great fan debate, bryce harper

Part one of the Great Fan Debate: Leaving early

Foreword: What I’ve termed the “Great Fan Debate” is going to be a series of posts on BBST that will address issues that I’ve heard argued over the 30 years I have been a fan of the game. Namely arguments about what makes a “true” or “real” fan. There are many different definitions and different points that people make to say why their a better fan than someone else or why someone isn’t a “true” fan. Through this process I’m hoping I will be able to come up with some criteria that seem agreeable and fair on how to tell who is a “real” fan. There are casual fans who don’t really care, there are fanatics who know everything about the sport/team, there are the fans that go to every single game – the list goes on and on. I hope this series of posts makes sense of some of this. It may not but it seems like it would be fun to try!

Part One: Leaving Early

When the Washington Posts’ Chealsea Janes tweeted a quote from Bryce Harper bashing the Washington Nationals fans for leaving the Monday’s ballgame against the New York Mets early, I bet she didn’t know what kind of reaction she would get. At this point I’ve heard about every answer under the sun.

This is something that’s always, always a subject of contention between fans of the same team, fans of different teams and fans who really couldn’t give a crap (yet, they’ll weigh in on this topic).

Are you a “real” fan – if you leave the game in the seventh inning or earlier?

My first reaction is no. Just as my answer to “Is it possible to like two teams in the same metropolitan area?” My answer is “most definitely, absolutely NO FREAKIN’ WAY!”

great fan debate, bryce harper
New York Mets dugout. Getty Images.

Obviously, I live in one of these areas and here’s the question that makes most people who believe they are a fan of both teams – “Who do you root for when they play each other?” – no matter what, I promise you, they will have an answer and that answer is the team they like more – hence the team they are a fan of.

Not only that these fans SHOULD HATE each other! Think about it – Mets/Yankees, Cubs/White Sox, Athletics/Giants – it is just reality, it is one of baseball’s unwritten rules according to multiple sources and it is proper baseball etiquette.

But I am off topic and baseball etiquette is certainly something for another post (or an entire book)!  Back to my original point – although the aforementioned question is part of what I have recently termed “The Great Fan Debate.”

This part of the Great Fan Debate surrounds leaving the game early and  Bryce Harper was  justified in the  statement he made.   Matt Snyder of CBS Sports’ reported the Tweet and asked his readers a question. He started out saying,

“Generally speaking, I hate it when people who are paid to play the game tell paying customers how to act.”

I get that. I do, in a way. But he goes on to pose the question,

“On this one though was Harper really wrong?”

Personally I have multiple feelings on this very subject. On the whole, except in extreme circumstances, a real fan will not leave early. Sometimes I will leave my seat early – maybe middle of the seventh inning, as in Oakland they allow the fans on the field for fireworks nights and it’s hard to get out otherwise, but I will stand at the top of my section and watch the game until it ends. 

great fan debate, bryce harper
Bryce Harper. Getty Images.

Again it’s the circumstances surrounding the game. Is your team completely out of contention? You still really should not leave early if you consider yourself to be a real fan of the team but it’s more understandable, but in Bryce Harper’s case?

The Nationals are in the middle of a race to win the National League East AND they were playing the team that is rivaling them for the Division Title!  The Mets may have been ahead in the seventh but this game was a big one. This is ultimately a pennant race!

The Nationals will likely not make the wild card or the postseason if they do not win the division. Harper called it “brutal” that the fans left and I say he was extremely correct in voicing that opinion. 

The players feed off of the support of their fans and to notice a huge difference in attendance mid-game? Well, that cannot make the players feel good.

The purpose of the fans are to support the players and the team, regardless of if they are winning or losing, whether they are in first place or last. The job of the fan is to support the team no matter what.

Now, I know that this is not always easy or even possible – and while I’m not a big fan of “leave early” people, I admit I do often times arrive late to my seats. I may walk into the stadium and catch a glimpse of the first pitch, but by the time I get beer and food, talk to friends and get to my seat it, could still be the first inning or it could be the third. It’s not necessarily my intention.

But leaving early is an intention. Of course there are extenuating circumstances, uncontrollable circumstances – maybe you are even such a good fan that you make as many games as you can but have to work the team schedule around your actual work schedule, maybe you’re feeling ill.

Those things all make sense and those are not the fans I am talking about here.  I’m talking about the people who only care about winning. This was a holiday, a beautiful Monday afternoon at the ballpark. So what if your team is on the losing end? They still had nine outs to play with and believe me, in three innings many things can happen or as I usually say –

“In baseball anything can and usually will happen.” 

Moral of the story is don’t leave early, unless you can’t help it. Harper’s remarks towards the fans were warranted. Unfortunately for the Nationals they were not victorious in the game – but what if they had been? Or what if fan support have given them the extra morale they needed to spark a rally. You never really know in this game.

So the conclusion I’ve come to is that a “true” fan doesn’t leave early:

Rule number one of the Great Fan Debate:

                    1. Don’t leave early for the sole reason that your team is losing and/or disappointing you! Never leave early during a pennant race/playoff game, etc.

                      (*unless there are extenuating circumstances, you’re ill or you have a prior engagement, such as work and you are trying to fit it all in!)


  ** Keep an eye out for Part Two of “The Great Fan Debate” – coming soon to

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