Players on the field decide games. That's a true thing we know. Men holding bats, balls, and gloves, and possessing guts, grittiness, and skill play the games. We know this intellectually, or as scientists would put it, in our brains. But, as with so many things scientists tell us, we don't believe it.
Yes, players throw the ball, hit the ball, and field the ball, but they couldn't do any of that properly if it weren't for you. Without you doing any number of the crazy things that you do, the players give up hits when they're supposed to get outs, make outs when they're supposed to get hits, or just generally stand in a daze waiting for the postman to show up and deliver a package. They need your help.
How players are affected by what we do during games is still being studied. (Maybe even by scientists.) But the important thing is that we know our role in deciding the outcome of the games, and don't shirk those responsibilities. Wait, you weren't aware that you can influence the outcome of a baseball game? Well, you're in luck.
This is the baseball fan's guide to changing your team's luck.
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Watching (Or Not Watching) the Game
The first thing you should know is that watching the game can alter the outcome. This can be difficult to discern without testing, as often times the team will need you to watch or not watch depending on the inning, time of day, batter, pitcher, or some other situation. It is the selfish fan who ignores their negative influence on the game simply because he or she wants to watch the game. Sometimes you just can't, OK? Sometimes merely by watching the game, you jeopardize your team's chances, or even outright sabotage them.
My father is a great example of this. If you haven't met my father, know that among all other skills, of which he'd want me to note he has many, perhaps the most pronounced is his ability to turn on his favorite team's game and completely ruin it. The score can be 9-0 in the seventh inning and if my dad turns it on, that perfect game, that no-hitter, that shutout, and that lead are all disappearing faster than lead paint down a storm drain.
Unless my mom is watching too! You see, there are always options to change or counteract bad luck. You never know what affect something will have until you try it. Sometimes it's as simple as forcing my mom to sit down and watch a game. But, if she has to make a phone call and leaves the room and my dad stays to watch, cover your eyes, because that lead is shrinking fast. "Get off the phone, Mom!" is a thing I have had to yell across the house before, because a shorter phone call can be the difference between a satisfying 9-5 win and a devastating 10-9 loss.*
*Just once I'd like to hear a manager acknowledge this in his post-game press conference.
Reporter: Can you talk a little bit about what happened out there tonight?
Manager: Well, Johnson was going along pretty well there, had good command of his curveball, and we were putting some balls in play hard, but then Mrs. Kory had to make a phone call and Mr. Kory didn't turn the TV off, so, yeah, it's hard to overcome that kind of thing. We'll get 'em tomorrow though. If, you know, Mrs. Kory doesn't have a conference call or something.
Unless you're my dad, often times the choice to watch or not watch can't be made without testing out the impact during the game. Watch the first inning, if things aren't going well maybe go grab a beer and linger in the kitchen for a few extra minutes, just to see. This, by the way, is how a huge fan can end up missing large portions of the World Series. It's not because they don't care, but in fact, because they care so much.
The thinking fan faces a number of other challenges on game day. Maybe most prominent is what kind of clothes to wear.
Lucky T-shirts are fine and good, but in my personal experience, they don't end up having the kind of impact you'd think. I find that hat choice is far more crucial to your team's success. I could speculate as to why but (unlike the rest of this article) it would just sound silly. So just accept it as fact when I tell you if things aren't going well, change hats. You could try turning it around, or inside out in prototypical "rally" fashion -- that may work for some people, but it's never worked for me. If a specific hat isn't working that day, change it. Don't mess around with partial fixes that could just make things worse on the field.
This also applies to a lucky jersey or a jacket. For example, if you come into the house wearing a jacket and flick on the TV and someone gets a hit, you'd better keep that jacket on. Doesn't matter if it's 80 degrees in the house or if you're prone to sweating. My advice would be to get a big glass of water (unless that induces a strikeout -- then you're out of luck). The players depend on you and you shouldn't forget that. Alternately, if you go to change your shirt and, after removing your shirt your team does something good, you can't put a shirt on. It doesn't matter if the window is open and it's 20 degrees outside and you already have a cold, you can't endanger your team through something as frivolous as concern for your health. (No, of course you can't close the window. Come on. Be reasonable.) This may or may not be the reason I got quite sick after the 2004 ALCS.
Another important way you can help your team win is through your choice of seating. Where you sit can have a huge impact on the game.
Sometimes the couch is fine, and those are the good days. Other times you may have to stand behind the couch, or way to the left of the TV at such an angle that you may not be able to see things particularly well. I've watched games from the floor in the kitchen. Sure, it's uncomfortable, but history will record that it was successful. Once you figure out something that works it's is your obligation and burden to stick with it.
Your personal plans can also affect your team. Say your team is a game ahead in the standings and the playoffs are coming up next week, and the day the playoffs start happens to coincide with your favorite band coming to town. Normally you'd jump all over tickets for the band, but with the playoffs possibly starting the same day, maybe you shouldn't?
Don't be silly, of course you shouldn't… assuming of course you want your team to lose. Are you crazy? You have to buy the tickets and then, when your team makes the playoffs, not go. If you don't buy the tickets, your team will blow the one-game lead and then you'll be without your team and show tickets. I'm sorry, I know it's a financial hit, but the team comes first.
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It's a responsibility, to be sure. The team depends on you to watch (or not watch) the game in whatever special location or way, wearing (or not wearing) whatever special piece of clothing, so as to endow players with the best abilities possible.
Oh sure, we're not perfect. Like Billy Beane, sometimes our stuff doesn't work. Sometimes we can't find what works quickly enough. It is baseball, after all, the sport where the best players famously make outs more often than not. Failure is a large part of the sport, and nobody expects perfection from us either.
But without our help, the players flounder. It's vital to our team's success that we recognize this and act accordingly.