When New York Mets second baseman Javier Báez sat down for a postgame press conference, his honesty got him and his entire team in a lot of trouble.
Báez was asked why he and his teammates have been flashing the thumbs down hand gesture anytime they scored a run, or struck someone out, or won a game. You have to admit, it’s a confusing thing to do when you perform well.
Apparently not one to think up a white lie on the spot, Báez admitted it was retaliation to the fans, who have been pretty vocal about the team’s current slump.
For Mets fans, that downward thumb might as well have been the middle finger; salt in the wound in what has been a tailspin of a season. A month ago, the Mets were in reach of the division title. Since then, the team has lost – a lot. Pile on questionable trades, allegations of sexual misconduct, allegations against team executives, and flat-out bad business practices and safe to say the Mets organization has had one hell of a 2021. Their fans, as we mentioned, have been vocal, and when Mets fans are upset, it’s hard not to notice.
We’re not talking the Manhattan upper crust who subway or taxi up to the Bronx to watch their beloved Yankees. We’re talking blue collar Mets fans who call Qu
eens, Staten Island, Brooklyn, and western Long Island home. The kind of fans who aren’t afraid to let out a few choice four-letter words to make their point clear.
Before we continue, let’s make one thing clear. Abuse or threats of any kind, especially racist comments which have plagued professional sports since, well, always, has no place in any stadium. There’s a difference between a strongly worded “Boo” which Mets fans have been doling out, and hate-motivated verbal abuse.
As far as those strongly worded “boos” are concerned, it’s a lot of pressure when you’re on the receiving end, even when you’re being paid millions of dollars a yea
r to hit dingers and pitch lightning-fast curveballs.
That thumbs down, however, is biting the hand that feeds, because even that curse word riddled criticism comes from a place of love.
Sports is a weird industry. It’s the only business where customers keep coming back, no matter how poorly you’re doing. (Just ask the Leafs). Being a diehard fan means attending games, buying the merch, raising your kids to root for the home team, and when needed – some harsh criticism.
You wouldn’t discipline your kid if you didn’t think it would help them improve. Is a sports team really all that different? While one could spend all day debating the difference between children and baseball players, it’s a good reminder to not act like a kid.
To the athletes we love we say hit the field, do your best, and when you’re underperforming, accept the boos. Embrace them, even. While it might seem like everyone in the bleachers hates you, fans are just upholding their end of the bargain, even when the team they love isn’t holding up theirs.