The Difference Between Fans and Players

Denis Poroy

Jimmy Rollins' comments illustrate something we often forget -- fans and players are vastly different.

Jimmy Rollins, well known for his quotes and soundbites, is at it again. But it's a little different this time. He gave these quotes after the game, courtesy of Jim Salisbury's game story on CSNPhilly.com.

“No,” he said. “I’m not disappointed at all. This series could have been 3-1 in either direction or 2-2. They played a little better. They got the job done and that’s all that matters.” ... “It’s a journey,” he said. “You jump on that plane and enjoy the ride. As long as that plane is in the air, you have a chance to do something. Last I checked, we haven’t made it to the All-Star break. We’ve been in tougher positions with much less time.”

Rollins isn't wrong. Sure, it's frustrating to read those words after the Dodgers series. But he's not wrong. And I think his comments illustrate something that comes up every single year -- the difference between fans and players.

For fans, this is a choice. Following baseball is a choice. We choose to watch it, love it, analyze it, talk about it, read about it, and so on. Many of us care deeply, and it may not feel like something we have control over, but it is. Those feelings come from the choices we make to care about baseball. What we get out of it differs from person to person, but most of the time the rewards aren't financial -- they're spiritual. Emotional. And yet we still care about baseball even though the emotional rewards aren't guaranteed. "I live and die with my team." "I bleed red pinstripes." Look at those statements. They're overblown and exaggerated, but they're things that fans say. Remove the concept of the fan from them, and they're statements that crazy people say. Being a fan is not rational. We are not sane people.

So when a player like Jimmy Rollins says what he said, during a season like this one where the fans are watching their once mighty team lose more often and with more creativity than they're used to, the fan response is understandable. Hell, at this point it may even be expected. It seems like Rollins is delusional. Or that it was his body double actually playing those games in LA. Or that his expectations of the team are far below those of his manager and the fans. Perhaps he just didn't want to slam his teammates in the media.

But sometimes we forget a vital fact about baseball players -- this is their job. Yes, they get paid more than many of us, and the expectations are different than most office jobs, but it's still a job. They get paid to be there, just like I get paid to be at my job. I work with a lot of unpaid volunteers at my day job, and many of them care deeply about the work they're doing. For them, it's a hobby -- it's fun, exciting, and they can put a lot of their energy toward it. For me, it's a job and not a hobby. My expectations are different. While I'm OK with an event I planned getting 500 attendees, the volunteer, who has put a lot of their spare time and energy into it, is disappointed that the number isn't 600 or 700 or 1000. They wanted more -- they wanted the best, regardless of whether or not it was possible.

Baseball players do what we do every day. They wake up, they go to work, they do their jobs, they go home. It just looks different than most of our jobs. They have coworkers they like and dislike, bosses with unrealistic demands, personal problems that can interfere with work, and so on. There are goals set that they don't know if they can reach, so all they can do is what you and I do -- do their best and keep moving forward.

Jimmy Rollins wasn't disappointed with this road trip. I have no doubt he wanted to do better, but maybe he knows for sure what has been suspected for months now -- that this is the best this Phillies team can do. You can be disappointed in a hedgehog for not running as fast as a cheetah, but why were you expecting a hedgehog to run that fast in the first place? Fans can sometimes fall into that trap, expecting their hedgehog team to compete with the cheetahs. And I don't think that should change. That's part of being a fan, expecting and hoping for the absolute best. But it's important to remember the difference between players and fans when a player speaks up.

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