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Fan Behavior in the Face of an Absolutely Miserable Season: An Unfortunate and Unintended Study

New Flash: the Angels are having an absolutely miserable season! Oh, so I take it you’ve heard that already, then? Right. You must be one of those not living under a rock kind of people. Yeah, yeah. I suppose that would explain your having an internet connection and all that.

Anyway, so where was I? Oh, yeah. Angels. Miserable season. Right. Which, you know, does tend to create some pretty miserable fans. Beyond miserable in many cases. My case, for instance. And, sufficiently so I might add, that I have noticed many changes in my behavior towards the game over that which I tend to exhibit during good or even meh Angels seasons. For example:

I find that I’m watching QuickPitch and Sports Center a lot less. In fact, I think it’s safe to say that my desire to watch QuickPitch, Sports Center and the like and, indeed, even to watch the Angels’ own post game show or listen to Angels Rant…er…Talk…er…oh never mind, Rant is far more accurate and understandable this season…is directly proportional to how well the Angels did on any given night. And the team is currently 55 and 68, so I’ll just leave the connection of those particular dots in your more than capable hands.

On those occasions when I actually do watch QuickPitch/Sports Center/Intentional Talk/MLB Tonight/Name Your Poison of Choice, I absolutely dread when it comes time to talk about the Angels. Because, even when they win, you know that the analysts and commentators still have to put the game in the context of the Angels’ overall season…and then those all the more cringe worthy for being so very spot on words pour forth.  Disappointment…Catastrophe…Underperformance…Injuries…Errors…blah blah blah. We know already, okay? We know. Oh, how we know. *Sighs and shakes her head* Can’t you maybe just, I don’t know, relate the final score, say “And the Angels…” then sigh, shrug and move on? I mean, why continue to beat a dead horse.

I find myself experiencing irrational annoyance over any Angels wins that occur when I’m not watching. Seth and I watch a truly sick amount of Angels baseball. In the course of any given season, we easily catch 140 or so of the games on TV, from the ballpark, on the radio or online when no other option is available. But there is just no way we can catch every single game. Weekday day games? East coast weeknight games? We catch some of them, but there is this work thing, you know. And we both kind of have to do it. Damn that Morty and Bill, insisting on being paid and all that. Anyway, in a normal season, if the Angels win and I’m not watching, I cheer and catch any should not be missed highlights on MLBN or online. This season, however? It’s not that I don’t appreciate the win, but even so I actually find myself with thoughts like this: “Those, fuckers! I suffer through watching how many crappy games and they finally decide to play like a major league baseball team for a game or two and don’t even have the decency to do it when I can watch them?!!” Yeah. Um. Hey, remember I did say irrational. After all, Fan does come from fanatic, not from some word that means calm, reasonable individual.

Ads are frequently annoying, and the Angels ads simply have never been funny enough to avoid this description. However, this season I find that the Angels ads annoy me more than usual. “It’s time for Angels baseball!” No kidding! You think? I mean, it’s practically September. It sure is time for the team to start playing Angels baseball already. Any day now guys. Any. Day. Now.

Facing “bad” teams is no longer the source of relaxation and enjoyment it once was, indeed quite the opposite. For, while one of the glories of baseball is that on any given game day the worst team in the league can defy all expectations and beat the pants off of the best team in the league, this is an unlikely scenario. When your team, however, is also among the worst teams in the league facing “bad” teams is suddenly just as dicey a proposition as facing any other team. Yet, there is still that part of me that thinks of my team as a “good” team because, hey, they have been before, by golly. So all of the humiliation of struggling to beat or – Gasp! — losing to a “bad” team is still there, only now it’s oh so much more likely an outcome. Baseball fans of teams who don’t have you nodding along with this post, trust me. The end result of this situation? Yeah, it’s even less fun than it sounds.

I almost — almost mind you! – find myself wishing the season away. And for me, this is the ultimate sacrilege as a baseball fan. And, while I will always love my Angels through suck and through win, I can’t help but hate them just a little for this. A bad day at the ballpark is still better than a good day almost anywhere else. But having so very many bad days? With no end in sight? Well that actually does the unthinkable – it sucks some of the excitement right out of that day at the ballpark.

It’s only one season. Maybe next year. Blah. Blah. Blah. *sigh*

We’re All Still Just In Training for Spring

Calling it “spring” training isn’t really accurate. Sitting here listening to the hard steady beat of the rain against the roof, I realize that the name is optimistic at best. It’s a wonderful sound, the rain, filled with hints of cozy evenings in and coffee or tea enjoyed over a good book by the fire. But there is no mistaking the sounds of this storm for spring rain, they are most decidedly winter – of course, watching a documentary on the little ice age while I write this might be increasing this effect. 😉

True spring usually materializes closer to the start of the regular baseball season so I have come to think of the spring in spring training as a kind of teaser trailer for spring. Soon after pitchers and catchers report, we begin to see stronger, surer signs that spring is getting even close, lengthier trailers as it were. Sure, sure. The days get longer, the temperatures get warmer, the trees sprout green leaves again and flowers bloom. Blah. Blah. Blah. But I’m talking about the really exciting signs that spring is on its way.

We’ve already experienced a few of them. Position players report and full practices begin. Live player interviews debut on television and on the radio. Basketball talk is briefly suspended for spring training updates! More strong signs occur tomorrow when the first games start up and air on TV. Mike Scioscia announced that Trevor Bell will be the Angels starting pitcher tomorrow, assuming that there is a game – the rain apparently being of the opinion that it isn’t spring in Arizona yet either. I’m excited. The 24-year old right hander showed a lot of promise last season and I want to see how he’s coming along.

Individual game tickets going on sale in another strong sign of spring’s approach. For Angels fans, this also happens tomorrow – and I already bought my first set off of StubHub, tickets to the exhibition game in the Big A against the Padres. Of course, receiving the tickets and holding them in your hot little hands is an even stronger sign. Soon! Soon! As the march toward spring progresses more and more kids start playing catch around the neighborhood and the batting cages come alive. There is one particularly cool batting cage that I see when we’re up in Paso Robles. Homemade and built alongside the grapevines on someone’s private property, it was just starting to show its annual signs of preparation for use when we were up there last weekend. When we visit again in late March, I expect I will see line drives flying into the repurposed barrel room mat – or at least that’s what it appears to be – that marks the end of the cage.

Soon the billboards appear announcing the coming baseball season! Granted, along my commute they will all say This Is My Town and have that blue interlocked L and A but, then again, most of the car stickers on my commute are halo capped A’s, so apparently the billboard campaign isn’t working. In other parts of the country, one of your signs is probably baseball commercials on TV. Oddly enough, here in the land of Hollywood and cameras, we don’t really make baseball television commercials. I envy the Mariners, Giants and many of the others their clever, funny TV ads. But, more universally, the frequency of player interviews speeds up. Starting rotation and line-up speculation and announcements reach a fever pitch. The teams return from Arizona and Florida for exhibition games and, before you know it, spring has well and truly arrived followed shortly by opening day!

Personally, I can hardly wait to enjoy this weekend’s signs of the approaching spring. Phillies vs. Yankees. D-Backs vs. Rockies. Angels vs. Dodgers! Who says we can’t appreciate the changing of the seasons in California? 😉