Domonic Brown caused quite a stir on Twitter on Sunday, and it had nothing to do with his performance on the baseball field. While the 26-year-old outfielder was the target of much adoration from fans during the summer, thanks in part to his 28 home runs during his breakout season, he was the cause of much derision on Sunday, when he innocently made this tweet.
The nerve of that guy, eh? Rooting for his favorite football team!
Naturally, Twitter responded exactly how you'd expect when a local athlete shows up wearing the jersey of a rival team. The reactions were varied, with some applauding Brown's troll-job of the fans, while others called for him to be traded for being disloyal to the city. A quick search of Brown on Twitter will give you a decent cross-section of the responses, with the lion's share (unfortunately) taking him to task for having the audacity to root for his favorite football team.
While I could really care less about who Domonic Brown supports on the grid iron, it did allow us to get some insight into how sports fans are wired when it comes to their favorite teams. Sometimes, what happens on the field means more to the fans than it does to the players. It's the sort of irrational love for a game that makes it simultaneously a rewarding and heartbreaking experience.
You have to take the bad with the good, otherwise, what's the point? Experiencing the joy of the 2008 World Series championship also means having to experience the soul crushing defeat during the 2009 World Series. Enjoying one without the other ultimately cheapens the experience, which is why the 2004 World Series was such a great experience for Boston Red Sox fans. That's what being a sports fan is (unless you are a front runner, I guess). It's more than just something you do every Sunday, or during the summer, because it becomes part of who you are, and what you do. You rearrange your life to watch the game. You put things off because you can't miss some big event in the sporting world. Getting married in October? No can do, that's when the playoffs start!
And to that end, I understand why the reaction to Domonic Brown was so visceral. It's hard to separate your sports identity (the irrational part) from your non-sports identity (the rational part). The reasonable person who goes to the office every day is not the guy who puts on his jersey when game time rolls around.
Sometimes it's hard to remember that, before they were baseball players, they were baseball fans. And to some degree, that might still be the case. Chase Utley grew up a Dodgers fan, so even though he wears red pinstripes, he was probably cheering on Yaisel Puig during the NLCS. His employment with the Phillies doesn't (nor should it) preclude him from having a "favorite" baseball team, and it doesn't change anything about who he grew up watching during his formative years. How many of us would betray our Phillies fandom if we were lucky enough to make it to The Show with the New York Mets? Sure, you get paid by the Mets to play baseball, but deep down you love the Phillies. The difference is that it's your job; a means to an end.
Whether it's Domonic Brown, or Larry Bird, or Wayne Gretzky, if you are being paid money in exchange for services, you are an employee, first and foremost. That contract doesn't buy loyalty (as free agency has proven), especially not when it comes to another sport altogether. When a player signs a contract with a team, he isn't forfeiting his rooting interest in other sports.
So when Domonic Brown shows up at the Eagles game in Philly wearing his favorite team's colors, that doesn't mean that he dislikes Philly, or that he doesn't want to play for the Phillies, or that he is giving a middle finger to the fans. It just means that he is there to watch a football game and cheer on his favorite team. In this case, the team just so happens to be one that has a sort of rivalry with the Eagles, making it that much more egregious to the fans. If Brown was a St. Louis Rams fan, would anyone care? Not likely.
It's interesting, the sort of angry reaction that many had to Brown on Twitter, simply because he made an innocent tweet about rooting for the Cowboys, as if that was some unforgivable sin. Who cares? Does him rooting for a rival of the Eagles make him any less a talented baseball player? Does it take away his breakout season? Does it make him any less fun to cheer for? Of course not. Those same fans cursing him out on Twitter will be cheering him on in May when he belts a 400-foot homer to put the Phillies ahead in the eighth inning.
So before you start tweeting to Dom (or any player) that you think he is a traitor (frequently spelled 'trader," I came to find out) to the city, remember that he's a fan. Just like you.