Catching Lightning in a Bottle: Josh Hamilton at the Home Run Derby

This article has been submitted by Andrew Chestnut.

The last time I watched a home run derby, the year was 1998, when presidents spoke in complete sentences, people still had AOL and CD players, and gasoline was still cheaper by volume than Russian beluga caviar. Back then, Ken Griffey Jr. was still wearing a Mariners uniform, and stuck 19 baseballs through controversially rarified air and out of Coors Field to win the contest.

Since then, the ordeal has completely failed to interest me. There are no stories or meanings behind the long bombs to make me care which 280 pound human specimen hits the most. It’s not like the winning guy gets to add five wins to his team’s overall record, or anything like that. To make matters worse, the guys at ESPN seem to be making the thing more and more gimmicky each year, evidently more concerned with capturing the attention of semi-fans flipping through channels than retaining the attention of real baseball fans. The derby reminds me a lot of Slamball.

So this year I returned to watching the derby to see this Josh Hamilton guy who apparently hits baseballs the way Mike Tyson used to hit people (hard). There was talk that he might be the first person to ever hit a ball out of Yankee Stadium.
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Bad is Good, Good is Bad for Baseball Fans

This article has been submitted by the debuting Andrew Chestnut.

Sheryl Crow seems to think that “good is good, and bad is bad.” As far as being a baseball fan, she may be wrong.

We are in an age of rampant, unregulated, bandwagoning; an age when more Red Sox fans show up to Tropicana Field than Rays fans. As a response, the collective subconscious of baseball traditionalists (real fans) has deemed it cooler to follow a team that isn’t very good, as if that makes your fanhood more legitimate.

With so many idiotic imposters out there, flocking en masse to away games to ensure “their” team never experiences a real road game, it is easy to see why Orioles fans garner more respect from true baseball disciples than Sox or Yankees fans. They must be real fans, we communally imply, because they like a team that has sucked for a long time.

Arbitrarily deciding to follow a historically popular team like the Yankees, Red Sox, or Cubs—especially when they are winning—is a baseball felony comparable to taking steroids or wearing a Roger Clemens jersey. It’s like committing credibility suicide.

This phenomenon seems to be an inherent paradox: it is unpopular to like popular teams, and fun to root for loveable losers. It means that, in some twisted sense, it is more desirable to be a fan of a bad team, as if the fundamental goal of being a fan were earning as much credibility as possible, rather than following your team to a championship. Perhaps because only eight teams each year make the playoffs, baseball has become more about you as a fan than the team. Much in the same way affirmative action seeks to repair racism, this reactionary sentiment is a reversed manifestation of the same problem it opposes in the first place.
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