Sunday, June 12, 2016

Book Review: "Diehards: Why Fans Care So Much About Sports"

If you are a baseball fan like me, you enjoy all aspects of the game. Not just the more analytical, statistics-based evaluations of recent years, or the classic excitement of a dramatic game, series, or season, but the whole enchilada.
The history of the game and the background stories of the players and other individuals involved fascinate me. 
The best resource to obtain information of this type can often be a well-written book on a particular subject.
All of the reading that I have done over decades following the game finally led me to this idea for the introduction of a "book reviews" series, with coverage of both the Phillies in particular and baseball in general.
In moving forward with the series, I will mostly focus on material written about the Fightin' Phils specifically. But if something influences me enough while only barely touching on the team, will highlight those as well.
I wanted to begin the series with something that  included the Phillies, but also would be of interest to the wider audience of baseball fans. I believe that I may have stumbled upon the perfect choice.
As a big fan of the team and the game in the passionate sports town of Philly, the aspect of fandom itself has always fascinated me. This led to my interest in introducing you to the 2015 book "Diehards: Why Fans Care So Much About Sports" by Chip Scarinzi.
Chip is one of us, a self-described "lifelong, diehard Philadelphia Phillies fan" who grew up in New Jersey
and "studied roster moves and researched their history."
Chip would produce "real-time hitting and pitching statistics on note cards while listening to the soothing voices of Harry Kalas and Richie Ashburn call games deep into the night" in those days many of us well recall before the influence of the internet.
Relocating to the west coast as a youth, Chip would eventually split his allegiances between the Phillies in the National League, and his new hometown Oakland Athletics in the American League.
Of course, since he was just a kid, and it's a different league, and especially since the A's were Philly's team longer than any other locality (their first 54 seasons from 1901-54) we can both understand and forgive him.
In "Diehards", Chip explores what it is that makes the fans in places like Philadelphia and Oakland so passionate. 
What is it that all have in common? What leads us to spend our good money on shirseys, and often act out at a ballpark in ways we would never consider doing, say, at our workplace or even right in our own backyards?


Chip weaves in references to other research, to modern studies on the topic, while instilling the work with his own flavor, which is both understandable and enjoyable to read.
"We are social creatures and we long for community. We strive for a feeling of belonging and the mutual understanding that exists when people come together and enjoy shared interests. At the stadium, we look around the horde and nod knowingly to our fellow fans. You're in on it too, huh? This secret society gathers frequently, dresses the same, chants in the same way, and even sits and stands in unison." ~ Scarinzi
This isn't a pop psychology book about sports fandom in general, however. It is that, but it is tailored very specifically towards baseball fans in its references and stories by the influence that the game has had on the author.
Chip covers various areas of fandom over the course of an easy to read 205-page work. From costumed "superfans" and what drives them, to the violence sometimes caused in the name of a team.
Phillies
An appealing target for Phillies fans. (Image source)
He touches on big-ticket issues like faith, loyalty and family and how these influence our choices as fans, from the teams and players we root for to the ways in which we act while cheering and following.
"Growing up as a Phillies fan, and still to this day grappling with other people's perceptions about what that says about me, I am all too aware that some fans...make bad decisions. If I never hear another word about Philadelphia sports fans booing Santa Clause or pelting a top draft pick that never signed with the team, J.D. Drew, with batteries, it will be too soon."
I think we all understand how he feels on that one.
There were a couple of strategic links to Chip's book placed back in this piece. If you're looking for some interesting and informative summer baseball reading that touches on the Phillies, this book will be right up your alley. I recommend it highly.

No comments: