are themselves. Some of us feel bad about it while others are angry and still more are defiant. But an unwillingness to abandon the team over this doesn’t mean that we need to shut up about it. You might think otherwise though with the way that we have been treated by other baseball fans.
You see this manifest in the way that other fans tell us that we’re not allowed to point out just how ridiculous and over the top things have gotten with this. That they’re allowed to abandon all objectivity and believe whatever nonsense they want about the Astros and we have to let them because cheating. That if we don’t let them say whatever absurd nonsense they want to that we’re somehow supportive of cheating. I’ve seen my Twitter timeline filled with takes like that.
But some of them are getting truly absurd. There’s an account on twitter right now that is devoted solely to documenting the Astros hitters being beaned by baseballs this year. That is gathering videos of people booing and heckling as if it’s some kind of legit chronicle of history. The LA Times even did a story on it and the guy behind it talked about how he doesn’t eat or sleep much because of all the time he’s devoted to this. I mean, how am I supposed to take it when I’m told that we’re a bunch of morally bankrupt scumbags while this guy is literally devoting his life and health to spreading hate and anger?
Now I understand that sports tend to cloud the logic center of our brains. We invest ourselves into it and feel like it’s more than what it is. We use it to make ourselves a part of something that’s larger than us. Fans of other teams want to elevate theirs by making ours look like less and, yes, they get that opportunity because the Astros did cheat. But at the same time the constant needling and shoving it in our faces as they use us as a proxy for the team is grating. While some people go too far on both sides, the vast majority of Astros fans understand what happened and are disappointed in the team. However, that doesn’t mean that we have to let people say whatever stupid thing comes to their mind though. The two are not mutually exclusive.
I’m very disappointed in the team, indeed I feel betrayed by them on a certain level, but I’m not going to completely abandon my love of baseball over this. I’ve seen reporting on how teams have cheated in the past, how they broke the exact same rule that the Astros did, just not to the same degree. I also see how people want to suddenly act as if the rest of the sport is a group of moral superiors who would never stoop so low as to try and gain an undeserved edge, and I roll my eyes. I will not apologize for refusing to believe that the Astros have torn down the integrity of baseball in 2017 while other teams have always been 100% clean like others want me to. That’s not a reflection on me as a person though in spite of what fools on the internet might think. Especially not when a small amount of research can put proof to that lie very quickly.
Quite frankly, I don’t owe it to some kind of moral center that doesn’t exist to stay silent on that and neither do other Astros fans. We’re not obligated to let other fans roll us over all season and mislead others with idiot takes fueled by anger. We’re still fans of this team and are allowed to defend them without it staining our honor the way that other fans seem to think it does.
And if we seem defensive in it? Well, we are. We’re defensive because we have been battered for month after month since this whole fiasco started. We’ve been told that our team is worthless. That what the Astros did was somehow different than other times it was done because they gave us one of the best times of our lives while doing it. That one of the greatest moments in our fandom and, by extension, our lives is forever tainted just because others say it is. That we should forget about that moment and act as though it didn’t happen when there’s a real possibility that other teams we faced were doing something similar. We’ve been told that we’re obligated to feel a certain way to satisfy others or else we’re somehow a group of garbage people who eschew morality.
We’ve been told to abandon logic and precedence in order to appease an anger that’s been inflated beyond reason. An anger that has moved into the realm of the absurd but is treated as somehow noble and right. We haven’t just been told that all of that, we’ve had our faces rubbed in it every time we try to read about baseball news or enjoy time on social media. Every time we look to escape a little bit from the stress of our day to day lives, we’ve been reminded that other people hate us for what the team did. Even the Astros’ account on Twitter is flooded with gifs of people banging trash cans every time they post anything because fans of other teams are following them for the sole purpose of making us feel bad. So you’re damn right we’re defensive in the face of all of that.
I won’t be pushed away from my team by them or their hatred though. I will continue to root for the Astros and this constant shouting by other fan bases has done nothing but fuel my defiance. Every time I see another fan babbling about cheating in 2019 or buzzers in spite of the commissioner’s report, it makes me realize that it doesn’t matter what the team actually did. They just want to push us down and are looking for whatever reason they can find. If they want to hate us that’s fine, but they should realize that that hatred has really only pushed us together as a fan base. They can yell all they want, we don’t owe them anything.