Column: Two thumbs up for fans making themselves heard

Aug 30, 2021, 12:13 PM | Updated: Aug 31, 2021, 12:23 am

At the BMW Championship, the well lubricated shouted “Patty Ice” as Patrick Cantlay rolled in putt after putt to take down Bryson DeChambeau in a playoff about as compelling as golf can offer.

There was a lot of shouting at Citi Field as well. A lot of booing, too, as Mets fans took out their frustrations only to find the players taking out some frustrations of their own.

Fans are back in almost full force in sports, and that should make everyone happy. They may not always say the things players want them to say, but they make things a lot more fun, whether in the stands at Citi Field or lining the fairways in Maryland.

“The fans were so energized and into every shot,” Cantlay said after finally ending his duel with DeChambeau on the sixth playoff hole. “It’s really nice to have them back.”

They were back Monday in tennis, too, vaccination cards in hand as the U.S. Open began in Queens. A little boisterous, perhaps, but welcomed by players who for too long have been listening to little other than loud grunts and balls hitting rackets.

Former champion Sloane Stephens welcomed them, even as she noticed they were a bit inappropriate by “calling out at random times.”

“We missed all of that,” Stephens said.

What DeChambeau thought will apparently remain inside his head. Already boycotting any media that won’t lead the cheerleading for him, the long hitter who seems to be talking all the time on the course stormed off without a word afterward about his playoff or the fans who boisterously followed him around the course.

The loss was a tough one, yes. So, apparently, was hearing one too many “Brooksie” chants referencing his silly feud with Brooks Koepka.

What that means for the Ryder Cup next month is anyone’s guess. The increasingly petulant DeChambeau is unpopular among his fellow players, meaning that captain Steve Stricker will have a hard time pairing him with anybody, much less Koepka.

But with the Ryder Cup comes media responsibilities that the PGA Tour seems unable — or unwilling — to enforce. Fans eager to cheer on the U.S. team will want to know what DeChambeau thinks about the golf course, the format and, yes, a possible pairing with Koepka.

For Mets fans it’s a little simpler. They just want to know what happened to their team.

The Mets have pretty much blown the season, going from first place to out of playoff contention in a miserable August that also irritated their new owner, who went on Twitter to question his team’s lack of hitting.

If Steve Cohen was channeling his inner Steinbrenner to light a fire under his underperforming team, it didn’t work. Going into the last day of the month, the Mets had won only eight games in August and are playing like they won’t win many more in September.

So, of course, they decided to blame the home fans.

After hitting a home run for a rare win Sunday at home, Javier Baez signaled two thumbs down to the grandstands as he made his way around the bases. Also giving the signal during the game were Francisco Lindor and Kevin Pillar.

The convoluted logic behind the signal? That players were going to give it back to the fans just as they got it.

Or something like that.

“When we don’t get success, we’re going to get booed,” Baez said. “So they’re going to get booed when we have success.”

Unfortunately, Baez doesn’t seem to understand that fans are responsible for at least some of that success. If they don’t buy tickets, don’t subscribe to Mets broadcasts, he doesn’t get the $11.6 million he’s being paid this year to play infield, first for the Cubs and now the Mets.

You can get away with a lot as a major league ballplayer. But you can’t go after the fans who pay your salary without suffering consequences.

Two thumbs down might not be the equivalent of the proverbial finger. But it’s close, and team officials were quick to warn players that booing is the right of everyone who buys a ticket.

No, fans aren’t perfect. They say things at the wrong time and boo when it’s not always entirely deserved. Some drink too much, which makes their lips even looser.

But if the pandemic has taught us anything, it’s that fans are as much a part of the fabric of sports as are players.

They matter, and right now they matter more than ever.

___

Tim Dahlberg is a national sports columnist for The Associated Press. Write to him at [email protected] or http://twitter.com/timdahlberg

Copyright © The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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Column: Two thumbs up for fans making themselves heard