With the recent reaction to Dexter Fowler’s heartfelt comments about how President Trump’s Executive Order has affected his family, something must be said about what it means to call yourself a Cardinals fan.
Diehard fandom is a surreal experience. Pouring your whole existence into a team is powerful, willing them to victory with every cheer, game-day routine, and all-CAPS tweet. Cardinals fans are among the most passionate in baseball. There was a reason that the baseball world was so shocked by the reverse home/away splits the Cardinals had last season.
True fandom does not mean ownership of the team, however. When the Cardinals win, you do not say, “I won” or “My team won”. You say, “We won.” What does it mean to refer to your favorite team as “we”?
The impact of “we”
“We” is powerful. It joins you into a union with the team, asserting participation and equivalence with you and the players. You are united with other fans, in a unique family all striving towards the same goals. Whether it is at tailgates outside of the stadium, a silent acknowledgment to another person wearing the STL on their hat, or joining to boo the life out of the Cubs, fans have a unique relationship.
Yet, “we” goes deeper than just fans among fans.
Fans and players are in it together as well. The players would be nothing without their fans. Empty stadiums, no million dollar contracts, no wide-eyed kids begging for autographs. On the flip side, fans are nothing without their teams. St. Louisans know it better than anyone after the Rams left for LA. It is tough to be a fan for a team that isn’t there.
“We” means disappointment when one of the players you believed in lets you down. “We” means supporting them despite it. Finally, “We” means elation when they bounce back and play the hero the next week.
In a world of daily fantasy leagues and sabermetrics, players are being reduced into numbers and cash prizes. The routine of these human beings are being traded, signed released, and bet on has given fans a novel and unique sense of ownership over Major Leaguers.
But at the end of the day, these players are people. They cry, they suffer loss, they bleed, and they love. Fans only see the 3 hours that they’re at work.
We have been reminded that our super-human idols are just as human as all of us, with the recent deaths of Oscar Taveres, Andy Marte, Jose Fernandez, and Yordano Ventura. Sean Rodriguez and his family nearly suffered the same fate this offseason after a man driving a stolen police car slammed into his car. The criminal died, and Rodriguez and his family all escaped alive, but with broken bones and bruises. Rodrigues told this to reporters last week:
Sean Rodriguez: "My wife and kids are alive. I get to kiss them, say goodnight and I love them every day. For that, I’m just grateful."
— Mark Bowman (@mlbbowman) February 19, 2017
At the end of the day, MLB players are humans. They are equals to fans in the equation that makes up the “we” that forms a team.
Dexter Fowler is a human, with a family that he cares about.
Throw politics out of the question. Dexter Fowler is a human being, who has been negatively effected by the Executive Order. His family cannot be fully together, as his children’s grandparents live in Iran. He’s allowed to be upset by this. He is allowed to have opinions, he is allowed to care about his children’s lives.
As part of this collective “we”, fans must respect that. He is not your athlete, just like the Cardinals are not your team. He is a human being, who can do as he pleases. Disagree all you want, you silence anyone from standing up for what they believe in.
Photo captured by Jeff Curry- USA Today Sports