Baseball

Dealing With Toxic Fandom

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Cramming into a ballpark full of screaming strangers wearing the same clothes as you is an experience unlike any other. It cannot be put into words, it just has to be experienced. The best way to describe is as tribalism. The experience will however go one of two ways: instant attraction, or instant repellant. The age of social media has magnified the voices of toxic repelling fans, and it is important that this stops.

Toxic Fandom Can Ruin Your Experience

Defining Toxic Fandom

Firstly, let’s define toxic fandom. A toxic fan is someone who insults and disrespects other fans, and often turns others off the fan base as a whole. This fan commonly comes from a narcissistic elitist position who feels they are owed something from the team, and are owed respect by other fans. As a result, they view themselves as above others, and treat them as such. Toxic fans are found at ballparks, football, soccer, tennis stadia the world over sadly.

Basic Human Decency

On the surface level, basic human decency calls for the elimination of toxic fandom. However, this is a challenge for toxic fans because it requires them to recognize that others are on the same level of due respect as they are. Toxic fans are difficult to answer the call of selflessness.

Die Hard Fans

There needs to be a symbiotic ecosystem of different levels of fandom in order to keep a sport afloat. At the top of the food chain is the die hard fan. The die hard fan will show up to the ballpark, turn on the TV, and buy merchandise no matter if the team is in first or last place. These fans are the historians who have the plethora of information and excitement. Now, not all die hards are toxic, however, toxic fans may tend to fall into the die hard category. With great power comes great responsibility: it is the job of the diehard to spread their knowledge and enthusiasm to raise casual fans to die hards, and hook newcomers to want to join the fandom. The worst thing a diehard can do is to use their knowledge to gate keep casual fans and beat down newcomers and turn them away from the fandom. This is how sports die.

Casual Fans

Casual fans are the majority of the people in any ballpark. Casual fans turn on the game once every few days, take the wife and kids to a game once a year, and talk about the score in the break room at work. Casual fans have other priorities to give their time and money to, so they are who organizations are trying to appeal to the most. Casual fans consider it a treat to go to the game, not a routine, so they have no problem turning their backs on a poor stadium/fan experience. Diehards need to get along with these people, because these are the ones who are going to fill up the ballpark the most, and the ones you are going to talk to in bars. These people must be embraced in open arms.

Newcomers

Newcomers have no idea what they are getting into. Newcomers were brought to the game by their friends or coworkers, and are buying a hat for the first time. They probably don’t even know who the away team is. Diehards and casuals, join forces and show the newcomers what they are missing and why they should want to come back and stay. If a newcomer is treated horribly, not only will they be turned off from the team, but may be turned off to the entire sport. Handle them with care.

Don’t Let Toxic Fandom Go Unchallenged

Chances are, if you are reading this, you have encountered a toxic fan. The best way to deal with them is firstly to ignore them. They want a reaction from you, they want to show they know more than you, and they want you to challenge them. If you argue back, you are feeding the best. The best way to deal with a toxic fan on the internet or in public is to simply walk away, and most importantly, realize that this is not an accurate representation of fanbases as a whole. If you are at a stadium and seated next to a fan who is hindering your enjoyment of the game, let a stadium usher know. You will be pleasantly surprised how quickly they will address and possibly remove toxic fans. As hard as it may be to believe, most people sitting in your section are likely just as annoyed with the toxic fan as you are.

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