Saturday, July 21, 2012

Characterizing the Fanbases #1: Arizona Diamondbacks

Welcome to the first installment of Characterizing the Fanbases! In this series I’m attempting to present the psychology of every MLB fanbase. This series, as you would expect, comes with a disclaimer: These characterizations are based on my own perceptions and opinions, and no offense is intended by them. I freely admit that I’m only one man, and my view is therefore limited. I’m fully aware that many fans will not fit the profile I depict, and that’s to be expected, because it’s impossible to make blanket statements about large groups of people. If you want to contest anything I write here, feel free to leave a thoughtful, civil comment. Otherwise, sit back and have fun reading. Perhaps I might even say something insightful!

It’s easy to imagine that Diamondback fans are a bunch of somewhat-spoiled diehards. Their team was the quickest expansion franchise to reach the postseason (two years) and win the World Series (four). That World Series they won was an instant classic, an assessment that’s stood the test of time. They’re in their fifteenth season and they’ve already won five division titles. With such great success early on, Arizonans must have caught the baseball bug quickly and even started taking things for granted, right?

Well actually, no. Chase Field's consistently low attendance figures show that they don’t turn out in large numbers. While their attendance was strong early on, after the disastrous 2004 season where they went 51-111 it’s been among the more meager ranks of the National League.

So we know Phoenix isn’t the most baseball-crazy city, but what about individual traits? Off the top of my head I remember "1908" signs being held up during the 2007 NLDS against the Cubs, as well as some controversy about a Phoenix DJ making tasteless prank phone calls to Darryl Kile's widow during the 2002 NLDS, so perhaps there are a few bullyish elements. To be fair though, some shock jock and a few random bozos in the stands probably aren't the best representatives of the fanbase. If that was the best I could do from my own memory, I figured it was time to search the internet and find out what others said.

The general consensus seems to be that many fans in Arizona are either transplants or relatively new to baseball. The transplants remain loyal to their teams in other cities and the newcomers are still in the development stage, as they don’t have several generations’ worth of loyalty to uphold. The way they’re most often described is peaceful and laid-back, perhaps partially owing to the desert heat.

I get the sense that the D-Backs’ fanbase is solidifying. If they can keep winning division titles with regularity they should become a force to be reckoned with. Now that they’ve been around long enough to have homegrown players, the sense that they’re watching their own guys play gives them more of a connection to the men on the field than they had in the early years, when baseball’s main appeal was as a novelty. I’ll be interested to see how their reputation develops in the next decade or so.

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