Where Do We Go from Here? Us – The Fanbase

It was a great year, just one that ended too soon. And while Alex Anthopoulos has a couple of pressing questions to address, which other writers will cover later in this series, I think we as a fanbase have a bigger task at hand:

How do we avoid becoming the kind of fanbase we’d love to hate?

After the Boston Red Sox beat the Yankees and reversed the curse, and then won three more championships in due course over the next decade and a half, the fanbase rather quickly evolved from a New England-based set of lovable losers to a heavily entitled, nationally branded, petulantly brittle, drivetime radio mirror image of the Evil Empire they had taken down.

No thank you.

The Braves have been an enormously successful franchise over the past 31 years, obviously. Twenty-two division titles, six league pennants, and two championships. And quite a lot of the team’s young core is under team control for much of the next decade.

So it’s easy to feel optimistic, and it’s also perfectly natural to feel sad and disappointed that such a wonderful season ended so abruptly and pathetically. But it’s toxic to start feeling entitled to future success, and angry when that success doesn’t come.

And… honestly… it has felt at times over the past few years that some Braves fans are teetering over that edge. The endless criticisms of Brian Snitker (a manager whose teams have a .581 winning percentage over the last five years) and Austin Riley (who has hit 71 home runs and been worth more than 12 Wins Above Replacement over the last two years) have had an edge to them, a Steinbrenneresque undertone that anything less than a World Championship is unacceptable.

That kind of attitude is distasteful in a rival. It’s one of the things many of us dislike most about Yankees fans — the adenoidal caricatures that call into WFAN and read the back page of The New York Post and are just livid that their team coughed up two runs in the third. But it’s even worse in a compatriot.

So this is both a plea and a warning. This particular incarnation of the Atlanta Braves is not a dynasty, but it could become one. On the other hand, I might have said the same thing about the 2010-2013 Braves, the team of Heyward, Freeman, McCann, Simmons, Teheran, and Kimbrel. Their future was bright, but it wasn’t bright enough, and the agony of the abrupt teardown was devastating.

I don’t think that will happen this time. But it’s a healthy reminder not to get over our skis. This team is winless once more. I hope they win a hundred and sixty-two games in 2023 (which I predict will be JonathanF’s prediction!) and I’d love them to win a fifth championship, one for the thumb.

But I got my joy in 2021. The past few years have been about the most fun a guy could have. If I had expected nothing less than all this — Joctober! Money Mike! The Dúnadan! — I never would have experienced the joy of the unbelievable miracle that occurred.

There’s a line that apparently goes back to Alexander Pope, though it’s probably been ascribed to just about everybody:

Blessed in he who expects nothing, for he shall never be disappointed.

Of course, that’s easy for him to say. We’ve got Ronald and Ozzie and Michael and Spencer and Matt and Austin locked up long term, and Ian and Kyle and William and Vaughn (and Kyle) under team control for a bunch more years too, so it’s hard for me to expect nothing. Meaningful September baseball without an early mathematical elimination seems like a reasonable expectation.

But there are 29 other teams and a New York billionaire in our division. I’m not going to expect a pennant every year. I hope none of us does!

That said, if they do win the next six championships, I promise to be a perfect gentleman about it.

18 thoughts on “Where Do We Go from Here? Us – The Fanbase”

  1. JC’ed from the last post –

    @11 great to hear that on Justyn Henry-Malloy – LF was by far the Braves’ worst position last season, thanks (no thanks) to Ozuna and Rosario. Both of those guys are under contract for next year and I assume they’ll have first dibs on claiming a full time role (or in Rosario’s case at least a strong-side platoon role) in LF. However, the LF solution may well involve Vaughn Grissom or Mr. Henry-Malloy, both of whom look like they could be solid offensive contributors. If they’re both ready for prime time in 2023, that may well be enough for the Braves to finally cut Ozuna loose / fire him into the sun.

  2. Alex, I shared this post with my followers on Twitter and many are raving about it. Kudos to you. This is fantastic. Thanks for kicking our “Where do we go from here” series with a banger.

    We will have a total of 8 and I’m really excited to see what our crew can put together.

  3. Well said, Alex!
    And once again thanks to Ryan and the long list of contributors who make this site a daily visit for me, off-season or not.

  4. Completely agree, Alex, but….

    I’m not sure what to do about this. There will, of course, always be a substantial amount of any moderately successful fanbase who behave like entitled jerks. (Actually, that’s probably true of unsuccessful fanbases as well, there being no global shortage of entitled jerks.) The Yankee problem, and the Red Sox nation problem, and the Cardinals (“the most knowledgable fans”) problem, and yes, to some extent, the Braves problem, is that the whining and the arrogance, (not to mention the whining arrogance and arrogant whining) are how the team is known, and to a large extent, that’s out of the control of the fanbases of those teams.
    In other words, Mets and Phillies fans already think we’re a bunch of racist spoiled brats, and will continue to think so no matter how humble Braves Journal is.

    So I’m not saying there aren’t things that can be done at the margins to police Braves Journal arrogant comments, and I’m not even saying (though I have no idea how to do it) that some general policy of pooh-poohing the worst excesses of our much larger brethren might not have some effect. But we live in an age where you are judged by the worst of your supporters, not your best. (I could give examples, but not without violating Mac’s Prime Directive.) You’re right, but how are you going to inform the loudest Mets fans about it?

  5. Timely topic. Nice one, AAR.

    At Yankee Stadium yesterday, I had a conversation with the guy sitting next to me, a 67-year-old diehard Yankee fan who grew up in The Bronx. He was wearing an Avirex-type Yankee jacket with all the title-years on the back (1923, 1927, etc.) He was telling me all these stories about how he loves to go to other stadiums rocking his pinstripe gear & rubbing it in opposing fans’ faces. (He also told me a very funny Seinfeld-esque story about how, at the old stadium, he missed Reggie Jackson’s 3rd HR in Game 6 of the ’77 WS b/c he got stuck in the men’s room.)

    Then, I told him how I’ve been to about a half-dozen Braves/Mets games in Flushing each year for the past 32 years and I don’t wear a lotta Braves stuff there anymore (even this year), mainly because I just got bored with the confrontations with the knuckle-dragging element. If anything, for those who do understand geography, I’ll wear UGA stuff (which occasionally gets confused w/ Green Bay Packers gear anyway). I’ll keep score & cheer my team, and that’s it. My satisfaction, I told him, is quietly walking out of the stadium and onto the 7 train after a win, listening to the on-cue grumbling of the Mets fans. (It’s the movie that just keeps playing.)

    “I guess that’s just the difference between us,” I said, only half-joking.

    Of course, give us another title or 2, and we’ll see if that level of piety lasts. I’ll do my best.

  6. Who cares what other fanbases think of us? Seriously. Our expectations are high and they’re justified. Doesn’t mean we’ll always win. It’ll be hard to have any semblance of dynasty with 12 playoff teams in the mix. Getting there consistently is the only fair measure. It’s ok to be proud of that. When this cycle is over and we go back to being terrible for a long period of time, that’ll be humility enough. Enjoy this while it lasts.

  7. Yeah, I agree that there’s really no way to control our public reputation. So I’m more making a moral case for virtue being its own reward: as a Braves fan, I am ashamed to see other Braves fans behaving like louts. So this exhortation is entirely directed inwards: at us, for us. I think we should enjoy it all, just without being a jerk about it.

  8. Thanks for the post, AAR.

    Growing up as a Univ. of Louisville basketball fan, I’ve had a long front-row seat to a brand of that Yankee-esque kind of fandom on the part of a certain (loud) portion of the Univ. of Kentucky fanbase, and while my perspective on it is necessarily a little biased, it has always struck me as a little bit joyless. Either you’re aggrieved because [x year’s] UK team is unquestionably the Best Team in History and is DEFINITELY going undefeated and as such they’re not getting enough national respect (because they never can), or you’re aggrieved because they, as The Greatest Program in the History of College Basketball, dared to lose a game or two to someone like Christian Watford or Frank Kaminsky, and therefore John Calipari (or Tubby Smith or etc etc) sucks and has always sucked and deserves to get run out of town before lunch. I still remember a parody song someone put out years ago called “Ten-Loss Tubby,” as losing ten games for multiple years in a row was considered an unforgivable sin. (Btw, just for the record, I went to grad school at UK, and some of my absolute favorite people in the world are die-hard UK b-ball fans, and this definitely doesn’t apply to everyone. But this kind of fandom is pretty clearly A Thing among certain folks I’ve known.)

    But honestly, falling prey to our expectations—and letting a postseason result obscure the joy of the ride—can happen to all of us. Was this Phillies series the first postseason series we were clear favorites in since the end of The 14-Year Streak (excepting the weirdo opening rounds of 2020, which didn’t really even feel like the postseason)? After so long being the underdog, it’s a strange feeling to adjust to, to feel like you ‘deserve’ to win.

  9. Per JF’s parenthetical aside, lack of success definitely does not preclude folks from being entitled jerks, particularly when there was success sometime within memory. I present to you my fellow Tennessee fans (on this, the week of our glorious return to prominence…at least for now), many of whom became even more entitled jerks during the 20 or so years of questionable to terrible football than they were back when the team was last actually good.

    I will say that folks are going to be fans in different ways that suit them. Folks are going to grouse about the manager, even the one that just made a bunch of right decisions en route to a World Series title. People are loath to change their minds about anything, and the segment of people who always thought Snit was an idiot were more likely to paper over last year and say he got lucky than to admit that maybe he’s a good manager. Some folks were converted, but many were not. The folks who only post on here (and elsewhere) when they have something negative to say and totally disappear when there’s no reason to have anything negative to say are very annoying IMO, but that’s something of a tale as old as time.

    For my part, as year after year passed without the Braves (or any of my other teams, for that matter) winning a championship, I found every season where we had a chance turning into an utter torture chamber for me as it wound toward October. After our deliverance last year, I decided that this season I would strive to take it easy in terms of going nuts over the day-to-day. And I basically succeeded. I got pissed off exactly once (after we blew back-to-back games in St. Louis in August) and wound myself so tight that I thought I was going to pop once (the game in which we wound up clinching the division) and other than that, I found it a much more pleasant experience.

    I do suspect, though, that as ububba alluded to, if we were to go on a run of multiple titles over the next decade (a la the Red Sox), our fanbase would begin to slide in the direction that AAR wants to avoid. Seems kind of unavoidable, though we can certainly all do our best individually to not be jackasses.

  10. Alex, I love this post. It’s thoughtful
    and well written as always. You’ve also stated my views on this subject much better than I could myself.

  11. @14–I’m pretty old, but not nearly old enough to have seen Charley Trippi play. But I’ve always been aware of him; my father always said that Trippi was the greatest player he ever saw. I’ll admit I had no idea he was still alive. My goodness, he was almost 101.

  12. Sadly, I think such a thing is impossible in the modern day. The internet lets anyone nutpick and amplify the the worst examples of any group of people if they want to.

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