Are Pirates’ fans mad at each other or just Bob Nutting?
Photo by Matt Freed/Pittsburgh Post-Gazette
Twitter???and the internet in general???is a hellscape. Anyone who uses it with any regularity is aware of this. A more specific cesspool those reading will be familiar with is that of ???Pirates Twitter???, a constant vitriolic back-and-forth between those with differing ideologies. Whether between local media members, fans, or sometimes even the players themselves, there constantly seems to be a war going on over something.
Everything seems to be fair game, from name calling, belittling, questioning ???true fandom???, anger over how someone chooses to spend their money, and even threats of physical violence. To me, most all of this is unnecessary, and I try my best to stay out of it. Sports are supposed to be fun, an escape, and I try never to question or put down someone else for having a hobby that isn???t hurting anyone. However, it makes me wonder just why this behavior is so consistent???why do fans hate each other? An answer recently hit me, so I decided to consider it.
A term coined by psychiatrist Frantz Fanon, it???s the idea that people will often take out anger and frustrations with someone in a higher position of power on people in their own lives. Basically, the person who the aggrieved truly have the problem with is any combination of unreachable and/or untouchable. Even if action could be taken against them, it probably will have zero impact on the issue at hand, or could possibly result in negative consequences, so it???s worthless or untenable to try. Therefore, when all recourse is out of reach, the only way to feel better???reasonable or not???is to transpose the feelings onto others who are actually reachable.
I was first introduced to this theory in an episode of the podcast Hidden Brain. The topic at hand was people taking their issues with political candidates out on those who reflected ideas, feelings, and actions of those candidates. I found the idea fascinating, as I related it to events in my own life, and I???ve been keeping it in my back pocket ever since. In my opinion, it???s a perfect explanation of what???s happening among Pirate fans, with the ???oppressor??? in this scenario being one of the most hated men in Pittsburgh sports — Bob Nutting.
First off, I want to make it clear I personally have no issues with Nutting. I think he receives undue criticism and vitriol from fans for simply owning a baseball team and more-or-less operating it as a business, nothing different from most every owner in sports or business in general. Qualms that may be better assigned to the system in place, Pittsburgh as a baseball market, or any other number of factors are all piled on him???fairly or not???and he???s become the face of all of it. Please don???t let this opinion derail any thought, consideration, or discussion on my actual topic at hand, because it???s more important and what I actually want to contemplate.
If the original discussion was on politics, Nutting is almost a perfect facsimile of a political candidate???a public figure of power and prestige who???s hated by many, supported by others, and viewed with indifference by those in-between. This is not where the comparables end, however. For the regular folk subject to the powerful whims of these individuals, there is no such thing as interaction. There is no conversation or dialogue, letting your opinions or ideas be heard, or any other way to let your personal feelings be known. Nutting, unlike many political figures, doesn???t even have to make public appearances, in which outcry can be more intimately felt. Really, if not for a yearly sit-down with local media every spring, we might not even be able to prove he exists.
So, if fans can???t personally meet with Nutting to air their grievances, public displays of displeasure have a chance to institute change, right? Unfortunately for many, this doesn???t seem to be the case either. Fan boycotts seem to largely have fallen on deaf ears, and a mass exodus of fans from PNC Park over the last couple of seasons seems to have done little to change the Pirates??? game plan, aside from possibly resulting in lower payrolls. If these seemingly important displays have done little to nothing to force change, obviously token gestures like ???Spend Nutting, Win Nutting??? t-shirts or random Twitter hashtags are going to be completely futile as well.
What are fans to do then, when they think their opinions don???t matter, they can???t force change no matter how hard they try, and there seems to be no light at the end of the tunnel? Lash out at others of course, as already has been discussed. The next best thing is to shift blame to those who aren???t to blame at all???fans that still support the team, watch on TV, and (gasp) have the gall to attend a game and give even a penny to the team and those in charge. Is this actually going to change anything? Obviously not, but in some twisted way it probably makes them feel better, because someone is at least paying attention to what they have to say. Twitter makes for an even better forum for their grievances, because others will see their opinion, and there will either be the opportunity for their opinions to be affirmed by others or to shoot down more dummies who don???t agree with them.
It???s a shame that this is what it has come to???fans of the same team taking sides, one degrading the other out of anger, while the other is forced to defend a stance that really needs no defending. To me, anger over something as arbitrary as sports fandom is silly, but even worse is placing blame at the feet of those who have literally nothing to do with it and negatively impacting the lives of others in the process. If you are going to be angry, be self-aware enough to direct the anger at those who deserve it and leave the innocent out of it. However, it???s passion and emotion that causes sports fans to do things that many from the outside see as crazy. The bigger problem is when that emotion becomes toxic, and we???ve long passed that point in Pirates??? fandom.
So, I would call for everyone involved to be kind???there???s no need for this much hatred and animosity. Ultimately, we all want the same thing, and that???s for the Pirates to be successful. There???s no need to turn on those who are wearing the same colors.
Finally, I think we all realize what???s really important and who truly deserves the ire from every side of the Pirates fan base???
We can all agree they are the worst.