Last week, the San Francisco Giants signed Johnny Cueto to a six-year contract worth $130 million dollars. At the onset of the offseason, the three-time champions signed Jeff Samardzija to a five-year contract at $90 million dollars. Now given the aggressiveness of management, the same General Manager and Owner that’s won three titles in the past five years, you’d think this would be considered a unanimously successful offseason, right?
Now turn that on its head, imagine the Golden State Warriors, also a championship team, leaving their entire roster intact after the most dominant run through the league since the 1996 Chicago Bulls. Nothing but confidence and roses everywhere, right? How about a year before when that same management, owner, and coaches, turning down what now seems like the greatest non-trade in Warriors history? Two championship fanbases in the Bay Area, two entirely different mindsets.
I had written about the overwhelming confidence and overall fun-ness about the Warriors fanbase a couple weeks ago but with the reactions from another championship crowd, I felt it worthy to compare the mindset of fans living in the same area that have seen an inordinate amount of success in the past half decade. With the coming mix of fans settling in the same exact area (GSW to SF) in a couple years, it’ll be interesting to parse the details of what makes each population tick.
As a precursor to the next point: I gauge how fans react through each SBNation blog, Twitter, and whatever grousing is thrown around at your neighborhood bar. I know, not the most scientific, but bear with me.
Back to the Giants, the overarching emotions are that it’s less about emotion and about the pragmatic, logical steps in breaking down an event. Cueto’s signing caused worry because it stretched into the sixth year when the team seemingly wouldn’t for Zack Grienke. There was a player opt-out after two years as well, seemingly meaning that the team and the player would remain hopeful that Cueto pitched well in taking that chance to leave. Instead of forecasting this as a one-year upside deal along with Samardzija, fans graded this relative to what the Giants had done before (signing busts Aaron Rowand and Barry Zito) and concluded this a contract risk perhaps not worth taking.
One would believe that after a couple championships, there remain a benefit of the doubt especially when a seemingly risk-averse team goes off on the deep end, right? Apparently not. Let’s take the Warriors, fresh off a title and much criticism for not flipping Klay Thompson for Kevin Love. Though there wasn’t much to be done in the offseason, it’s been nothing but praise and even outward pettiness toward opposing teams during the season. All enjoyable moments. As for the Kevin Durant decision looming in the offseason, the debate ranges with many hypotheticals but at the end of the day, almost all fans are happy with whatever decision is made simply because the team is proven and the front office known to make the correct decision in most occasions.
Why is the contrast so significant?
Setting aside obvious demographic differences, some of the difference between the two fan bases comes from the recent history influencing ways to accept successes.
Giants fans watched as the greatest baseball player of all time came and went, capturing the nation with every pitch taken, and every swing swung, with nary a ring. Even though three titles fills part of that void, it remains a time almost fell laid to waste. With that comes the incessant need to want more and more, eventually lending out the vibe of entitlement.
The Warriors have lived through hell and high water, with the water used as more of a waterboarding experiment. There was no great player in the past worth talking about in a therapy session. Simply put, trash season upon trash season in the garbage disposal have turned almost all into quick acceptors of victories and fame. Fans had such a hard time letting go of Mark Jackson when it became painfully obvious he could do no more for the team that the seemingly same want for more as exhibited from Giants supporters were excepted here.
As the Giants population starts to seep into the famously crazed Warriors crowd, we're starting to see a similar reaction especially during the postseason. What once was heralded as a legendary ruckus of stupid noise, the last couple of seasons has seen much deeper lows when times tended to get nervous during games. This isn't to say that one is diluting the other, as AT&T Park is also one of the greater home court advantages in baseball. The dichotomy between in-game noise and the couch fantasy game manager analysis even consists of entirely different people.
As one team treks onwards towards one of the greatest seasons of all time following a championship, the other retools with massive amounts of cash to further a dynasty. There's very little downside to what is the Golden Age of sports in their respective sports. It's just that their fans seem to have entirely different perceptions of the team's surroundings. That is in itself fascinating as the two sides mesh or collide in the next half decade.