When I first moved to San Diego in 2008, I felt the same way most people around the country felt about West Coast baseball.
I figured a West Coast fan was someone who only came out to cheer for their home team if that team was a decent team. Little did I know I would be proven wrong.
While I will agree the atmosphere and attitude at games out West seems a little less intense, I will offer a Dodgers-Giants game and you tell me if there isn’t as much intensity as a Yankee–Red Sox game.
People are getting killed at these West Coast games they’re so intense and that’s not a joke. (It also isn’t meant as a competition point either. I feel the violence at sporting events among fans is completely out of control, but that is for another article.)
I don’t feel that a West Coast fan lacks the same intensity. I do feel that there are just so many more activities to do out West so baseball isn’t the top billing in everyone’s minds. For example, do you know how many year-round adult baseball leagues exist out in Southern California? Many, so instead of watching games on TV or at the stadium, people can actually play in them. It’s hard to stay upset about the results of a game when you can finish watching it and then go to the beach.
In contrast, when I lived back east, the summer weather was so brutal I didn’t want to do anything outside. No one wanted to be outside when it was in the upper 90s with humidity nearing 100 percent. So, we would stay inside in the A/C and watch baseball. Had I been able to comfortable do other outdoor activities that I can now, maybe I wouldn’t have developed such an emotional attachment to baseball that I have now. I feel many others back east are the same way, and in that light, it’s really not fair to compare this mentality with someone who doesn’t live there.
It’s also unfair to compare an East Coast fan to the West Coast fan because West Coast baseball doesn’t get a whole lot of love from the national sports media. The lack of coverage and notoriety will continue to assist in the notion that fans just don’t care as much, because if they’re not getting air time, they must not care right? This will continue as long as major sports networks are located back east, like ESPN in Bristol, Connecticut.
I can’t tell you how many times I’ve flipped to Sportscenter to look for baseball highlights and instead I get to watch 45 minutes of a golf recap. Or even worse, I get to watch around-the-clock coverage of how LeBron James and the Miami Heat are spending their off-season. I haven’t watched ESPN at all since I discovered the MLB Network. At least, there I can see what I really want to see, even if I do have to listen to Mitch Williams.
I know what some are probably thinking out there. What about the Dodgers and Giants?
To that, I would say you’re right that there has been more coverage than in the past years for these two teams. This is due to the Giants winning in 2010 and 2012 and the Dodgers spending money like they are printing it, but before 2010, radio silence. Believe it or not ESPN, they do actually play baseball out here!
Naturally, my first year out in San Diego, the Padres lost 99 games and had pretty dismal attendance but I still feel there is more to it than just people being “fair weather fans.” I have had a few years to absorb the West Coast fan base out here and there are a few points worth noting.
For starters, a lot of the population isn’t originally from here. Take me as an example. I was born and raised on the East Coast as a Yankee fan with my family holding season tickets, and I spent 22 years becoming a passionate and devoted fan. Then in 2008 I decided to leave and go out West. Should the allegiance that I spent the last two decades building just evaporate? Currently there are multiple ways to view your favorite team on TV, and with TV’s becoming so insanely clear why would my first choice be to go watch a Padre game? Why would I go this route when I can watch the Yankees up close and on my own TV in the comfort of my own home?
That mentality reflects negatively against the fans out here though and that is just unfair. I love going to baseball games live for the experience of the game. However I am die-hard fan who loves his team, if you give me the choice, I am going to choose watching the team I can get emotionally invested on TV more often than not. I will certainly still go to live games, but the majority of the time I want to follow my team. I am not alone in this rationale as well. Southern California has a pretty large military presence. Some of these service members choose to make SOCAL their home after their service is complete. These people aren’t necessary from SOCAL though, putting them in the exact situation I find myself in. So how do you tap into these people’s allegiances? Well, that’s not that easy.
A fair weather fan is someone who comes out of the wood work once the team starts doing well. Of course fans will look like this if the team is awful for twenty years and then has a decent season, here’s looking at you Pittsburgh. If you want to attract and keep a fan base, give them something to cheer about, for more than a season. This isn’t just directed at SO-CAL fans either this is any team but I am writing an article about West Coast fans not baseball fans. If you build it, they will come and that statement rings so incredibly true.
No one is going to want to emotionally and financially invest themselves in a product that is bad except maybe Cubs fans, but that is a whole type of sadistic following entirely. Think of baseball from a product stand point for all the business people out there. No one is going to buy a product they know is going to be awful. If Apple came out and said they were introducing a new iPad but it only works half of the time and will repeatedly lose needed documents and information for its users, do you think that product would sell? The same holds true to baseball teams. That onus shouldn’t be on the fan; instead it is on the baseball teams themselves. That however, is another topic for another article.
So you see, it isn’t really fan to compare fans from different geographic areas of the country. In every city the fan base is different and with that you will get varying levels of passion and dedication. This is why I cringe every time I hear that, “St. Louis has the best baseball fans in the country.” Really? How in the world can you even determine that? If St. Louis wants to call themselves that, by all means go for it, but for the media to refer to them as that is a little much. Every fan base is different so in reality it’s pretty unfair to compare them to each other.