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A View From the Bleachers

Passion, Please

I've been an Angels fan for as long as I can remember. What I don't remember is the age at which I discovered that fans out here aren't the most passionate fans in the country. I'm used to it... maybe it's the SoCal (or O.C.) attitude of being laidback. Maybe it's the mellow lifestyle of having the beach so close... I don't know. But it's something I have come to live with. I was thrilled when I visited Busch Stadium this summer and saw thousands of people waiting to enter the stadium when the gates opened. All of them were in Cardinals gear-all of them. Where were the people who showed up in the third inning? Where were the folks in polo shirts and slacks who spent half the game on their Bluetooth devices? How come everyone stayed 'til the end of the game? That's weird.

I mean awesome. Not weird-it's fantastic. The St. Louis fans were some of the most passionate baseball fans I've ever encountered. At Angels games, Padres games, and Dodgers games fans don't seem to care as much about the action on the field as they do about a nearby beach ball. If I had to rank them I'd say that Dodgers fans are the most passionate (albeit they show up later than ANY fans I've ever seen). But from the third to the seventh innings they're in it 100%. Then come the Padres fans, who haven't had a lot to root for lately and only fill up their stadium halfway, and they know enough to name most of their players. Third place among the SoCal teams as far as enthusiasm goes: my Angels. This year at an Angels home game, while rooting for my team, my team that was in first place and would win their third consecutive division title, I stood up when there were two strikes and two outs in the bottom of the ninth. I was cheering... and I felt awkward because no one else was doing the same. A lady behind me told me to sit down because she couldn't see. Disappointment isn't the right word for what I felt.

Now, I'm generalizing. Not every fan is late to the games. Some fans of the Halos can, in fact, name all of the guys in the starting rotation. Most can't. I bet that a lot of casual fans of many sports all over the country can't name all of the guys on their favorite team. But it just seems like I encounter so many people that just don't care when I'm out at the games. This season I attended more than forty games and most of them were at Angel Stadium. I love it there. It's like my second home. It's just disheartening to see that people go to the games and don't seem to care when I care so much. I'm lucky: my team has been a good team for the last seven years. They draw 40,000 fans a game and over three million a year. It makes it harder to catch a foul ball but there's a strong following. I just wish it was a fanatical following, mostly. It's not an obsessive, loving, fervent following. Butts are in seats... but only for two-thirds of the game.This mellow attitude toward sports teams isn't entirely unique here in my backyard. I'll bet there are a lot of fans that feel the same way. But what can we do about it?

Well, stop doing the wave, that's a start. Sure, all I need is a bunch of people around me standing up and cheering once every minute because of the wave but not when our starter gets out of a bases-loaded jam. Pay attention! A ball could come hurtling toward you at any moment and I, or another avid collector of baseballs, won't always be there to save your precious face.

Get to the game on time. Yeah-I know, work sucks. And the kids were being finicky about their shoes. And, seriously, I love sitting in your seats on the terrace level behind first base while you're gone... you got here when? It's the fourth inning! And cheer for your team when good things happen. It helps. It really does. Whenever you hear a player talk about the roar of the crowd they acknowledge that it pumps them up. Cheer for your heroes, boo the bad guys. Get into the game-and off your cell phone. One cool thing I saw at an Angels game once: the dad next to my wife and I took his kid's cell phone away because texting during the game "wasn't allowed." Good work, dad!

Show some love for your team: wear their logo. Don't spend all your money on a jacket and a jewel-encrusted belt buckle. But a cap, T-shirt, or Rally Monkey... c'mon! Break 'em out. At least wear your team's colors. Angels fans should wear red. Dodgers fans should wear blue. Padres fans should wear... sand... or camo... or, OK, navy blue. No more of this Ed Hardy garb, please. No more button-ups unless they're complimented by a team logo tie.

Show some love, Orange County. Your team is good! They aren't the Pirates-and even the Pittsburgh fans wear yellow and black at their games. Recently I went to my first playoff game ever. The atmosphere at the ballpark was incredible! It felt like the World Baseball Classic games of gone to this season and in '06. People on their feet, people with signs, lots of cheering! Suddenly everyone cared. Let's carry that over, whatever happens this postseason, into next year! Get out to the games and show some passion! And this message is for everyone-young and old, East Coast and West Coast, baseball, football, basketball, and hockey. Whoever you are and whatever team you root for, let them know it. Not only does it help the team, it puts you in the game-and if you're really a fan that's right where you want to be.

Matt Jackson is a contributing columnist to myGameBalls.com and also maintains a Blog.

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