For those who’ve followed my work at WNST.net over the last three years, you know I rarely insert myself into a story.
It’s not my style and, frankly, I prefer keeping the focus on the topic at hand.
But I do feel the need to offer my first-hand account of comments made by Orioles center fielder Adam Jones that sparked plenty of controversy and dialogue via social media on Thursday afternoon.
When asked about the spectacle of Opening Day by another reporter, Jones began describing the event before shifting his attention to those aiming to voice their displeasure with the state of the organization.
“I was reading my Twitter earlier and I saw this thing with ‘Occupy Eutaw Street,’ these fools, or something trying to create a walkout or something in this ballpark,” Jones said.
Surprised by his word choice in describing fans involved with the movement — which is not affiliated with WNST.net and has a Facebook page of over 600 people — I then saw Jones look in my direction as he continued on.
“And you work for that station — I don’t care — but I’ve seen ['Free The Birds'] going on a lot.”
Prepared to ask him a question about Opening Day starter Jake Arrieta — and I did a few moments later — I wasn’t about to use that time to enter a dialogue as the rest of the media was gathered around his locker. I didn’t take the comment personally, nor do I think Jones was trying to embarrass me in front of fellow media members.
But that doesn’t change the fact that Jones was wrong to label fans choosing to participate in initiatives aiming to seek change in the organization as “fools.” A professional athlete should never demean fans unless responding to threatening behavior or an overtly personal attack.
Regardless of what feelings Jones or anyone else may harbor toward WNST.net and its personalities, there are fans who support initiatives such as “Free The Birds” and “Occupy Eutaw Street” with no ties whatsoever to the company and no perceived reason to have a hidden agenda. Many of those supporters continue to invest hard-earned money and emotions into the Orioles while voicing their disenchantment.
It’s not my place or anyone else’s to determine how a “true” fan should support his or her team, but anyone with any tangible ties to the Orioles over the last 15 years is certainly entitled to express frustration as long as it’s done in a peaceful manner.
To his credit, Jones issued an apology via his official Twitter account for referring to those involved as “fools.” And in fairness to him and any other member of the current team, it’s impossible for them to fully understand fans’ feelings — and may take it as a slight to them personally as a result — just as fans can’t comprehend the mental grind of playing professionally for a losing team over the course of a 162-game season.
In his first four years in Baltimore, Jones has been a true gamer, someone who always plays with full effort and takes losing as hard as anyone in the Orioles clubhouse. And speaking as a member of the press, I respect Jones’ willingness to speak to reporters after games — win or lose — on a consistent basis, which hasn’t been the case with some of his teammates over the last few years.
It doesn’t change the fact that he made a mistake on Thursday, but Jones can atone for it by continuing to put forth the same effort in 2012 that he always has. And fans will continue to appreciate him for it.
Ultimately, fans can choose to consume Orioles baseball however they see fit as long as it doesn’t become personal or threatening to anyone else involved. And they shouldn’t be judged for it, as fans and players alike ultimately strive for the same goal of winning.
That’s my personal take as I will now turn my attention back to Opening Day and the start of the baseball season.