Sports fandom is a funny thing. As Shutdown Inning writer Chris Kautz wrote last month, in the end we’re all just rooting for clothes. The faces of the players and the names on the back of the uniforms are ultimately less important than the name that is emblazoned on the front of the jersey. This truth has been brought home to me this week, considering all of the news that has been generated by a former Ranger, one C.J. Wilson.
By now, you likely know the story. If you don’t, Baseball Time in Arlington provided a concise recap for you. Wilson’s choice to use his Twitter account to share Mike Napoli’s phone number with 117,000 strangers as a joke has come under plenty of scrutiny, which I believe is justified. This “prank” was childish, unnecessarily retaliatory, and Wilson’s staunch refusal to apologize for it has only made things worse, and perhaps displayed more of his true colors. Even while a Ranger, some Texas fans already questioned whether Wilson fit in the clubhouse with the rest of the team given his somewhat pious approach to the game and to media. Now, with Wilson as a member of the Los Angeles Angels, the wool has completely fallen from the eyes of Rangers fans, and at least this week, Wilson is enemy number one.
I fully expect Wilson to be booed when he returns to play in Arlington this summer, despite his contributions to this franchise’s success during his time here. His presence on the Angels only intensifies the already developing rivalry between L.A. and Texas, and I have no problem with that. In fact, his move to California may be one of the best things to ever happen to this rivalry, and to the AL West.
Wilson has quickly found his way on to the coveted list of the love-to-hate all stars. This got me thinking who else might be on this list for Rangers fans. Thanks to an informal Twitter poll I conducted the other night, I think we have the answers.
Alex Rodriguez – There are many reasons that Rangers fans love to cheer against A-Rod. For one, once he was traded to the Yankees, he reflected on his time in Texas as the team being composed of “me and 24 kids”. That was a slap in the face to those former teammates he left behind, and fans took it personally. Second, I think there is still quite a bit of resentment from Rangers fans toward A-Rod for the astronomical size of his contract in Texas, and the constraints it placed on the team. This resentment is not really justified, but it exists. Third, did I mention that A-Rod is now a Yankee?
Mark Teixeira – Not too dissimilar from A-Rod, Teixeira never really ingrained himself in the Rangers team or culture, and made it all too apparent that he was anxious to skip town as soon as he could. The sting is lessened because of the haul the Rangers got in return for Teixeira, with current team pillars Elvis Andrus, Neftali Feliz, and Matt Harrison coming back from Atlanta in the trade that sent Teixeira packing. This made it much easier to bid Teixeira good riddance. However, he too is now a Yankee and thusly any ounce of dislike is magnified to Rangers fans, and so he is deservedly on this list.
Jered Weaver – The ace of the Angels rotation has had no issues displaying his emotions on the field, often carrying one of the game’s biggest scowls in tow. In 2011, he went up a notch on the love-to-hate list after Mike Napoli hit a home run off of Weaver, and Weaver didn’t take that so well. Weaver stared Napoli down the entire time Napoli was circling the bases, and barked something at Napoli once he was entering the Rangers dugout. Lip readers who witnessed the event immediately felt the need to wash their eyes out with soap.
Those three, and now four players once you add C.J. Wilson, topped the list of almost every Rangers fans response I received. Each of these four is talented, plays for a rival team, and at some point has spurned the pride of Rangers fans. What they also have in common is that if for some reason they were to find their way back to playing for the Rangers, and playing at a high level, it wouldn’t take long for all to be forgiven and for them to once again find their way into the hearts of Rangers fans.
This is what makes sports fandom strange. This is what makes sports fandom amazing.