Baseball Book Reviews: What Should Fans Do When Their Team Is Bad (On Many Levels)?
Rethinking fandom: How to beat the sports-industrial complex at its own game
By Craig Calcaterra
Publication of the belt
I got off to a bad start Rethinking fandom: How to beat the sports and industrial complex at its own game.
Here is the passage that shocked me, which is on the second page of the “Introduction”: “There was talk about the possibility of groups of superfans like the Seattle Seahawks‘ famous ‘Twelfth Man’.
In fact, the 12th Man is a Texas A&M traditionstarted in 1922, and the one the Aggies take seriously. When the Seahawks tried to get the 12th Man, they were quickly chased down by Texas A&M and pay the Aggies now for limited university brand rights. (Read more here.)
As a former Texas A&M student, I was mindful that my reaction was consistent with that of a serious fan – the kind of fan Craig Calcaterra addresses in his book. However, I was also bothered by incomplete research.
But I’m moving forward.
I’m a fan of Craig Calcaterra’s work – I’ve been a paying subscriber to his Cup of coffee newsletter since he started it, and I appreciate his baseball insight and tongue-in-cheek style. When I heard he was writing a book on fandoms, I pre-ordered a copy. As a Colorado Rockies fan, I’ve been living the fandom odyssey, always looking for those who can explain this bizarre experience.
Calcaterra’s book is effective in providing strategy for fans; sometimes, however, he is less successful in his approach.
In the “Introduction”, Calcaterra clearly explains his strategy, writing: “[G]Developing your passion for sports is not the subject of this book. I’m interested in trying to find a way to retain what we love about sports without being used or exploited by a sporting and industrial complex that wants to take advantage of our loyalty for its own ends. This is the sweet spot that many sports fans are looking for.
The first part is “The State of Modern Fandom,” in which Calcaterra discusses how the “sports and industrial complex” (a useful term) exploits fans as well as the communities in which they live. It explores topics such as the myth of victory as a city’s “healing”; communities are forced to pay for expensive stadiums; gentrification issues; tank; labor exploitation; and propaganda appeals to patriotism.
These are all important issues in the spots – his focus isn’t just baseball – and Calcaterra uses this analysis to provide context for the advice he’ll give in Part II, “How to Be a Fan in the 21st Century”. His advice is clear: be a fan of sunny days; root for players, not for teams; be an occasional fan; and support activism. His last suggestion is to be a “metafan”, a concept that I never fully understood, although I think he recommends that fans use their sports fandom to enjoy adjacent sports activities, such as games, memorabilia collecting and fantasy sports rather than indulge in the team’s latest PR blitz.
He ends with this line: “My fandom belongs to me. Not them.
For me, however, Rethinking Fandom the impression that it should perhaps have been an essay rather than a book, a point to which Calcaterra alluded elsewhere. Like he said Jeremy Greco in a recent interview, “It’s a short book. More of a radical pamphlet or manifesto than anything else. It was on purpose. »
If you’re a serious sports fan – and that’s probably the audience for this book – then you don’t need a detailed analysis of tanking or stadium construction or problematic player behavior because you know all of that already. You are drained by this. That’s probably why you’re reading Rethinking Fandom. You are interested in the second part of this book because you are looking for strategies to help you navigate the situation in which you find yourself. (Thinking of you, Party Deck and McGregor Square!)
That’s not to say Calcaterra’s points aren’t solid. They are. I’m just not convinced that a book is the best way to convey that message.
Now let me spend a few paragraphs on a writing problem that bothered me.
I found the lack of consistent documentation disorienting. When Calcaterra made the mistake about the 12th man, I started looking for sources. Some are quoted informally, such as Bill Simmons Now I can die in peace and Lindsay Gibbs and Ayesha Khan “The Kaepernick Effect: Anthem Protests Spread” and Howard Bryant The Legacy: Black Athletes, a Divided America, and the Politics of Patriotism.
Given the genre in which Rethinking Fandom works, some sort of self-help book/manifesto, informal documentation is appropriate. However, I wish the source attribution was more consistent. There are no notes, no bibliography and nothing on the site.
When Calcaterra refers to a “2018 study” (p. 12), I mean to read the study. When he writes: “Psychologists refer to a phenomenon called ‘durability bias’. . .” I would like to see some names (p. 157). When it refers to a 2019 USA today story, I wish I could locate it (p. 39).
Likewise, when he asserts, “To the extent that psychologists have studied sports fandom – a very, very small area of study, it should be noted. . .” (pp. 11-12), I would like some details as this area has received academic attention. (See, for example, Jessica Luther and Kavitha A. Davidson’s Loving the Sport When It Doesn’t Love You Back: The Dilemmas of the Modern FanAndrew C. Billings and Kenyon A. Brown Evolution of the Modern Sports Fan: Communicative Approachesby George Dohrman Superfans: At the Heart of Obsessive Sports FandomDaniel L. Wann and Jeffrey D. James’ Sports Fans The Psychology and Social Impact of Fandomby Stacey Pope The feminization of sports fandom A sociological studyby Chip Scarinzi Diehards: Why fans care so much about the sportand Eric C. Tarver The I in the team: sports fandom and the reproduction of identity.)
As a reader, I needed Calcaterra to show his work – if nothing else in a bibliography. books like Rethinking Fandom necessarily participate in a kind of academic dialogue: that is, the author enters into a conversation that has been going on for some time. Rethinking Fandom would benefit from a better recognition of its place in this conversation.
Rethinking Fandom is a useful book and a quick read that provides a range of strategies for fans trying to mediate their fandom in a system designed to exploit them. We live in a time when these strategies are useful.
Perhaps a public reading in McGregor Square is in order.