Miami Marlins: Jose Fernandez, Emotions and the Romance of Baseball Fandom


I love analytics, I love statistics and I like thinking about sports but, more often than not, sports isn’t about reason but rather it’s about emotion. Sports are often said to be the only, or at least, the most accepted way for men to show their emotions.

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Men aren’t supposed to have close relation to their emotions and there are few things out there that elicit as many powerful emotions as sports, specifically baseball. Baseball is a 162 game grind for everyone involved: the players, the media, and the fans.

Fans invest so much of their time and emotional resources to watching their favorite team that they feel as though they are part of the organization. Almost integral to their success. Fans often say “we played really badly” or “our offense is really clicking right now.”

They often can’t help it because it is ultimately very little more than a reflex, it is ultimately about identity. Fandom is usually about feeling like you belong to a greater whole something bigger than yourself. Sports fandom is so wrapped in both emotion and identity that when we as Miami Marlins fans watch a game, like we did yesterday afternoon, we can’t help it but feel something more than usual.

As Billy Beane put it in Moneyball “how can you not be romantic about baseball?”

Jose Fernandez perhaps more than Giancarlo Stanton is representative of the Marlins fan base. Jose is an immigrant, a Florida “native” and someone who doesn’t completely fit in with the rest of the baseball culture. He is brash and emotions wearing his heart on his sleeve.

Athletes like this often don’t deal with adversity well and they seem to be bragging on they are successful.

Jose has faced a lot of personal adversity, written much more eloquently by Dan Le Batard of the Miami Herald, in his 2013 article about Jose’s journey from Cuba to the Major Leagues. But his Tommy John surgery is basically the first piece of professional adversity he has faced as a baseball player. He seems ready to overcome it, just like he did so many other personal obstacles in his life.

A pitcher who makes it from high school to a NL Rookie of the Year campaign in only 311 professional innings is clearly meant for greatness. But as so often happens outside circumstances have a habit of spoiling of what were supposed to be perfect stories.

Everyone was devastated by the news last May that Jose had gone down yet another victim of the ever spreading Tommy John surgery “epidemic.” The Miami Marlins had chosen an unlikely superstar, somebody that the fans could identify with, and as soon as he was established, he was gone.


Losses will that do you. Marlins fans are used to this, both on the field and when it comes to personnel.

But everyone knew he was going to recover, because we knew that there was no obstacle that this man couldn’t overcome with the force of his will.


The 2015 Miami Marlins seasonwas supposed to be one full of hope.

But as one manager was fired and was replaced by a puzzling choice, 2015 shifted as a year of hope to year of anticipation.  The buildup to yesterday afternoon was punctuated by the Marlins their other superstar.

But that still couldn’t dampen my enthusiasm.

Jose, much like Giancarlo, are two of the players assured to turn everything they touch into joy. A 450 foot home run, a fastball touching 100, and a nasty slurve will do that.

Each as the potential of turning the grind of baseball into something much more. Turning the usual into joyful occurrences.

That is I and most other Marlins fans felt this afternoon- pure unadulterated joy – Jose was back, he didn’t pitch great, likely because of the anticipation he himself felt.

He also hit a homer that makes you throw your cheer at your TV and think, “this is why I love baseball.” No matter how long you watch, the sport will always impress you with things you never thought were possible.

Indeed, “How can you not be romantic about baseball?”

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