Columnists, Sports

The Inner Edge: Useless Hatred

While I was scanning ESPN I came across a headline reading, “UIC honors Curtis Granderson.” Naturally, since this was about the Yankees ever-so-famous centerfielder, I clicked on it.

“The University of Illinois at Chicago will name its new baseball stadium after Yankees center fielder and UIC alum Curtis Granderson …” I stopped mid-sentence, copied the link from my browser, and sent the article off to my Dad.

Curtis Granderson, of all people, would be getting a stadium named after him. Next thing you know, Yankee Stadium will be renamed “Granderson Field” for Christ’s sake.

Sure he’s a good centerfielder.

Certainly he’s a respectable hitter.

Yes, he’s attractive.

But to treat him like the greatest thing that has roamed this earth? (No pun intended for the former Tiger.) Come on, Granderson fans. Stop lying to yourselves.

I guess you could say that for me, Curtis Granderson is a sore subject. Growing up a baseball fan right outside of Detroit does something to a person — especially when it’s during Granderson’s reign. With every Tigers fan obsessing over him, it became the prime opportunity for non-tigers patrons to develop a deep-seeded grudge towards the hyped-up, overrated, slightly above-average centerfielder.

Detroit fans treated Granderson like a god. Fans praised him, announcers harped on his name — all too cleverly — by putting an obnoxious amount of emphasis on the “Grand” in Granderson.

You Tigers fans know exactly what I’m talking about.

One of my favorite moments at Comerica was the day Josh Beckett and the Red Sox faced Granderson’s Tigers. My dad and I sat right behind home plate as we watched Beckett dismantle Granderson in four separate At-Bats, the deadly curve getting him every time.

Take that, Curtis.

Shortly after we moved away from Michigan, so did Granderson — to the Yankees, nonetheless. Can’t say that helped him out in our eyes. To make matters worse, he started hitting for power. Forget the triple-friendly confines of Comerica. Stick Granderson in the stadium with the infamous “Jetstream” and he’ll rack up 40+ homeruns.

Now all the Yankee fans have whole-heartedly jumped on the Granderson bandwagon. Fantastic.

Bottom line, Curtis Granderson gives me a headache.

After ranting to my Dad about the fact that there would soon be a stadium built in our favorite centerfielder’s name, I read more of the article including a quote from Granderson himself:

“There are a lot of people in the community that are in the same situation I was in 15 to 20 years ago,” he said in a statement, according to ESPN. “Now, I am in a position where I have the ability to help kids pursue whatever dreams they have, whether they are educational, athletic or just life in general. I’m grateful that I have the opportunity to team up with UIC, which has helped me get to where I am today.”

Turns out, Granderson is UIC’s largest donor. Well, I feel like an ass.

I began thinking. What gives me, a baseball fan with no personal connection to Granderson whatsoever, the right to hate him in the slightest? I don’t know a thing about the man. Sure, I could tell you where he’s from, I could regurgitate some statistics about him, and, well, that’s about it.

My perception of Granderson, along with tons of other athletes, is clouded by the extensive fan following. I guess half of the fun in adopting a favorite sports team is talking smack to other fans and ripping apart players that don’t sport our teams’ colors. By getting caught up in these heated debates, we convince ourselves that we do, in fact, hate the players we end up belittling.

Take J.J. Redick and Tim Tebow, for example. Both were beloved by their respected colleges. Duke retired Redick’s jersey number, Tebow built himself an ungodly reputation at the University of Florida, and yet sports fanatics nationwide loathe the pair of them. Wearing a Redick jersey in Chapel Hill is practically a death sentence.

Maybe this is all SportsCenter’s fault for idolizing players on a continual loop.

Maybe fans get way too into the game.

Both reasons are plausible.

Either way, we don’t actually hate rival athletes. Undermining them is simply our own roundabout way of admitting they’re good. If an athlete’s talent is the subject of a debate, they must be doing something right. Bad athletes aren’t even worth mentioning.

It’s all in good fun.

Nothing personal, Granderson.

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