By: Eric Thomas
Joe Nathan appeared to make a dismissive gesture toward Tiger fans at Comerica Park Wednesday night, apparently an answer to the tidal wave of criticism aimed at the veteran closer.
Honestly, can we blame him?
Anger directed at Nathan has been ear shattering volumes for much of the season. He’s earned it with his blown saves and disappointing performances. Fans were expecting an answer to the closing role, and all they’ve found is more questions.
Fans have every right to be mad, but the athletes don’t have to like it. They’re human beings, same as you. They don’t like being told they stink and you wouldn’t either.
How can you blame these guys? If someone criticized you or belittled you, wouldn’t you love to laugh in their face after you proved them wrong? Is there anything better than shoving someone’s criticism right in their face? Did you cheer when Johnny from the Cobra Kai handed over that trophy to the Karate Kid, with a grimace on his face, “You’re alright Larusso!” Of course you did, and that’s how Nathan feels when he wins at home.
It’s a two way street. Fans have every right to criticize athletes, and they have every right to gloat when they prove you wrong. When you criticize athletes, fan or media alike, you have to understand that the athlete holds all the cards. They can prove you wrong because they’re on the field and you’re not. Scream at an athlete all you want, but they’re going to strut when you get posterized.
The criticism directed at athletes is stronger and angrier than ever before. With the advent of social media, blogs and 24 hour sports outlets, the sound blares constantly, so angrier voices appear to be heard above the noise. It’s so common we’ve given it a name, “trolling.” People draw attention to themselves by saying the most awful thing in the room, and it works. Again, it’s within your right to free speech, but the person who is being “trolled” doesn’t have to like it.
Athletes understand that criticism comes with the territory, but fans need to understand that criticizing opens yourself up for criticism (note: I hope that makes sense). Don’t dish it out if you can’t take it. If you never criticized Nathan, understand it wasn’t directed at you.