Gallons of ink, both literal and digital, have been spilled by writers on a question often asked but impossible to answer: who are the Best Fans in Baseball? These days, the moniker has come to be associated with St. Louis Cardinals fans in particular, either genuinely by their supporters or mockingly by their detractors.
But Cardinals fans are not alone in their insistence that they are the rightful owners of the hyperbolic title. Every team's fan base (including the Phillies!) has been called The Best by someone. And why not? It’s a rhetorical statement meant more as a celebration of a fan base than an empirical fact.
Recently, however, the actual answer has become increasingly clear to me: The Best Fans in Baseball are Women.
By now you are likely aware of two news stories that have converged to spark another round of discussion about casual sexism in baseball. One is the news that the Royals played the song American Woman while Mets pitcher Noah Syndergaard was warming up prior to his start (which he would go on to win, by the way) against his former World Series opponents.
The other was a comment made by Blue Jays Manager John Gibbons, who expressed frustration with an interference call on Jose Bautista for making contact with Rays Second Baseman Logan Forsythe. Gibbons commented, "I guess we’ll come out wearing dresses tomorrow."
In both of these instances, the specter of femininity is raised as a way to insult and imply weakness.
These examples of casual sexism are of course not uncommon. Players (both current and former), coaches, managers, executives, sports writers and radio/talk show hosts have all made sexist and misogynistic comments in the past, and that is unlikely to change any time soon.
From mocking girls taking selfies at games to the practice of hazing rookies by making them wear pink/girly clothing, it is abundantly clear that baseball culture is deeply hostile towards women. Not only do they have to deal with a steady stream of offensive comments and actions from all over the world of sports, they also have to contend with their fandom being more scrutinized than their male counterparts.
And yet in spite of all of this, women continue to enjoy and support a game that doesn’t seem to enjoy or support them back.
Loving something takes work. It takes emotional investment. Baseball in particular is a cruel sport, providing high highs and low lows for its faithful. At the end of the day, though, women have to deal with more adversity in the simple act of loving this sport than men. But they haven't gone anywhere.
And that's why they are The Actual Best Fans in Baseball.